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LabWISE on Trust and why it matters in a Social Innovation Lab Process

by Cheryl Rose, McConnell Senior Fellow and Principal with Social Innovation Generation (SiG) & Jake Wildman-Sisk, RECODE Social Innovation Fellow

LabWISE is priming collaborative groups to create big changes to major challenges across the country. Launched in mid October, the LabWISE program is a partnership with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the
Waterloo Institute of Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR), and is designed to train community-based teams in the WISIR social innovation lab process. It provides ongoing coaching to support Canadian organizations in leading a social innovation lab to tackle intractable social and/or environmental challenges.

Poverty and climate change are examples of deeply complex challenges that require many minds to think together and many hands working across sectors to tackle them. These types of problems also require deep analysis of the conditions that created them. The WISIR lab methodology builds capacity to do this, integrating collaborative research, prototyping, continuous evaluation and learning, and action planning across traditional boundaries. LabWISE is helping organizations understand an assortment of complex challenges and find ways to strategically tackle them.

No pattern was more present than the critical need to establish trust in building an effective social innovation lab process.

The launch of the program in October saw 10 challenges brought forward by lab teams from as far east as Montreal and far west as Vancouver Island. The challenges ranged from water governance to racism, and from Indigenous access to post-secondary education to economic disparity. Yet, despite many of the obvious differences in the focus of the labs, common patterns emerged across all the teams. No pattern was more present than the critical need to establish trust in building an effective social innovation lab process.
Tackling long-standing challenges like the ones LabWISE teams have brought forward can feel, at times, impossible. It’s clear that in the face of such complexity, many people feel a sense of being stuck and, to some extent, lost. They urgently want to find tools and processes that they can trust to move them and their communities in a more positive direction. This first LabWISE session began by working with lab teams to figure out if the WISIR lab process was a right fit for their work — could they trust in this process to achieve their change goals? With many different lab methodologies available, it’s key to be able to trust that the one chosen is the right fit.

Musqueam Cultural Centre
In addition, we discussed the role of context in adopting any lab methodology, and the need to adapt to the culture and community in which labs are implemented. One of the strongest examples of this was our lab teams integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and practice into their lab processes. At this time in Canada, we believe that a well-crafted lab practice will offer trusting spaces for difficult, but important, conversations, like that of Reconciliation.
There were also discussions about the need for more trust between government, post-secondary, and community stakeholders. Within this year’s LabWISE cohort, there’s agreement that, if we’re careful and intentional in our efforts, this lab methodology can support building the necessary element of trust into labs, and that this is a critical first step in transforming the impossible into the possible.

“change moves at the speed of trust”

While we observed this theme of trust emerging from the table discussions at our launch, one of our core LabWISE team members shared Stephen Covey’s idea that “change moves at the speed of trust”. It became clear in the days we spent together with the LabWISE teams that without trust, in both the lab methodology being adopted as well as between the individuals required to carry the work out, our efforts will fall short. So how is trust built? Stephen Covey believes that trust is built based on inviting and acknowledging people’s integrity, intent, capabilities, and experience. Each team present at the LabWISE launch faces the challenge of building trust by actively demonstrating these elements and integrating them into their lab practice.
Systems change takes time and is difficult work, and the LabWISE teams have chosen deeply complex challenges to address. But addressing challenges like these is urgently needed; and with the right intentions, an openness to new perspectives on both the problems and possible solutions, and a willingness to act with courage for change, lab teams may be able to achieve fundamental shifts in these problem domains. The LabWISE team is excited to help build capacity for these shifts to take place and looks forward to sharing, learning, coaching, and networking with these amazing social innovation labs as their journeys move forward.
Connect with us on social media using
#LetsRECODE and tell us more about your thoughts on social innovation labs. How might a lab help you advance your work on a complex social problem?
To learn more about the WISIR lab methodology, read the lab guide
here.

Nov 17, 2016 | Tags: ,