Labs In Action
We’re proud and excited to be pioneering the practice of social innovation labs in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Much like we have technical and scientific labs to solve the greatest technical & scientific challenges of our time, we need social labs to tackle the complex challenges we face to improve our society.
“Issues like poverty, ethnic conflict, and climate change are incredibly dynamic and complex, involving an ever-shifting array of factors, actors, and circumstances. They demand a more fluid and adaptive approach. Social labs are a more effective approach.” – Zaid Hassan, Author of Social Labs Revolution
Social Labs are a space (physical, virtual or conceptual) where we can bring people from diverse backgrounds to dive deep into the problems, opportunities and ways of tackling the complex challenges which face us. They can vary hugely in length, format, participants, and outcomes. They’re characterised by taking systemic approaches, solutions being experimental, and having diversity of actors hence ‘social‘ in their engagement.
Let’s stop pretending we have all the answers, or that leadership to improve the lives of our friends and whanau can come solely from a small group of people who were elected to make decisions on our behalf. Accept that, and you accept that we need new ways for all of us to engage in co-creating our futures.
Whether we feel ready or not, we are the people to tackle these challenges and solve these problems. To prepare for this, our work begins within – on the wellbeing of ourselves, our whanau and our country. As a society it’s critical we unlock the potential which lies in each and every one of us. We need to experiment, to test ideas and fail and get up and try again, we need to get moving and making, learning, training, connecting and working, it’s up to us to turn the problems we see around us into opportunities.
It’s all connected. As people and countries we are so connected in today’s world, working on anything means works on everything. By solving problems and improving physical & mental wellbeing to unlock the extraordinary potential of Kiwis all over Aotearoa New Zealand we will be able to work to improve things for all life on Earth.
Improving wellbeing is about our community working on every wicked problem in our community.
Depression, eating disorders, climate change, housing prices, accessibility, income inequality. This is a time of abundance and global connectedness, and a time where we must confront the biggest and most complex challenges that humanity has ever faced – these are wicked problems.
“A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.” – John Kolko, Author of Wicked Problems
In New Zealand, we’re facing a crisis of mental health challenges and young people feeling lost. The challenges our young people face affect every one of us. Lifehack’s mandate is to support Kiwis to develop new technology tools to improve youth wellbeing. Most of the time services providers, parents, teachers are the ones who cope with daily symptoms, while policy makers are left with the systemic questions. The real power to address youth issues is in youth led innovation which responds to the links between societal health and personal health.
New Paths to New Solutions
Globally, there are plenty of examples emerging of methods, like design thinking, which create genuinely new ways of working and living which show us what’s possible for life on Earth. Social innovation processes like dialogue, Theory U, and storytelling are giving rise to more grassroots action the more they are used deliberately. Innovation and constant improvement is a philosophy being led by startups and entrepreneurs. Startups are vehicles which are primed for learning. Design makes sense of complexity. Social enterprise brings new models of sustainable funding for social & environmental challenges. Blended together, they promise a powerful future.
“While traditional circles of entrepreneurship focus on speed and agility, designing for impact is about staying the course through methodical, rigorous iteration. Due to the system qualities of these large problems, knowledge of science, economics, statistics, technology, medicine, politics, and more are necessary for effective change. This demands interdisciplinary collaboration, and most importantly, perseverance.” – John Kolka, Author of Wicked Problems
Lifehack is pioneering the creation of intentional spaces we’ve come to know as Social Innovation Labs. The method is born out of generations of social innovation, entrepreneurship and social policy thinking from around the world; out of the belief that powerful conversations about possibility can commit people to a life of purposeful work, and a lifetime of driving impactful vehicles of innovation to steward the future of this world.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” – Winston Churchill
Where We're Heading
The People and The World
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
“We should stop deferring to the community of experts, and start referring to the community as experts.” – Katherine Trebeck
Labs aren’t about building perfect products, they’re not even about building fully functional businesses. They’re about supporting young, passionate founders, because when you wrap the best support around people who are driven to make good things happen, you get magic products, services and interventions which relate to the real problems people experience. We work to enable people’s self awareness and critical thinking about the impact they could have on the world, and supporting them to commit to driving forward tech prototypes of products for youth wellbeing.
“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle
We often look to the natural world and indigenous wisdom from inspiration. Ecosystems are highly collaborative as well as competitive – out of balance we don’t have sustainable growth.
There is growing research, appreciation and understanding that we need more collaboration and connectedness between organisations, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, events, investors, projects and ventures if we’re going to grow a more powerful and sustainable approach to social, environmental and economic futures. Thanks to some leading research by Free Range and MJ Kaplan we know many of the steps we need to take to grow an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and ventures focused on creating these better futures.
One of these recommendations was greater partnership and collaboration between Government and Entrepreneurial circles. The Ministry for Social Development has done just that in working with the Enspiral Foundation to nurture Lifehack to create this leading-edge approach to tackling our youth mental health challenges outlined in the Gluckman Report.
“There is no challenge a business has ever faced which hasn’t already been solved by a rainforest.” – Elizabeth Sahtouris