Social labs

Over the last few years, public and social innovation labs have emerged around the world to provide effective approaches for tackling social challenges. While there are many different varieties of labs, they typically adopt experimental approaches to address particular social and public challenges. They also typically emphasise engaging with diverse stakeholders to bring about systemic change.

Key Questions we are Asking

  • Why labs?
  • What are they useful for?
  • What are labs and how do they work?
  • What are the methods and approaches they use?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities?

Our contribution

From the beginning of the rise of social labs, SIX has supported and followed the work of social innovation and public sector labs around the world. We brought together like-minded lab practitioners to share learnings and experiences. In xxx we hosted the first global conversation on labs with x,x,x via TelePresence. We then contributed in the first lab gathering in Europe, hosted by Kennislad.

In 2014, the topic of labs became popular again this time, with a growing movement in Asia. We worked closely with our collaborators Mad to host the first Asia lab gathering.

Featured work

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Labs for System Change

The Labs for System Change report is our humble attempt to capture the overwhelming richness of the conversations that took place both within the conference and online via Twitter (we captured over 2,000 tweets over the few days of the event). We hope that the report will also surface some of the most pertinent questions and challenges ... Labs for System Change

What is a social lab? Why now? – Lab Exchange PART I

In this Lab Exchange Series, Chelsea (Public Policy Lab, NYC), Stephane (La 27e Région, Paris) and Carolyn (TACSI, Adelaide) talk with Rachel (Social Lab, Hong Kong) and Marco (SIX, London) about the emergence of social and public labs and what it means to work as a lab practitioner. This conversation was part of Social Lab Symposium in ... What is a social lab? Why now? – Lab Exchange PART I

From our friends and partners

From the beginning of the rise of social labs, SIX has supported and followed the work of social innovation and public sector labs around the world.

Co-creation and peer research Lab Exchange PART IV

In this Lab Exchange Series, Chelsea (Public Policy Lab, NYC), Stephane (La 27e Région, Paris) and Carolyn (TACSI, Adelaide) talk with Rachel (Social Lab, Hong Kong) and Marco (SIX, London) about participatory approaches and what kind of mindset they bring when working with the community. This conversation was part of Social Lab Symposium in Hong Kong. Working ... Co-creation and peer research Lab Exchange PART IV

Lab Exchange PART II: The “terrible” bureaucracy and saying “no”

In this Lab Exchange Series, Chelsea (Public Policy Lab, NYC), Stephane (La 27e Région, Paris) and Carolyn (TACSI, Adelaide) talk with Rachel (Social Lab, Hong Kong) and Marco (SIX, London) about building new narratives and capabilities needed to work as a lab practitioner. This conversation was part of Social Lab Symposium in Hong Kong. The terrible bureaucracy ... Lab Exchange PART II: The “terrible” bureaucracy and saying “no”

The Lab Exchange Series

Lab.  A word from the science field, that refers to the controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The idea has since been applied in the social and public sector. There has been a lab movement in Europe and the US for the last ten years, both inside ... The Lab Exchange Series

Insights on the lab movement in Asia

Insights from the Social Lab Symposium 2019 in Hong Kong In this article, we summarise we provide some highlights from the Social Lab Symposium 2019, an event that explored the social labs movement in Asia and what it means to change a system.  The social challenges we are facing nowadays are complex. They can no ... Insights on the lab movement in Asia

Social Labs: enabling citizens to co-create and co-design innovations

As cities grow in size and significance, they can become sites of complex social problems – but also hubs for exploring possible solutions. While every city faces distinct problems, they all share a need for innovative approaches to tackle today’s challenges. This essay is one in a series on future trends for innovative cities, written by the leading thinkers of the Mayor of Seoul’s ... Social Labs: enabling citizens to co-create and co-design innovations

New narratives and culture shift – Lab Exchange PART III

In this Lab Exchange Series, Chelsea (Public Policy Lab, NYC), Stephane (La 27e Région, Paris) and Carolyn (TACSI, Adelaide) talk with Rachel (Social Lab, Hong Kong) and Marco (SIX, London) about building new narratives and capabilities needed to work as a lab practitioner. This conversation was part of Social Lab Symposium in Hong Kong. New narratives Stephane ... New narratives and culture shift – Lab Exchange PART III

