What is the Guelph Lab

The Guelph Lab is a joint initiative of the University of Guelph and City of Guelph. The Lab serves two functions: it supports innovation within both organizations and it links City initiatives to research and teaching at the University.


Co-directed by the General Manager of IT and Innovation at the City and the Director of the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute at the University, the Lab provides a jointly funded staff facilitator who works between the two organizations.


The Guelph Lab aims to increase the capacity of both organizations to address the complex challenges facing the community of Guelph. It: acts as a testing ground for new ideas; convenes interdisciplinary teams of policy makers, funders, citizens, service providers, business, and labour; it enables those with firsthand experience and knowledge of social problems to help share and lead discussions; and it tests proposals that emerge from the process and assess their impact.


Why a “Lab”? The Lab works at the confluence of research, training and experimentation. It builds small teams that design, develop and test new ideas, and supports early implementation. The Guelph Lab is one of a growing number of “innovation Labs” working in Canada and around the world.


Elizabeth Jackson, Co-Director

Elizabeth provides leadership and strategic direction to the Institute and guides staff members in the development and implementation of all programs. She builds on her research and teaching expertise in community engaged scholarship, practice-based research, and interdisciplinary approaches to social justice to facilitate mutually beneficial community-university partnerships and foster meaningful engagement between faculty, students and community.

Linda Hawkins, Co-Director (On Leave)

Linda provides leadership, strategic direction, knowledge brokering and facilitation of research teams for the Community-Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI) and the Research Shop. She works collaboratively with community partners and institutional partners: faculty, staff, students in the College of Social & Applied Human Sciences, and the wider university.

Blair Labelle, Co-Director

Blair Labelle has worked within the municipal sector for twelve years, and currently is in the role of General Manager of Technology and Innovation for the City of Guelph.  While at Guelph, Blair has led the co-production of an open government action plan with the community. The focus of the Open Guelph plan is to support transparency, accountability, civic participation and innovation through the delivery of programs in which the city will work as a platform to support. Over the course of his career, Blair’s focus has been on enhancing the public service through the use of technology, improving access to civic information, and providing innovative ways to support community participation in municipal decision making.

Sam Laban, Facilitator

Sam is in charge of the day-to-day management of the Guelph Lab. He is responsible for developing and managing projects, designing and facilitating workshops, developing partnerships, and brokering research/scholarly work. He works with City of Guelph staff, University staff, faculty and students, as well as with citizens of all stripes (businesses, community organizations and groups, individuals) to develop promising solutions to pressing challenges facing the region.


The City and the University of Guelph are responding to the demands of the complex challenges facing the city. Where the City has taken strides towards more “open” forms of governance – focusing on proactive engagement with community and citizen participation, accountability and transparency, the University has moved to support engaged scholarship, enabling action-oriented, collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches that use the academic expertise of faculty and students in partnership with local knowledge to respond to real-world issues.


Together, they have been experimenting over the past number of years on collaborative projects and mechanisms to improve civic outcomes. Joint research projects have helped shape City services, inform policy decisions of staff and Council, and contributed to the development of some of the City’s major strategies. These projects also provide opportunities for students to build new skills and for faculty to create new scholarship with a focus on community problem solving. Many and varied Colleges and units at the University have linked engaged research and teaching to multiple City departments, from engineering to entrepreneurship, water management to planning.


The Guelph Lab builds from this strong history of effective engaged research and teaching partnerships, and supports innovation that enables more “open government” at the City and greater “engagement” at the university.