Founded in 2012, with funding from the MacArthur and Knight Foundations, the Governance Lab (the GovLab) brings together thinkers and doers who design, implement, and study technology enabled solutions that advance a collaborative, networked approach to reinvent institutions of governance. The GovLab aims to improve people's lives by changing how we govern.


The GovLab is an action research center seeking new ways to solve public problems using advances in technology and science. Our goal is to advance our understanding of how 21st century citizen engagement can make governance more effective and legitimate.

The GovLab’s work is predicated on the following hypotheses:

  • Institutions that govern themselves more collaboratively solve problems faster and with greater success; and
  • Greater engagement leads to more legitimate democratic governance and also to better solutions for citizens.

Rather than working like a traditional academic research organization, the GovLab resembles a technology start up, rapidly evolving in response to research results, individual project needs or emergent trends. In all of its initiatives, the GovLab employs an "action research" approach. The GovLab develops practical designs for processes, technologies and institutional arrangements to support collaborative democracy; puts these designs into practice; studies the outcomes to advance our understanding; and uses that understanding to design the next projects. The organization produces scholarly research and maps real-world developments to create a robust understanding of how scientific and technological advances can improve 21st-century governance. A focus on real-world impacts and evidence-based decisionmaking defines the GovLab approach and ensures that its actions are legitimate and credible. 


The GovLab has four major lines of activities that are responsible for its research, communication and teaching and training functions. The GovLab's work encompasses:

  • Research Network: Develops and uses an interdisciplinary network, holds convenings to deepen the research agenda and refines our understanding of new governance models.
  • Living Labs: Partners with real-world institutions to conduct action-research experiments to test what works in practice and measure impact.
  • Observatory: Shares what we and others ahve learned from both empirical work and theoretical reflection across disciplines.
  • Academy: Serves as a free online community for those interested in teaching and learning about collaborative strategies to solve public problems.