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This paper explores the notion of ‘innovation spaces’ within the UN system, as physical and virtual laboratories for innovation. Using empirical research in a range of innovation labs the authors explore four key questions: what form UN innovation labs have taken, what has motivated their creation, what their aims and objectives are, and what impact they are having. The answers to these questions promote reflection on the future of innovation spaces, particularly an analysis of whether a model of ‘siloed’ innovation spaces will survive in the humanitarian system. The paper demonstrates the important role that innovation labs play in the UN system, as well as grappling with the challenges they face.

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Journal article


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date



DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2015.1135730

Total pages