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Why is it called a Lab?

how-labs-will-work-pageThe term ‘lab’ has been coined by a number of organisations (including many from the public or charity sector) seeking to generate innovation and change in order to make progress on intractable challenges.

These labs bring people together with a range of skills and create protected time and space to work collaboratively and creatively on issues that require system-level coordination. They adopt a highly inclusive way of working and are philosophically different to the ‘command and control’ way of doing things which has traditionally been prevalent in public services.

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

What problems will the Lab work on?

We believe that the biggest opportunity for the Lab is the ability to support collaboration across a range of organisations, professionals and locations. We will focus on challenges that have relevance for multiple organisations and health economies.

While the context and local factors will vary across the range of organisations involved, we believe there will be significant value from sharing learning, research and insight in a systematic way to make progress.

The specific topics that we work on will be crowdsourced from the Q community to ensure that the remit is driven by the needs of those working to deliver care. We will formulate problems from a patient perspective, rather than an institutional one, to ensure we are dealing with the health and care challenges that really matter to people.

What methods will the Lab use?

Our vision is for the Lab to have a strong data analytics and research focus, ensuring that high quality evidence informs each project.

We will draw on methods from the strong heritage of quality improvement in the NHS, as well as techniques and skills used in many other labs such as design, behavioural science and systems theory.

Utlimately, success will be measured in the Lab’s ability to catalyse change that improves the quality and safety of care of patients. This may be through drawing on the best of what is already happening in the health and care sector, using quality improvement tools and techniques to make progress. Or it may come from collaborative, cross-sector innovation, developing new ideas and solutions to test and iterate. Bringing innovation and improvement expertise together to design solutions that will really work in practice will be key.

How long will the Lab work on a challenge?

It is difficult to predict exactly how long the Lab will focus on a particular challenge; our current working assumption is between six to nine months.

In order to make change across multiple areas we think that at least six months is required 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, with multiple priorities, the Lab should 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 onto other challenges.

Like all good improvers, we will seek to learn as we go along. The insights we gain in the first year will help us to understand whether we need to rethink our methods.

What will the Lab not do?

While developing the proposal for this work, we have also had to think about what we aren’t setting out to achieve, as well as being open to how the Lab might evolve over time.

Perhaps the most pertinent point about the model is that it is not being run as a consultancy. There will be no fee for being involved in a challenge and no contract to sign. We want to support those who have enthusiasm and capacity to make progress and will offer a range of ways for people to get involved, depending on their personal and organisational capacity.

The Lab team will support the implementation of ideas that emerge from the Lab, however it will not lead this work or offer consultant-like services or capacity for organisations to draw on. We aim to harness, support and accelerate the work of talented leaders and organisations that wish to go on a journey of change.

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