Who we are
The Smart CSOs Lab ran from 2011 to 2020 and has now come to an end.
We have helped civil society organisations across Europe to see climate change, biodiversity or poverty as complex, interconnected issues instead of treating them as single issues that can be solved at the symptoms level. Our approach as a think tank and social innovation lab has enabled these organisations to develop and experiment with strategies that embrace the cultural and systemic root causes lying behind the social and environmental crises of our times.
However, in recent years we realised that conversations about our most pressing social and ecological issues in the activist sphere were increasingly dominated by dogmatic, ideologically narrow thinking. We believe that the shutdown of pluralistic conversation stifles the creativity that is needed for solving the most pressing deep-rooted social and ecological problems.
We have therefore launched a new project. With this new project, we will build on the 10 years of experience with the Smart CSOs Lab. We will create innovative tools and work with change agents from across civil society to step out of our ideological frames and exemplify non-dogmatic pluralistic dialogue. We will seek deeper wisdom and truth from a plurality of disciplines and ideologies.
We call this new project The Protopia Lab to convey the idea that historically utopian movements have often led to totalitarian systems and ended in dystopia. Our aim is not the perfect world, but protopia, which is a process that takes into account multiple perspectives, acknowledges that there are always multiple trade-offs to consider and avoids throwing the baby out with the bathwater when making changes to the system. Nobody has all the answers for how a better system will ultimately work and look like. We propose a process of trial and error, an evolutionary search process towards protopia.