8Starting a Social Lab: Seven How-Tos

Having a strategy suggests an ability to look up from the short term and the trivial to view the long term and the essential, to address causes rather than symptons.

— Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History

A social lab is a strategic approach toward addressing complex social challenges. As a strategy, it isn’t too hard to grasp. It can be stated simply. Bring together a diverse, committed team and take an experimental, prototyping-based approach to addressing challenges systemically, that is, at a root-cause level. Keep going. That’s it.


A key challenge I have seen over the years with responses to complex social challenges comes when strategy is confused with tactics. What’s ...

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