Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) is a centre for participatory foresight, systemic design and social innovation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We are a community of scholarly practitioners, design, business and policy professionals, teachers and students, who are passionate about envisioning possible futures.

sLab produces transdisciplinary processes, projects and publications that interrogate, model and foster positive change, across boundaries, at scale. We are committed to upholding and articulating community values including access, inclusivity, equity and justice. 

sLab's methodology combines deep experience in speculative, visual and complex systems thinking with skills in communication, collaboration, facilitation and storytelling. We structure engagements to centre on knowledge development, skills transfer, and other empowering modes for the betterment of partners, clients, students, and their home communities. Our commitment and impact are registered through ongoing professional engagement, scholarship, education and awareness building for stakeholders across the public, private, not-for-profit and for-benefit sectors.

From our base within OCAD University, Canada’s largest and oldest university of art and design, we develop novel research and practice approaches. We work in close collaboration with the Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight & Innovation (SFI), together with programs, partners and clients, internally, locally and internationally, to develop & apply methods that build greater clarity, accountability, vision, and decision support for a wide variety of responsible innovation efforts. 

Our Mission

Founded in 2008, sLab at OCAD University is a leading Canadian design research centre for strategic foresight and innovation, engaging a diversity of expertise to create sustainable solutions and meaningful change. sLab is recognized in the Social Innovation community as one of the earliest Social Labs in Canada. Rooted in a heritage of design thinking, our approach places human needs, desires, behaviour and culture at the heart of problem finding, problem framing, and problem solving.

sLab brings an understanding of complex systems and futures studies, through techniques such as environmental scanning, emergent signal analysis, scenario learning, and technology assessment. Our highly collaborative partnerships and client engagements develop creative insights and intellectual property. With clients, partners and students, we work to leverage these through development of strategic roadmaps, communications programs, products and services, policy frameworks and other outcomes.

Strategic Innovation Lab’s action research complements and extends the work of management consultants as our imaginative speculations and informed propositions tap into insights and areas that trend tracking and quantitative, 'rearview mirror' analyses simply cannot reach. Unlike future forecasting institutes, we develop and implement creative but focused action plans that deliver specific objectives for short- and medium-term as well as long-term future horizons.

sLab’s initiatives in education and skills development are wide ranging, from undergraduate student projects, to workshops for professionals and policymakers, to leading graduate research in Strategic Foresight & Innovation. sLab has played an integral part in the growth and development of a OCAD University's largest graduate program, the Master of Design (MDes) in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. Fiirst of its kind in Canada, the SFI MDes is mentoring the next generation of professional and public leaders whose vision and dedication promises to bring unprecedented ideas and energy to addressing .

Recognizing the increasing importance that design thinking can play in positively impacting society, enhancing business success, and managing complex organizational change, the SFI program addresses complex dilemmas of contemporary society. Since its co-founding by Lenore Richards, Greg Van Alstyne and Bob (Dr Robert K) Logan, sLab has provided leadership in the development and support of this unprecedented graduate degree.

MDes Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation

The ability to make sense of complexity, think strategically and innovatively, and develop solutions of sustainable value is critical to the ongoing and future success of our society, culture, economy and environment. The Master of Design (MDes) in Strategic Foresight and Innovation is structured as a transdisciplinary interweaving of design with social science, technology, and business, where design will provide the crucial link between the three areas through its essential competencies: design thinking; strategic and iterative methodology; and a deep commitment to understanding human needs, wants and behaviours. Through holistic thinking in a co-creative environment, the designer, the business person, the social scientist and the engineer will together develop skills required for true socio-technological innovation.

MDes in Strategic Foresight and Innovation - OCAD University - 2014 from OCAD University on Vimeo.

The program is designed to appeal primarily to working professionals in fields such as design, engineering, business, the media and the social sciences who wish to augment their strategy and innovation skills in order to play leadership roles within organizations or as entrepreneurs. The degree is currently offered as a part-time two-year program to provide flexible options for working professionals. Students entering the program have strong disciplinary expertise in an area of design, art, engineering, business and/or the social sciences as demonstrated by an undergraduate degree and usually several years of relevant work experience. Project outcomes are diverse in nature and include strategic road maps, communications programs, business models, product platforms or policy frameworks.

SFI Program Objectives

The program aims to graduate leaders in social innovation. Students are encouraged and enabled to:

  • Develop strategic innovations which create sustainable value, economically and ecologically, and which address pressing societal issues pertinent to their particular area of interest in the public, private or voluntary sectors
  • Explore and test new methods of organization, creation and production
  • Develop strategic, innovative and anticipatory solutions (strategic foresight) and implementation plans for design, business or policy innovations, or for organizational or infrastructural change
  • Integrate relevant disciplinary knowledge from design, business, science/technology and the social sciences which will facilitate the development of sustainable innovation
  • Navigate complex problems through the study of systems theory and the analysis of relevant systems including ecological, social, economic and political organizations
  • Develop an ethical sensibility that promotes socially and ecologically sound responses to complex global issues

The program seeks these objectives through a course of study that includes:

  • Intensive graduate level directed study in research and strategic foresight methodologies
  • Guest lecturers in innovation, systems thinking, foresight and related fields
  • A foundational studio in Business and Design Thinking and The Human Factor
  • Studio-Seminars that include Foresight Studio, Systemic Design (mapping social, market, political, ecological, & technological interactions); Strategy Development; Business Model Design; and Leading Innovation
  • A major research project (MRP)

For additional information, visit OCAD University’s website 


sLab's efforts in education and skills development include undergraduate student projects, supervision of self-directed study courses, and other forms of mentorship and interaction. We hire and train research assistants from OCAD University's undergrads (and grads). We are always interested in learning about student research interests and thesis directions, and where these may overlap or complement Strategic Innovation Lab's research program. For more information please contact sLab's Director, Greg Van Alstyne.

Professional development

Strategic Innovation Lab conduct a wide range of activities in professional development. The majority of our events are public, free, and highly popular with business professionals. We develop workshops specifically targeted to mentor foresight and innovation methodologies and related professional skills. Detail may be found under Events, or by contacting us.