22 Aug

With a little help from Innovative Service Lab

  • Rene Travis

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old,”- that’s how Peter Drucker, acclaimed philosopher on business and management summed up both the solution and barrier to innovative thinking.

I know as much as anybody that getting rid of comfortable routines is a hard task. Luckily if you are a Georgian government entity in need of revamping your public services the Innovative Service Lab is here to help get you out of those ruts.

One ongoing project is the revitalization of the National Scientific Library of Georgia, currently housed in Georgia’s first building constructed primarily as a library in 1970.

At first glance, space has the feel of a typical Soviet-era environment. The library has the largest foreign collection of scientific literature and had been a meeting point of scholars, students and science-minded people in general. But with poor infrastructure and outdated interiors, the library has room for improvement before it can become a truly modern space.

The concept of the library is changing worldwide driven not only by library management, but ordinary people, who would want to see it transformed into a hub for information sharing, collaboration, and teamwork. It is in this spirit that UNDP in Georgia connected social innovators with the innovators in the Government to join together with the Scientific Library last March in planning the library of the future. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend so I decided to pay a visit to the Innovative Service Lab to learn what all the buzz is about innovation, design thinking, and how the Lab’s services help rejuvenate the National Scientific Library.

After entering the Lab, it is easy to grasp how people that work there are able to subsequently inspire others to approach old problems from new angles. Rooms are bright and airy, with splashes of color and phrases written across the walls and stacks of sticky notes and markers strewn about ready for use. The Innovative Service Lab seems ready at any time to welcome ideas and bring thoughts out into the open for discussion.

For the Lab, innovation means “the use of existing resources in a new way, and seeing problems in a new light, and trying to solve them in ways you have not thought about” explains Mariam Tabatadze who works for the Lab.

Instead of just charging in with new ideas and policies in a top-down manner, the first step is incorporating the needs of those who will use the space and resources of the library.

Mariam believes that bottom-up design approach is a fundamental component of the Lab’s functioning. She notes that the“Lab helps other organizations understand what their future direction could be rather than dictating the shape that solutions must take.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Scientific Library where proposed renovations include collaborative meeting spaces, a winter garden, and an improved, multi-function reading room. It might seem strange that a science library – a repository for books at its core – is a shining example of innovative thinking in Georgia. But the library is holding out hope that the familiar movie adage is as true for public services in Georgia as it is in Hollywood – “If you build it, they will come.”


Source: UNDP Georgia

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