Our Approach

What We See:


MSL Challenge Banner

As our world becomes increasingly complex, so too are our problems. Across society, there is a growing recognition that our traditional approaches to problem-solving are no longer sufficient to tackling complex challenges; challenges to which there are no easy answers, and answers that demand action by many different individuals and organizations.

What We Need:



MaRS Solutions Lab helps to understand complex problems in new ways. Complex challenges comprise of individuals (users), organizations (institutions), and their interactions with one another (the system). The first step to solving problems more effectively and collaboratively is to see it from these different perspectives. We then create space for experimentation, through facilitated processes, and, once promising ideas are identified, to prototype, test, and scale those solutions.

Our Approach:

MaRS Solutions Lab is a public and social innovation lab that helps to solve complex social and economic challenges. The lab brings together stakeholders from across society to help solve these problems collaboratively. We help governments to modernize their policies, institutions to find new insights and work collaboratively, and equip people and organizations with tools and techniques to create change.

MSL Periodic Table

Blending together design and systems thinking, the “Periodic Table for Systems Change” is our process and strategy to address complex societal challenges. Incorporating the scientific method from hypothesis to market, the three streams of work – Solutions, Policy, and Capacity – complement one another to create system change. Since innovation does not follow a prescriptive plan, there are multiple variations in how to implement the various elements within the Periodic Table.

  • Solutions: At the MaRS Solutions Lab, we specialize in designing and facilitating the very process that brings about innovative thinking and ideas. We create space for experimentation and design a rigorous process that takes a diverse group of people on a journey to understand, co-create, and prototype solutions together. Then, we take solutions that work and help them scale to affect greater change.
  • Policy: Through convening stakeholders from across society including government and industry partners, MaRS Solutions Lab acts as a neutral convener that helps design policies and strategies that support innovation. We specialize in designing and facilitating complex engagements, bringing in insights from different perspectives (user, institution, and system). This process of bringing people in the loop early on also facilitates scaling later on to generate the greatest impact.
  • Capacity: MaRS Solutions Lab helps to build capacity for change through training, advice and events. Change does not happen in an instant. When a new idea is introduced, we require people and organizations to take up new thinking and change their behaviour. Therefore, it is necessary to build the capacity of people and institutions to welcome and apply new solutions. One crucial way to do this is by creating a movement so that the rate of adoption can be expedited from the initial stakeholder group to majority of our citizens.


To understand how we put this approach into practice, please review our work within the Health, Work and Learning, and Government domains.

Creative Commons License

MaRS Solutions Lab’s approach for systems change is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.