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. The participation of diverse stakeholders beyond consultation, as opposed to teams of experts or technocrats, represents the social nature of social labs.
2. They are experimental.
Social labs are not one-off experiences. They’re ongoing and sustained efforts. The team doing the work takes an iterative approach to the challenges it wants to address, prototyping interventions and managing a portfolio of promising solutions. This reflects the 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. This means trying to come up with solutions that go beyond dealing with a part of the whole or symptoms and address the root cause of why things are not working in the first place.
– From “The Social Labs Revolution”