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Gov_LAB is a unique educational initiative developed for local governments to help them design services and effective support tools for local entrepreneurs and investors. Experts from SWPS University, specializing in service design and design thinking, contributed their unique experience, scientific data, and the latest methodology to develop a tool that improves administrative processes at the local level.


Difficulties of local governments in supporting entrepreneurs

Local governments, especially those administering in smaller municipalities, often face difficulties in developing effective public policy, and supporting services and initiatives aimed at local entrepreneurs and investors that would meet their needs. Since the smaller administrations often are not familiar with modern tools and appropriate support schemes, it is hard for them to implement changes that could bring benefits not only to the entrepreneurs and local communiteis, but also to the local government and, as a result, to the whole municipality or the region.

How should public policy be shaped at the local level to support local businesses? How should innovative services and programs for entrepreneurs be designed? How can the latest research and innovative methodologies, such as service design, help local governments?


Gov_LAB - educational program for local governments

To help local governments design innovative services and effective instruments aimed at supporting local entrepreneurs and investors, a unique, research-based, educational program, gov_LAB, was developed using service design and design thinking methodology. To design the program, researchers from SWPS University drew not only on the in-depth knowledge of public administration and public policy, but they also gathered information on user needs, and applied the latest research from the disciplines of sociological and psychological.

The process of designing a new service and tools for the use by local governments and their constituency usually takes four months. Teams of local administrators work on developing required services for local entrepreneurs. They are guided by experienced service designers, who help the administrators employ the appropriate methodology and design tools. Usually, three teams from different municipalities work simultaneously side by side. By the end of the project local administrators have complete concepts of support instruments for entrepreneurs, including implementation plans.

The gov-LAB project has been commissioned by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) and is conducted by SWPS University, the Evaluation for Government Organizations S.C. and the Design Thinking Institute. Grzegorz Rzeźnik, Manager for Research and Innovation at SWPS University, is the head of the consortium, while Professor Karol Olejniczak, specializing in public policy and designing citizen-friendly solutions, is the leading expert on the project. The project team also includes: Katarzyna Kamińska (Project Coordinator, Office of the Vice-Rector for Research), Karolina Dobrowolska (who has several years of experience in process design and process improvement for public administration), Sara Kapela (moderator of design thinking processes and brand communication strategy specialist), Zuzanna Popis (who has over ten years of experience in improving public policy, in particular related to entrepreneurship and innovation).


We are socially responsible – we support local governments in developing innovative policies

Thanks to the gov_LAB program, our researchers help local governments develop solutions that meet actual needs of entrepreneurs and municipalities. Participants of the project learn how particular methods may be used to improve existing tools, design new processes, understand their effectiveness, and learn about limitations of particular tools. The program also includes lectures on theoretical aspects of the methodology, which aim to inspire participants and help systematize the newly acquired knowledge and skills. Project participants are guided by experienced service designers, who help the local administrators employ the appropriate methodology and design tools.

During each edition of the gov_LAB program, three teams of local administrators meet at SWPS University and work side by side. This provides them with an opportunity to get to know each other, share experience and best practices. At the end of the program, the teams come out with newly designed concepts of support instruments for entrepreneurs, which can be implements by their local administrations.

Between 2019 and 2021, the following municipalities participated in the program: Cieszyn, Ełk, Dąbrówno, Iława, Kielce, Kobyłka, Marki, and Włocławek. Additionall, employees of Marshall Offices of the following voivodeships took part in the program: Mazowieckie, Zachodniopomorskie, Lubelskie, and Warmińsko-Mazurskie.

Grzegorz Rzeźnik

A business analyst and Manager for Research and Innovation at SWPS University, is the Head of the gov_LAB program. He has extensive experience in managing innovation projects for companies, public institutions, NGOs, and research institutions. He helped to develop the governmental strategy National Smart Specializations (KIS) and the EU cohesion policy operational programs. As an expert working for the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP), he evaluated public programs addressed to entrepreneurs and assessed R&D projects submitted to the Smart Development Operational Programs scheme in the period 2014-2020. Mr. Rzeźnik also researchers public policies in Poland and the EU, in particular those related to innovation, regional policies, and mechanisms governing the country development policies.

Karol Olejniczak

Professor of public policy and co-founder of a research firm EGO s.c. – Evaluation for Government Organizations, is the lead expert in the gov_LAB program. As a researcher, he designs citizen-friendly solutions and evaluates the effectiveness of public policies. In his research and teaching he utilizes games, experiments and behavioral design. He has over twenty years of experience in teaching and training of public institution employees in Poland, the EU, the United States, and Canada. Professor Olejniczak collaborated with numerous organizations, including: The European Commission, the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the National Science Foundation (USA), and a number of Polish ministries and local governments, such as the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, the National Science Centre, and the National Centre for Research and Development. For eight years, Professor Olejniczak was the Head of Akademia Ewaluacji, an elite graduate certification program for public administration employees run by EUROREG, in collaboration with the University of Warsaw and the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy. Recently, in collaboration with local governments, Professor Olejniczak has been developing a laboratory of innovative public services. He also advises American Federal Agencies on the process of designing learning agendas.