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Working on a single challenge for a year, the Q Lab builds on existing knowledge to develop new insights and ideas on a topic, as well as creating the conditions for professional collaborations and skills to flourish.

Around the world social innovation labs are being established as a way of tackling complex challenges. All labs are different although their common features include using approaches from disciplines such as design and behavioural science and working collaboratively with diverse groups of people to create and test new ideas.

The Q Lab combines these social innovation approaches with the collective knowledge and expertise from those both within and beyond the Q community to test new ideas and share learning.

The first Lab project is a pilot to test whether this approach can make progress on complex challenges in health and care. If the Lab shows potential to make a difference, our ambition is to establish a small number of labs across the UK over the coming years. The pilot Q Lab is funded by Health Foundation and NHS Improvement. It is also externally evaluated by RAND Europe.

The Q Lab is:

  • Unique: Part of the Q community, the Lab is a great opportunity to test new ideas directly with people working in health and care, and to quickly feedback and share learning.
  • Experimental: We know of no other Lab combining social innovation approaches with improvement expertise and is part of a growing and thriving community.
  • Exciting: If successful, the Lab approach offers an alternative way of understanding and solving complex health and care challenges.
  • Collaborative: Collaboration is at the heart of the Q Lab, working with people from across the UK and from a variety of disciplines.

The labs story so far…

2015: During the co-design for Q, the idea for ‘improvement labs’ emerged.

Spring 2016: A small team was setup by the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement to develop how a Q improvement lab would work in reality.

May 2016: Early thoughts for how the Q Improvement Labs would operate were presented at Q community events in Leeds and London

Summer 2016: We connected with other labs across the world to learn more about the lab philosophy, how to setup a lab and work with diverse communities.

Autumn 2016: We received funding from the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement to setup a pilot Lab and test the model.

January – February 2017: 447 Q members were asked to vote on the theme the Lab should work on for the next 12 months. The theme ’empowering people to manage their own health and care needs’ was chosen.

March – April 2017: The Lab team moves into a new office at Kings Cross. We held a small workshop with a diverse range of people, including a number of Q members, to identify areas within the theme that the Lab could explore over the year.

April – July 2017: The Lab begins work on the first phase: Research and discovery. We conduct interviews, desk-based research and service mapping to understand the challenges and opportunities in peer support.

July 2017: Over 50 people attend a two day workshop to understand the opportunities to improve and scale peer support.

August 2017: Using the insights from the two day workshop, the Lab announces three key areas that it will focus on for the ‘developing and testing ideas’ phase.

September 2017: The Lab is invited to run a workshop in Northern Ireland, gathering colleagues from all 6 trusts to share their understanding and personal experiences of peer support.

November 2017: The Lab runs a session at the Q national event, as well as beginning the design of a large scale survey on decision making in peer support.

December 2017: Over 40 Lab participants arrive in Birmingham for the Lab workshop. We work on some of the ideas that have been developed over the last couple of months, as well as discussing what the Lab could achieve in the final phase.

The Lab’s peer support survey also goes live. Working with YouGov the purpose of the survey is to understand what matters to different people when deciding whether to refer to, recommend or use peer support services.

January 2017: The peer support survey closes and 2657 people have completed it. The Lab get’s ready for the final phase, where we will focus on collating, sharing and practically applying the learning and insights on peer support.

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