FoAM's lab approach creates space for groups to investigate complex real world challenges and to collaboratively develop a range of possible solutions. It can be used with a wide range of groups and contexts. The lab approach questions the status quo, researches alternatives, formulates ideas as hypotheses, conducts iterative experiments and evaluates how the lab’s work contributes to a desired change. Rather than attempting to find consensus (which may not exist) on how to solve a problem (which may not be clearly understood), the lab approach addresses issues through a dynamic ecosystem of collaborative initiatives, with heterogeneous objectives and outcomes, complementary and contrasting solutions. While the manifestations and methods may differ, most labs share a few key aspects. Labs conduct experiments. Labs foster emergence. Labs evolve through collaborative creation and peer learning. Labs can cultivate agile mindsets, heartfelt values and proactive cultures.

One of the important differences between the lab approach and goal-driven problem solving is the acknowledgement that seemingly aimless exploration can lead to surprisingly innovative results. The lab approach holds space for exploration and emergence without loosing track of the intentions the group set for themselves. Participatory processes such as the lab approach appreciate the importance of aligning personal and collective development, intellectual and experiential learning. It therefore includes a multiplicity of formats that speak to a range of faculties, with co-creation and peer learning as its cornerstones. The lab incubates and conducts iterative experiments that can contribute to desired systemic change, reduce risk. It enables outcomes that are adaptable under changing conditions.

Through multiple cycles the lab gradually accumulates capacity and extends its knowledge base, while simultaneously scaling reach and impact of the results. While experiments can provide tangible outcomes from a lab approach, many of the long term benefits are intangible: the cultivation of values and mindsets, methods and techniques, communities and cultures. The culture of the lab emerges gradually through interaction between work and sociality, as an embodiment of shared values and principles. The culture of labs tends to be open and inclusive, encouraging sharing of knowledge and resources as a commons.

Example: Marine CoLAB

Marine CoLABoration is an example of using the lab approach to enhance flows of knowledge in the environmental sector, thereby developing capacity needed to improve the health of the ocean and communities dependent on it. It was initiated by the UK branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF). Participants included representatives from ten organisations involved in ocean conservation across the UK. FoAM designed, facilitated and documented the lab process during its two year incubation phase, including nine day-long workshops and a public conference. The formats used during the workshops included Appreciative Inquiry, Scenario Building, Unconference, Team Coaching, Learning Journeys and Experience Prototyping among others.

  • lab_approach.txt
  • Last modified: 2021-01-29 10:27
  • by maja