Call for SDG Labs – Biodiversity-solutions for change

We invite researchers, innovators and change-makers to propose SDG Labs on Biodiversity-based solution to sustainability challenges for ICSS 2020.

In short:

  • 10 SDG Labs will be funded
  • Each lab will receive up to 5,000USD to run a lab, workshop or hack and present their initial findings during ICSS 2020
  • Deadline: 8 December 2019 (UTC time zone)
  • Proposals must be led by formal institutions

Describing Biodiversity SDG Labs

The biodiversity-based SDG Labs are intended to bring together participants from a range of research disciplines and sectors of society to develop solutions to complex problems that help to make progress towards implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Labs concept aims to initiate processes towards sustainability transformations through developing prototype solutions that apply biodiversity as a source of innovation while the biodiversity itself is being preserved for future generations. Such innovations may be social, ecological, institutional, technological, or even innovations in business models or a combination of the above. The aspiration of the SDG labs is that they plant seeds of change that can grow and spread, inspire and provide knowledge for transformation on a greater scale.

This is how a lab works: You put together a team of people with different backgrounds and ideas for how to find solutions anchored to biodiversity to a very specific sustainability challenge. The “idea” in this case could be, for instance, a certain process, activity, bringing together of specific stakeholder groups, a technical solution, or design activity, among others. The solutions should be anchored on biodiversity, evidence-based, have legitimacy within the stakeholder groups you are engaging, include some element(s) of innovation. You design a process to explore the idea on the relevant scale and you try it out. That is the lab.

SDG Labs are based on the social innovation lab concept developed by Frances Wesley and colleagues at the University of Waterloo for the Rockefeller Foundation, and based on earlier lab concepts. Social Innovation Labs have been used around the world to catalyse change. Future Earth has further evolved the concept with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and together we funded 21 SDG Labs as part of the 2017 International Conference on Sustainability Science. You can learn more about these labs on the conference website.  In 2018 another group of SDG Labs was awarded to work and deliver their outcome for the Seedbeds of Transformation The Role of Science with Society and the SDGs in Africa conference. More information you can find on the website.

Roadmap for Biodiversity SDG labs

Even though we are open to any type of Biodiversity SDG Labs, those that focus on one or more of the main conference themes will be prioritized. The main themes can be found in ICSS 2020 website and include food, health, water, energy and climate, and industry.

The SDG Labs – Biodiversity are be expected to follow a stage process:

  • Initiate: Start pre-conference activities through research and preparation. Activities in this phase would be expected to involve outreach to understand the lab’s specific conditions and opportunities, such as gathering stories, sketching or having preparatory meetings. This phase should be more than just a literature review.
  • Feedback: At the SRI conference in 14-17 June 2020, present what you have done and receive feedback on your plan to complete the lab from conference participants. At every stage you will have a coach that will be providing you additional feedback during the entire process.
  • Convene: Develop one or more workshops, to be completed within 4 months after the SRI conference. This is the phase where most of the practical work of the lab takes place.
  • Show: Share lab results and lab media (photos, videos, etc.) on a dedicated website convened by Future Earth to amplify the lab’s impact and support its spread.

Funding will be provided up-front for the lab, and financial reporting of expenditures will be required at the completion of the lab.

Application process

Here is an overview of what will be required and criteria for a successful application:

When applying for a lab, we want you to let us know:

  • What sustainability issue(s) are you addressing?
  • What focus areas of the areas above and SDGs/targets are you addressing?
  • What is your idea for solutions?
  • How will you operationalise the four phases?
  • How do you anticipate the work could continue after the lab?
  • What is the draft budget for the lab and need for travel funding to the conference? Each lab can apply for up to 5,000 USD in total, of which up to 2,000 USD can be used for ICSS conference travel support.

A successful proposal will contain the following elements:

  • A clear and original idea on how to tangibly address a sustainability issue; both the issue and the potential solution have strong local relevance.
  • A clear plan for how to operationalise your idea in a lab form.
  • The lab connects well with one or more focus areas of this call.
  • The team has diverse knowledge and skills relevant to the lab.
  • The lab engages diverse groups, comprised of some combination of the following: researchers, innovators, policy-makers and other key local actors.
  • The lab examines elements of both environmental and social sustainability.


Submit an application (Deadline: extended to December 8th, 2019)

To submit an application, fill out the online form the button below.


For those who are not able to access google form link above, please use the word file application form below and submit to Dr. Marcin Jarzebski, by December 8th, 2019 (Extended)

Download Application Form (Word) 


  • 8 December 2019 (Extended): Session proposals (applicant)
  • 20 December 2019 (updated): Winning SDG Labs notified (conference organizers)
  • 14-17 June 2020: Midterm report in a form of online session during Sustainability Research & Innovation 2020 conference in Brisbane, Australia (to be conducted via video call thus we do not expect each SDG Lab team members to physically preset; the date and place is yet possibly a subject to change).
  • 30 September 2020 – draft of final report of labs (applicant)
  • October 2020 (Exact date tba): session at the ICSS2020 conference, Kunming, China.
  • 15 November 2020: Final reporting of labs (applicant)


For more information about this call, contact Dr. Marcin Jarzebski,, Science Officer at Future Earth.