Labs for Social Innovation

SIX worked with the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation to co-facilitate a Lab on Labs for Social Innovation in Barcelona in June 2017. This workshop was part of a project carried out by the Institute and was supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation and BBVA, and aimed to provide meaningful insights into how to best address the complex societal ... Labs for Social Innovation

Innovation Labs: 10 Defining Features

A closer look at what characterizes an innovation lab can help practitioners, funders, and scholars better understand what labs’ potential and limits might be, as well as better assess the social impact that comes out of the them. Innovation labs, with their aspirations to foster systemic change, have become a mainstay of the social innovation ... Innovation Labs: 10 Defining Features

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Engineering Change Lab – Sharing the Latest Lab Thinking

The Engineering Change Lab is a platform for collaboration to allow individuals and organizations from across the profession to take action to address the systemic challenges (i.e. ethics failures, lack of diversity, and low levels of innovation) that have been holding back the profession’s full potential. Engineering Change Lab hosted their 5th highly successful workshop in Montreal ... Engineering Change Lab – Sharing the Latest Lab Thinking

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Lab Practice: creating spaces for social change

How to organise and run a social lab? Lab Practice aims to share experiences from doing a social lab with elderly people in Amsteldorp by sharing methodologies and stories from both changemakers and social lab facilitators. In the face of fast moving, global, often elusive developments, national governments and their counterparts (public sector) find it ... Lab Practice: creating spaces for social change

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The Innovation Lab Insight Centre

The innovation Lab Insight Centre is a joint project between The Brisdgespan Group and the Rockefeller Foundation Focussing on Labs for Systems Change, the project brought together a blog and webinar series which shares research, expert insights, and perspectives on how these labs have helped funders and nonprofit organizations create environments conducive to innovation and ... The Innovation Lab Insight Centre

How Social Innovation Labs Contribute to Transformative Change

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Innovation Labs project explores what labs are and how, when, and why we might use them to address complex social problems. Many different types of organizations run labs. Some are part of larger organizations, like UNICEF Innovation Labs or the BRAC Social Innovation Lab. Others are independent, like InSTEDD. According to The Bridgespan Group, preliminary estimates indicate that ... How Social Innovation Labs Contribute to Transformative Change

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Lab Matters: Challenging the practice of social innovation laboratories

Just Lab It? Social innovation labs are ‘hallelujah-ed’ as the latest vehicles for transforming the way our cities, our schools, our welfare programs, and even our economic systems run. Yet we, lab practitioners, encounter a lack of critical literature and struggle to find learning spaces to improve our practices and deepen our knowledge. The paper ... Lab Matters: Challenging the practice of social innovation laboratories

Designing Social Innovation Labs: ESADE, Spain

Background Based in Barcelona, Spain, ESADE is one of the world’s top business schools. ESADE’s Institute of Social Innovation want to set up a lab for social innovation. Over the past decade, there has been a surge in the number of social innovation labs globally. Some of them are connected to the public sector, others ... Designing Social Innovation Labs: ESADE, Spain

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The radical’s dilemma: an overview of the practice and prospects of Social and Public Labs.

This article was originally writted by Geoff Mulgan on the Nesta website. I’ve written a paper looking at the various social and public labs I’ve come across around the world. It suggests a typology for understanding them and describes some of the challenges they face – in particular, the radical’s dilemma of having to work both ... The radical’s dilemma: an overview of the practice and prospects of Social and Public Labs.

A Lab of Labs

A report from Lab2, and why learning to reflect on our assumptions about how change happens has value, whether or not “lab” is in your title. Just add water. That was chemistry professor Justus von Liebig’s big idea. Mix hot water and powder, and voilà, you have the nutritional equivalent of beef stew. The year ... A Lab of Labs

Labs: Designing the future

Participatory, user-centric approaches to solving problems are gaining momentum as alternatives to traditional organizations. Among these approaches is the innovation Lab, a creative, multi-disciplinary environment that employs a proven and repeatable protocol to seek disruptive, potentially systems-tipping solutions. Labs: Designing the Future, published in 2012, examines the Lab’s roots in complexity, networked collaboration and design ... Labs: Designing the future