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What is a Lab?

The term ‘social innovation lab’ or ‘change lab’ has been used by a number of organisations who bring people together to design and test solutions to complex social problems. While they are all slightly different, they do share some common characteristics. These include:

  • Bringing diverse perspectives together
  • Working on challenges over time
  • Systemic focus

If you are interested in finding out more about other labs around the world, take a look at Nesta’s searchable map.

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What is the Q Lab?

The Q Lab will bring people together (from within and beyond Q) to work and make progress on complex challenges facing health and care in the UK.

The Lab will explore a single challenge over a 9-12 month period with a wide range of people. We will deeply understand the issue, building on existing evidence and insight, generate ideas and test solutions that will ultimately benefit people who use health and care services and those working in the health system.

We hope to share our learning with a wide range of people, working closely with the growing Q community.

The Lab has an office based in London and is supported by a small team.

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How is the Q Lab funded?

The Health Foundation and NHS Improvement are funding a 12-month pilot to setup and run a lab (starting from April 2017).
During this year, we hope to learn if the model and approach has the potential to help tackle some of health and care’s most difficult challenges.

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What methods will the Lab use?

The Lab is primarily based on collaboration – working with people all over the UK to understand complex problems.

To support this collaborative approach, the Lab will use a range of methods. This will include those that are familiar to people working in safety and quality improvement, as well as techniques and skills used in other labs such as design thinking, systems theory and behavioural science.

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What does the Lab hope to achieve?

We want to test whether the Q Lab could be a new way of working through some of the most complex issues facing health and care.

The ultimate test will be whether the Lab generates ideas and insights that can be used to improve health and care throughout the UK. This will take time, so the test for the pilot year is to see whether the lab model has the potential to make a difference.

There are also a number of other outcomes that we’ll be looking out for. By providing the space for people to come together to work on one issue, it will give those involved the opportunity to develop new relationships and make new connections.

The Lab also aims to provide opportunities for those involved to develop their own capabilities in improvement and social innovation.

During the pilot year we will work with an independent evaluation team to understand what impact the Lab might be having, and whether the model appears to have potential to positively support change.

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Who works on the Lab?

The Lab is led by the Health Foundation and supported by NHS Improvement. There is a small, dedicated team working on the Lab this year and you can find out more about us here. The Lab will also provide opportunities for Q members and people with an interest in the challenge to get involved.

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What challenges will the Lab work on?

The Labs aim to work on complex challenges that many people and organisations in health and care are grappling with.

Further details on how the first challenge for the pilot lab was chosen are here.

The Labs will formulate problems from a patient or user perspective, rather than an institutional one, to ensure we are dealing with health and care challenges that really matter to people.

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Why 9-12 months?

In order to make change in multiple areas we think that at least nine months is a good amount of time to really understand a particular challenge and generate ideas and solutions.

We are also mindful that in the fast-paced world in which we are operating, the Lab will need to be agile enough to tackle multiple challenges over the course of the next five years. We therefore think that after nine months we should be able to move on to other challenges.

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What is the role for patients and users?

We are committed to working closely with patients, carers and users of health and care services.

In line with Q’s approach to working with patients we will make sure that patients and the public have the opportunity, alongside health and care professionals, to participate in all of the Lab’s activities.

We recognise that there are financial barriers that can make it difficult for patients to contribute their time to additional pieces of work. To reduce this issue, we will pay out of pocket expenses for people working with us in the Lab. If people are working with us on in-depth pieces of work, we will pay a day rate in line with the NHS England policy for patient and public voice.

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How was the topic chosen?

In January the Q community voted on ‘empowering people to manage their own health and care needs’ as a broad theme for the Lab to focus on. Working with a range of experts, including Q members, patients, charities, think tanks and Health Foundation colleagues, we refined the theme to identify a specific challenge to work on.

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How can I get involved?

Collaboration is at the heart of the Lab and there are many ways to be involved.

People and organisations are welcome to be closely involved throughout the duration of the 12 months, or you can be involved in activities as and when it is relevant and/or of interest.

We aim to work with a diverse group of people. To date the Lab has worked with clinicians, charities, patients, designers, housing associations, academics, national bodies and think tanks to name but a few.

Come and join us. Further details are available here.

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Is the Q Lab just for Q members?

No, you do not need to be a Q member to participate in the Lab.

The Q community will play a key role in the Lab and the Lab will draw on their diverse ideas, insights and experience.

However, a vital part of the Lab methodology is to work with people from across disciplines and sectors that bring different views, opinions and approaches. Non Q-members (or people thinking about applying to Q) are very much welcome to be part of the Lab.

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Where is the Q Lab based?

The pilot Lab has an office in London where the core Lab team are based. If the pilot Lab proves to be a success and we setup more Labs in the future, these will be located in other areas in the UK.

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