Why Social Labs?
A more fluid and adaptive approach
Issues like poverty, ethnic conflict, and climate change are incredibly dynamic and complex, involving an ever-shifting array of factors, actors, and circumstances. These challenges demand a more fluid and adaptive approach.
Social labs bring together a diverse a group of stakeholders to develop a portfolio of prototype solutions, test those solutions in the real world, use the data to further refine them, and test them again. Social labs represent a powerful, innovative and strategic response to complex social challenges. They are a proven effective response to complex social challenges.
How Is The Course Structured?
Deepen your understanding in three days
Over three days participants will deepen their understanding of both the strategic and the tactical aspects of se ing up social labs. is will include framing the business case for labs, se ing the challenge, the relationship of scale to the overall strategy of the lab, practical details on the design of social labs, what a “Minimal Viable Social Lab” looks like, and more.
At the end of three days, participants will leave with a clear idea of what it takes to design a social lab and how to go about this task. e course will consist of a combination of small group and plenary work, with many opportunities for peer learning. Participants will work in small groups to apply learning to their own challenges.
For more information, download the full course guide PDF here.
Who Is This Course For?
Particularly suited to teams
You are responsible for coming up with a strategic response to a challenge as complex as sustainability, youth unemployment or any problem requiring a creative, innovative response.
This course is particularly suited to teams who are seeking a strategy for addressing a real world problem that they are either currently working on, or beginning to work on.
What will you learn?
- An in-depth explanation of what social labs are
- How to get a social lab off the ground
- How to make the business case for social labs
- How to put in place pre-conditions for success
- How to correctly frame the challenge you want to address
- How best to constitute a lab team
- What core capacities or "muscles" are required to run a Lab
- How to design a lab process
- What a “minimum viable” social lab looks like
- How to design labs for multiple scales (from mini-labs to mega-labs)
- How to create the right structures to support your lab
- An understanding of the top ten most common errors in setting up labs
Facilitated by Zaid Hassan
Zaid is a strategist, writer and facilitator.
He is author of “The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach To Solving Our Most Complex Challenges” (Berret-Koehler, 2014).
Zaid regularly teaches courses on how to address complex challenges. He is a Visiting Professor at the California College of Arts (CCA) where he helps teach a social lab on a graduate level Masters programme. He has guest lectured at The University of Oxford, The University of Bergen, Norway, The New School in New York and many more institutions. Over 2009- 10 he was an Associate Fellow of Thee Institute of Science, Innovation and Society, at the Said Business School. He is currently a Social Innovation Fellow at Babson College.
Zaid has over fifteen years of experience in developing strategic responses to complex social challenges, including community development, climate change, child malnutrition, employment, energy, financial systems, global food systems, and security issues. His clients have included organisations as diverse as The World Bank, The UN Foundation, various governments, as well as Oxfam, WWF and many more.
A native Londoner, Zaid grew up in Bombay, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi and London. He currently lives in Oxford.
What People Are Saying
“The whole way we’re trained to solve complex social problems, the way engage stakeholders and experts in our work was flipped on its head ... and how we think about how a problem is constructed and how we think about solving that problem and who we need to engage.
I think that’s one really exciting thing about the social labs concept is that the outcome - how we will know if we’ve succeeded in tackling our problem is if the end user doesn’t want it, doesn’t appreciate it, won’t use it, then it’s worthless. Many of us have not necessarily approached our work that way. What we’re saying is that we people need to find the cure for themselves, and we can work together and collectively in trying to figure out what that might be, where everybody feels like they won. It’s not one takeaway. It’s maybe 82 takeaways, but it’s a big one for me. Rethinking how I approach problems in my work in general.”
- Programme Officer, Foundation
“The best part of the course for me was to be able to listen to a very experienced practitioner and theorist of the social lab field and understand a bit be er the day-by-day activities, the pa erns and challenges of the work itself. e fact that we had to practice the learning in a real project was truly amazing as well. I put my idea in the centre and it was very rich to see people from around the world collaborating into creating something valuable that could be actually implemented. The course gave me tools to not leave any important issue out when designing and running participatory processes for impactful innovation.”
— Ana Carol Rodrigues