Projectskeyboard_arrow_rightThe GovLab Public Projects Canvas

The GovLab Public Projects Canvas

How to catalyze more governance innovators and policy entrepreneurs?

Project Websitelink
    Governance Area
  • Global Governance Regional Governance National Governance Local Governance
  • Institution Type
  • Nonprofit Academic Public Sector
  • Innovative Capability
  • Design Thinking Agile Research Rapid Prototyping
  • Product Category
  • platform training, coaching & mentorship


According to Forbes, the Valley of Death is a common term in the startup world, referring to the difficulty of covering the negative cash flow in the early stages of a startup. For most Public interest projects, ?the common death-traps include:

  • Defining the problem clearly
  • Knowing how to navigate the necessary bureaucracies
  • Developing compelling materials to convince the decision-makers
  • Identifying how to measure what works.

Canvases - proven frameworks to facilitate idea generation & structured discussions - have been widely used by companies and entrepreneurs; but not so much by non-profits or social actors, as they haven’t been able to capture the challenges that are unique to social and public ventures.




John S. and James L. Knight Foundation


Based on our experience teaching civic innovators, the GovLab designed the Public Projects Canvas, a 20-question, collaborative framework to help those working on civic projects to become more impactful. In contrast to developing the business plan for a for-profit product, public projects demand consideration of key issues not captured by traditional canvasses, such as Sustainability and Impact, which are captured by the GovLab Canvas.

At GovLab, we are using canvas for our internal projects and also for the coaching of 'students' in the context of the GovLab Academy. A canvas is a good way to bootstrap a brand new project. It can be also very useful for existing projects or even past projects.

Results & Impact

80+ teams from 20+ countries used the Canvas to take their project from idea to implementation


Beth Simone Noveck

Dinorah Cantú-Pedraza

Claudio Mendonca