What does migrant-led innovation look like in Paris today?

First Innovation Lab : 72 hours, 9 solutions, 13 nationalities – PLACE comes to life at Le CENTQUARTRE-Paris

The initial pilot of PLACE in Paris kicked off last week and will unfold until Autumn 2017.

Around 50 participants, most of them newcomers to Europe, are embarking on a series of labs to explore in practice what it takes to unleash their potential.

PLACE takes an experimental approach to providing the best conditions for talent to thrive. The central question is: “How can we offer the best conditions for migrant-led innovation to happen in Europe?” Each lab tries out a set of hypotheses in an iterative approach.

March 12 2017

At 8.00am last Sunday morning the ground floor of Le CENTQUATRE-PARIS seemed very quiet compared to peak-times. There was none of the usual flamboyant mix of dancers and performers. However, deep in the former stables of the CENTQUATRE, a very different story was unfolding. Here bursts of energy and nervous excitement could be heard erupting from the various spaces that made up the first of the PLACE pop-up labs.

What started out six months ago as a rapidly evolving idea with a European collective and a tagline of ‘’Innovators don’t have borders. They have places’’, was entering its third day – preparing for a pitching session after two full days of forging new connections, problem-solving and participants tapping into their capacity to innovate and create new projects.

So how – in the space of just three days – did PLACE enable a disparate group of individuals to form dynamic teams, actively collaborate, develop ideas with the potential to change our society, and feel confident enough to pitch in front of a group of experts in less than 72 hours?

© Mathew Birch                 ​​            ​​​​​​​​​​​ ​

First, gather the best potential in Paris

The energy and diversity in the space was the result of four months of intense sourcing by the PLACE team to bring together a group of 40 participants from 13 countries. Three-quarters of participants have a recent history of migration, while others either have a more distant or no history of migration.

© Mathew Birch                 ​             ​

People were selected on their desire to build a project, to be proactive, and to use challenges as leverage for start-up-led solutions in France. The group was balanced in terms of gender (51% women), backgrounds (including sciences, media, the Arts, health and business) and other criteria, such as language, situation and experience.

Then build a creative space

The Labkit, recently developed by the PLACE team, provided a specific container for the lab: a living space that felt like home across cultures, with an area for rest and relaxation. Each team had their own studio – featuring a dynamic and modular design that was made up of a set of articulated wooden frames and rolls of paper, meaning each team could brainstorm and work on activities collaboratively.

© Mathew Birch                  ​            ​

Also in the mix, lots of customized objects (for example, personal lab diaries, customizable stickers, wooden name tags with each person’s face laser-engraved). Every element thus contributed to creating an exciting learning-by-doing environment and a reflection of everyone’s unique identity. Real-time painting of giant portraits only served to capture and amplify the effervescence and energy of this very special microcosm.

Then develop a shared culture of innovation

A team of enthusiastic and dedicated co-facilitators, selected and trained by PLACE over two months, guided participants from one ideation step to the next using innovative tools and activities. The co-facilitators, who were from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, enabled the participants to navigate complexity and to channel their ambitions into tackling issues, challenging each other to come up with creative ideas that will have market potential.

© Adam Horne                 ​           ​ ​ ​

Later, lab mentors from the PLACE collective listened carefully and provided pertinent advice on how teams could refine their offers, capitalise on their ideas and build opportunities to innovate.

Put interdisciplinarity at the core

From storyboarding to building a business model, to using dance and theatre to tap into their innate passions and energy, participants shared an intensely productive 3-day journey, discovering their potential with state-of-the-art practices from the fields of innovation, business, edtech (through gamification) and the Arts.

Discover here the learning journey of the participants during the first lab

And all of this can lead to …

And so, by Sunday afternoon – just day three of the adventure – nine teams pitched their nine new ideas for 90 seconds – each presentation reflecting the personalities of the combined team members, their passion, energy and will to succeed in their challenge. The projects covered a broad range of issues – from tapping into the circular economy to providing access to education and health to combining ancient weaving skills with modern technologies.

© Michele Caleffi                              ​​

Seeing the effect on the faces of the invited audience of partners and networks, it was clear that that new raw and dynamic talent was on display – and not just in the main public areas of the CENTQUATRE.

© Michele Caleffi                              

What happens next?

The next PLACE lab in this initial ideation and emergence phase will take place at le CENTQUARTRE-Paris on 25th and 26th March.

Thank you to the collective of PLACEmakers

The PLACE journey is a result of everyone who participates, partners, mentors, facilitates, designs, builds, organizes, captures and supports.  A big thank you from the PLACE team!

© Elodie Sueur-Monsenert                                         

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