ALC joins the COPOLAD initiative towards the creation of social innovation labs surrounding drug policies

The process has already begun in Chile and will continue to be developed in Colombia and the potentially the Caribbean.

ALC has begun working in the COPOLAD III program in which it will design, implement and evaluate a series of social innovation labs which will use experimentation to connect organizations addressing drug policies.

COPOLAD III is an international cooperation program that promotes technical dialogue and bi-regional cooperation between the European Union and Latin American and Caribbean countries on drug policy. 
Funded by the European Union, the program is led by the Fundación Internacional Iberoamericana de Políticas y Administraciones Públicas (FIIAPP), in consortium with the International Italo-Latin American Organization (IILA), in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (future European drugs agency).

One of COPOLAD's main tasks is to respond to the specific needs of each region. Cooperative actions at the country level are designed to generate synergies and compliment ongoing regional projects while optimizing the search for solutions and the development of economies of scale so that the same solution can be applied broadly. The program provides the basis for supporting the generation of drug policies that are more people-centered, especially for the most vulnerable, based on comprehensive scientific evidence that functions seamlessly with other public policies.

The third edition of the program is committed to a comprehensive approach toward drug policies in line with the 2030 Agenda. The through-lines of the COPOLAD III program are gender, human rights, development and innovation. Within this framework of collaboration, Agirre Lehendakaria Center supports the implementation of social innovation laboratories on drug policies, which are articulated as labs for experimentation and collaboration.

Regarding ALC’s work on this project, the proposal suggests the adaptation of an approach for the integration of social innovation capabilities at two different levels of action: regional, with the creation of a network of laboratories or platforms in different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean) and a learning community on the process; and local, in three countries within the region the Agirre Center team would lend support.

The first social innovation lab in Chile is launched

  • COPOLAD collaborates with Chilean institutions and Agirre Lehendakaria Center for the joint development of a social innovation laboratory that addresses the problems of children and adolescents under the care of the state in relation to drug use.

  • This lab will allow SENDA teams to generate flexible governance systems to address complex challenges through the systematization of contrasting spaces, co-creation, mapping of agents and initiatives and deep listening.

  • The social innovation lab will be a multi-level project, reinforcing the territory between the regional and local level. 

The Cooperation Program between Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union on Drug Policies (COPOLAD III), the Chilean National Service for the Prevention and Rehabilitation of Drug and Alcohol Consumption (SENDA) and Agirre Lehendakaria Center (a social innovation lab linked to the University of the Basque Country) have joined to launch the first Social Innovation Laboratory in the Chilean Maule region dedicated to addressing drug use among children from a systemic perspective. 

During the sessions’ opening in Santiago, the Director of SENDA, Natalia Rizzo, and the Undersecretary for Children, Verónica Silva, insisted on the importance of coordinating the work between the different institutions involved with the issue. They also pointed out the relevance of designing new strategies and governance systems that can be replicated in the rest of the country and are capable of adapting to local realities - "the average does not work, we have to be able to provide differential responses."


On July 27th until the 29th, two collective interpretation sessions were held in Santiago and Talca (Maule Region) to discuss findings generated by the local teams in the first phase of the listening and mapping process. These sessions were attended by authorities and institutions such as the Ministry of Health or the Specialized Protection Service for Children and Adolescents, international organizations such as UNICEF, and relevant community participants such staff from family residences, consumption prevention programs, health and education professionals, the Paréntesis Foundation, the La Escalera program, and the Mi Abogado program.

Some participants highlighted the fact that it is essential to incorporate mechanisms to understand the role that consumption plays in the population from a broader perspective stating: "to meet the real needs of people, we must consider other aspects and not just consumption." Linked to this perception, some people were interested by continued experimentation with the harm reduction approach asking: "whose need is it, the team's or the child's?” Two contradictory narratives arose as to who is responsible for consumption: is it a phenomenon that should be dealt with at the individual or institutional level? Or does it transcend the community in a broad sense? One participant said, "this belongs to everyone, but in practice it belongs to no one".  

All the participants agreed on activating new listening channels to incorporate the voice of NNAS and the community systematically in the design of interventions. In the words of a participant, "we must prevent the community from becoming an enemy, so we must work with it to avoid stigmatization." 

The collective interpretation sessions provide a space for sharing different perceptions of the same problem, and, if repeated over time, can help to generate shared visions and deeper analysis of the critical areas to focus public policy strategies in terms of social innovation. This analysis will inform the process of co-designing solutions that will take place in the coming months.

The objective of this process is to ensure that the strategies being developed by the teams include the capacity to respond to different narratives in a nuanced manner. We hope to encourage the generation of flexible governance systems to address complex challenges such as drug use among minors under state supervision. 

Regional Workshop in Uruguay

From June 20th until the 23rd, a regional workshop was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, on how to improve policies on problematic drug use featuring the participation of over 30 drug agencies. Within the meeting’s framework, ALC designed and facilitated a workshop on how to incorporate a social innovation approach into the process which included the projecting and defining of plans from a gender and social inclusion perspective. This is a multi-layered process that allows the main actors to systematize the basic elements of the social innovation approach. This approach includes ecosystem mapping, deep listening, collective interpretation and co-creation. ALC will provide regional support to the countries through the implementation of a learning community that will be developed in coming months.

On this occasion, ALC presented the Montevideo Deep Demo experience as a pilot experience in the incorporation of a gender and social inclusion approach to address complex challenges such as the redesign of the informal waste management system in the city of Montevideo, by Virginia Varela, Program Analyst at PNUD Uruguay.


The second social innovation lab will be promoted in Colombia. It will aim to mitigate the vulnerability factors that drive young people to become involved in micro-trafficking networks and to develop consumption problems with psychoactive substances. Its areas of action will be the semi-rural area of Santander de Quilichao, in the Department of Cauca, and the urban area of Cali, in the Department of Valle del Cauca.

In the coming weeks teams will decide in which other countries ALC will support the creation of social innovation labs.