7th Feb, 2017

A growing number of people are focusing their heads, hearts, and hands on addressing complex social challenges through Social Labs.
Social Labs are platforms for addressing complex social challenges that have three core characteristics.

  1. They are social.Social labs start by bringing together diverse participants to work in a team that acts collectively. They are ideally drawn from different sectors of society, such as government, civil society, and the business community.
  2. They are experimental.Social labs are not one-off experiences. They’re ongoing and sustained efforts. There is an experimental nature of social labs, as opposed to the project-based nature of many social interventions.
  3. They are systemic.The ideas and initiatives developing in social labs, released as prototypes, aspire to be systemic in nature. i.e. solutions that address the root cause of why things are not working in the first place.

There are social labs across the globe focused on eliminating poverty, on water sustainability, on transforming media, on government, on climate, on social innovation, and on many more issues. Come and here about the work of three leaders in the Social Labs space talk about their experiences designing with communities through Social Labs.

David Lilley

David Lilley is Senior Manager NSW at United Way Australia. David established a collaborative initiative called The Hive Mt Druitt, the vision of which is a thriving generation of children with diverse life opportunities. The Hive brings together government, business, philanthropic, community and social sectors, to bring about long term change. It draws on three core methods or approaches: co-design, strengths based community work, and collective impact. David will explain the development of the initiative, the current five-year strategy, and the influence the work within United Way Australia.

Sam Rye

Sam Rye is a strategic designer and social labs practitioner who has worked across environmental conservation, youth mental health, resilient livelihoods and more. He’s currently leading the charge to build a community of practice for the social labs sector, as well as working with Zaid Hassan’s new team at Roller Strategies on labs like Grove 3547. Born a Brit, but now an honorary Kiwi, he’s currently living in the hills of the Yarra Ranges in Victoria.

Amanda Third

Associate Professor Amanda Third is Principal Research Fellow in Digital Social and Cultural Research in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, and Co-founder of the Australian Living Labs Innovation Network (ALLIN). From 2011-2016, she led the ‘Connected and Creative’ research program of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, which united young people with researchers, practitioners, innovators and policy-makers across the not-for-profit, academic, government and corporate sectors to explore the role of technology in young people’s lives, and how technology can be used to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 12 to 25. Amanda will share her experiences with Social Labs and introduce the research and engagement toolkit her team has developed.

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