Lab Culture – An introduction to the iLab

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At ip&e we’re passionate about social innovation, that’s why we setup the iLab to be a space where we can really understand some of the tricky social issues that are out there in the World today. We think that by taking a human centered design approach we can co-design new products and services which transcend the public, private and social sectors, and bring together collaborative mission teams to work on projects which make a real difference to people in our communities – embedding the use of design thinking along the way.

We want to help communities to thrive but to do this we know that we need to tackle some pretty wicked problems. Our approach to problem solving is a formal method for the practical, creative resolution of problems. The human centered design approach we take in the iLab is comprised of four key stages:

iLab Design Process

  • Expo Lab – Exploratory Laboratories provide the platform to scope out an idea and gather research to support it. Typical activities include: Desktop Research, Institutional Analysis, Financial Analysis, Market Analysis, Exploratory Laboratory Workshops, Ethnographic Research, Contextual Interviews, Research, Consolidation, and Design Synthesis.
  • Imaginarium – Imaginariums provide the platform to generate ideas based on research undertaken during the Expo Lab. Typical activities include: Imaginarium Workshops, Hack Events, and Service Jams.
  • Proto Lab – Proto Labs provide the platform to test ideas in a safe and controlled environment. Proto Labs can be undertaken in a focused way, rapidly testing concepts during an afternoon workshop, or run over several weeks, robustly testing concepts in a real world setting. Typical activities include: Test Labs, Beta Testing, Hack Events, Reflection Sessions.
  • Catapult Lab – Catapult Labs provide the platform to really make a product fly. The Catapult lab is the culmination of all our hard work and is the final step in turning an original idea into a real solution that has the power to change lives. Typical activities include: Sales, Marketing, Showcase Events.

Our aim for the iLab is to generate social value, but as with all research and development, we also know that not all of the projects we work on will deliver scalable solutions. Some of our ideas don’t get past the Proto Lab stage, and we embrace that. Thomas Edison said that he never failed, he just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work, and he must have learned a huge amount in the process.

We have a list of key design priorities which are based on the challenges that orgainsations like Nesta and the Design Council are currently exploring, and also the values and aspirations of ip&e as an organisation:

  • Helping older people to live well
  • Helping people with long-term health conditions to live well
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of the general population
  • Supporting young people to succeed and find employment
  • Developing volunteering to support and improve communities
  • Helping unemployed people improve their skills and get back to work
  • Using digital technology to get people involved in social action
  • Reducing the impact of human beings on the natural environment

We believe that by working on challenges which fall under these key priority areas, the products and services that we will create will contribute towards a network of other products and services being created by other social innovators. Hopefully together we can start to rewire the way the World thinks about solving wicked problems. We know that we can only succeed in our aims by working in collaboration with others, so if you share our passion for breaking the mold, or have an idea which you think could make a difference in your community, we would love to hear from you – Drop us a line.

Simon Penny – @simon_penny


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