LabWorks 2015 Coaching Retreat
LabWorks 2015 brought together public innovators from across the world to share thinking, discover tools and learn new skills. To build on the foundations of the event and explore its themes further, Nesta’s Innovation Skills team followed LabWorks with an in-depth Coaching Retreat weekend for a select group of 16 public sector labs.
Hosted in collaboration with GovLab, La 27e Region and MindLab, the intensive two-day retreat was designed for teams actively working on lab strategy and delivery. As the interest and demand for establishing labs around the world has increased, so has the need for advice and support on how to do it. The goal of the retreat therefore was to provide direct, hands-on support and expert advice that, together, would help accelerate the development of these real-world labs.
The retreat was led by a faculty of practitioners who collectively have a wealth of insight and expertise in capacity building in governments at both national and regional levels. Each lab was able to delve deeper into its specific projects and receiving bespoke coaching and advice on its challenges.
Over the two days, the topics covered included:
- methods, tools and approaches to building and sustaining a successful lab
- success stories that showcased innovation labs and teams
- positioning labs within wider government ecosystems or socioeconomic contexts
- measuring the impact of labs
- understanding the contextual factors and constraints government innovation labs encounter
Defining the challenges
The retreat acted as a safe space for the labs to talk candidly about their hopes and fears, and to receive specific advice. They were challenged to unpack their thinking and really consider the problems they were trying to address, the issues they were facing in doing so, and the assumptions that they were working from. Complementing this, the labs spent time on developing their Theory of Change in order to articulate how the activities of their lab would bring about the overall impact they wanted.
One of the most significant elements of the retreat was that it gave participants the opportunity to work as a peer group. Each lab and context is different, and there is no set formula to running a lab. This made the peer group setting a highly effective learning environment as labs were able to explore their similarities and differences and learn from each other’s experiences.
The retreat also provided the labs with the space to reflect on what they had heard and experienced over the course of LabWorks. While it can often be tricky to implement new ideas once back in the everyday work environment, within their peer group the labs were able to consciously think through what it meant for them and to test out potential new ways of thinking.
In summary, the retreat gave the labs room for reflection, the chance to test out their thinking, and the opportunity to have it challenged by experienced practitioners. It allowed them to accelerate their learning and gave them a network for ongoing peer reflection and development, while also helping them to recognise the need for continuing refinement in their thinking.
Looking forwards, we’ll be continuing to facilitate the peer learning through our lab network. We’ll also be looking at how we can further refine these retreats in order to help other labs in different contexts, and how we can develop them with others working in similar areas. Our hope is that by sharing our approach with the wider lab community, we can help to better understand and build the field, and move our collective knowledge and learning forward.