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Working on a single topic for 12 months, the Q Lab brings together organisations and individuals from across the UK to pool what is known about a topic, uncover new insights and develop and test ideas that will improve health and care.

This is an exciting (and busy!) time for the Lab: we recently finished our 12-month pilot project, looking at how peer support could be scaled in the UK (and if you’d like to learn more about this work, do take a look at the Lab Essays which capture our learning and insights). Next month we will be starting a second project, collaborating with the Q community to work on a new topic for 12-months.

Over the summer we’ve been reviewing the progress that was made during the pilot project, and looking at how the Lab approach can be refined and improved in the future. This process has been informed by feedback from people who have worked on the Q Lab pilot project (including many Q members) and an independent evaluation by RAND Europe.

One of the biggest changes is that we will work with an organisational partner, who will support the Q Lab project. For the next project our partner is Mind – the mental health charity . We’re still working together on what the project topic will be, although we do know that the broad focus will be supporting people who have both a long-term condition and a mental health problem.

There’s still work to do to get ready for the second project, and we’re excited to announce all the details in September and hope many of you will get involved. However, in the meantime I thought it’d be useful to share more about how the Lab works and our learning from year one.

Building on our strengths

We will continue to work on complex problems that are affecting multiple parts of the health and care system. The Q Lab will go through a process of gaining an in-depth understanding of the problem; developing and testing ideas; and disseminating insights and learning, and this will continue to take place over 12-months. We feel this allows Q members and those involved in the Lab sufficient time to understand the problem and move at pace to testing. Our ambition is that much of the work that is initiated through the Q Lab will continue after the 12-month process has ended, led by people working in different parts of the health and care system.

Our ambition is that much of the work that is initiated through the Q Lab will continue after the 12-month process has ended, led by people working in different parts of the health and care system.

We will continue to convene a diverse group of people to collaborate on projects. The opportunity to be involved in the Q Lab is open to Q members and non-Q members, as we seek to involve people from a range of different backgrounds and experiences who are affected by the problems at hand. In the pilot project there were over 200 Lab participants, with around 70 people committing significant time to the work.

Lab participants help to set the course of work – by contributing knowledge and expertise in the research and helping to select and undertake work in areas where there is potential for change and improvement to occur.

We operate on the basis that sustainable change needs to start with understanding the problem deeply, drawing on data, evidence and experience. We will continue to place value on understanding and defining the problem. In the pilot project we shared our learning on peer support in the Q Lab essays. In future we will look at other ways to share learning as projects develop.

Designing improvements

We will be working partnering with Mind on this project. Mind will bring additional subject matter expertise on the topic and will have a commitment to take work forward after the 12-month Lab process has ended. Mind also deliver mental health services through 135 local Minds that operate across England and Wales and people from these organisations will contribute their knowledge as Lab participants, working alongside Q members and others.

In the next project we will look to balance our collective ambition, with a desire to make demonstrable progress within 12-months.

Our topic for the pilot project was very broad – focussing on all types of peer support and covering issues around access, scale and evidence. This had benefits in that it encompassed a range of issues, but there were also challenges in narrowing the focus and being able to attract and work with people who could test ideas and improvements in practice in key areas. In the next project we will look to balance our collective ambition, with a desire to make demonstrable progress within 12-months. We will choose a smaller topic that will provide greater focus and a clearer route to change.

Finally, we will review our approach to collaboration. During the pilot project we had a very open approach as we didn’t know how many people would be interested and able to work with us. We were encouraged by the level of interest, which greatly exceeded our expectations. This gives us the opportunity to develop our collaborations model further – providing more information upfront about the forms that involvement can take, and seeking a higher level of involvement from people who have time and agency to lead work in their local areas.

What’s next?

If this blog has piqued your interest about the Q Lab there will be lots of opportunities in the coming months to find out more:

  • At the end of August, we will be launching two essays that summarise our learning from the pilot project and our ambitions for the future. These focus on the impact and evaluation of the Q Lab
  • We will be running a session at the UK-wide Q community event in Birmingham on 19 September and you can sign-up now to attend
  • In September we will announce the topic for the next project, with opportunities for you to share your knowledge and become a Lab participant.

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