Lab Funding and Resourcing

“Part of doing a good lab is about following the money in the current system and shifting it to build the next one. This is our long-game.”


  • Productive diversity of funding sources is important. It reduces your lab’s vulnerability to reliance on one partner and gives the opportunity to build a network of strong partnerships. If someone is funding you at 70% or more then they can effectively direct what you do. There are limits to productive diversity though, if you have too many partner relationships and agendas to manage then it can take you away from your core activities.

  • Sequencing and stacking funding sources - LED Lab has been skillful in sequencing and stacking funding sources over the course of their lab, understanding which sources are most appropriate to what stage of the lab and matching the agendas of funders and sponsors intelligently to the objectives of the lab. Labs’ multi-pronged value proposition of systemic innovations, citizen empowerment and community connectedness make this possible.

  • Funders can be engaged in learning how to resource labs. Edmonton Shift Lab had a staff member of the Edmonton Community Foundation embedded in their stewardship team for the first year of operations, realising that labs are a promising model for social change but that their current processes would make it hard for labs to get funding. Read what they learned here.

  • Funding can come from unusual sources. Insurance companies are now investing heavily in climate action.

Present questions

  • Who will fund the generational shift? To be most effective, labs need secure funding over multiple years to enable us to get to the depth of relationships and innovation we exist for.

  • Who in the status quo sees the reason to fund your shift of status quo?

Provocations for your lab

The biggest sources of funding are already locked in the system. Governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year trying to solve problems labs could be positioned to help with. How can we access this money that sits in the old system to build the new one? Working in emergent ways with the checks and balances of public money is a challenge we haven’t yet solved.

No one funds a lab, they fund the outcomes from labs and what problem the lab solves. We need to get stronger in demonstrating the value of labs, not just through describing the innovative approach but the change we’re really creating and the problems we can most effectively solve.

What if we worked at a systems level to resource each other? Rather than individual labs competing for resources, what if we worked cooperatively as a field? In the long term we could work with partners to build a collective funding pool with collective governance. In the short term we could create shared Wealth Maps and have regular Asset Passing calls to point other labs at money we can see or have access to.

  • Philanthropic funding

  • Private sector sponsorship

  • In-kind and pro-bono support

  • Consulting and fee for service

  • Government funding (Municipal, Provincial, Federal)

  • Loans and social finance

  • Bonds

  • Crowdfunding

  • Membership subscriptions

  • Mitacs (match-funding for placing graduate students)

  • Cryptocurrencies