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This page will help you to define how your Lab works.

You will analyse your problem, map who you want to work with, and create processes to run the lab smoothly.

(Before you start this phase, you must have completed Phase 0.)


A. Build your team

Define your team members. They can be one of three kinds:

  • Core team - people or organisations involved in managing the Lab on a day-to-day basis.
  • Lab participants - others who will be strongly involved in the Lab, but don't manage the Lab directly.
  • Lab friends - others who are less closely involved, but attend Lab convenings and are informed about the Lab is doing.

You will refine this list in Step B, so don't worry if you don't know all the actors yet.

Then, set aside time for the core team to get to know each other. Complete this worksheet with information on how you will do so.

Exercises to build a team

111 talks: ask each team member to prepare 3 slides in Powerpoint with 1 visual and 1 keyword on a) You in Private Life, b) You in Working Life, c) your expectations, hopes and fears. The team member speaks about these for 3 minutes (1 minute per slide, on an auto-advance).

Dialogue walks:
Choose a question like 'Why do you do what you do?' and choose people to go for a 15-45 minute walk to discuss it. Arrange it so that one person only speaks and the other only listens, then switch roles.

Intention-setting: Spend time discussing people’s personal and professional motivations. Sketch the horizon the team is moving towards.


B. Analyze the problem and map your stakeholders

It's crucial for the core team to start by creating a shared understanding of the problem they are working on.

To do this, get your core team together and analyse your context and the actors you will be working with. Don't worry that you don't know everything yet: You will map your problem in detail, with representatives from the system, later in the Lab.


Conduct a context analysis

Collect information about the environment in which the Lab will take place. Don't worry if you don't have all the answers; you'll constantly revise your understanding during the Lab.

Exercises to analyze your context:

3D Mapping:

In groups, create a 3D sculpture representing the system that you want to change. After each step, explain what you did to your colleagues. Listen to what your colleagues say and do, and build on each other’s ideas.

Reflect on your sculpture from four perspectives:

a) East (Feeling and Appreciation) - what excites or frustrates you?;
b) South (Truth and Action) - what are the key conflicts, and the hard truths you need to face?;
c) West (Perspective) - What are the limiting assumptions and/or systemic barriers that lock us into the current state of operating?;
d) North (Purpose) - What is ending in this situation [wanting to die], and what is wanting to emerge [wanting to be born]?

Download this detailed description of 3D mapping.


The Water of Systems Change action learning exercise:

If you're hesitant about using an out-of-the-box creative exercise like 3D mapping (for example, when you're dealing with a hesitant, reserved group), this is a more down to earth exercise. It walks you through the inverted triangle of different system dynamics (from policies to mental models and paradigms), incorporating both analysis and ideas for change.

Download this detailed description of The Water of Systems Change exercise.


Problem Tree:

In a small group, write the problem you are addressing in the centre of a flipchart so it becomes the 'trunk' of a tree. Next, the group identify the causes of the focal problem - these become the roots - and then identify the consequences, which become the branches. Discuss and debate the ideas, rearranging the branches and roots as you go.

Some useful discussion questions: What are the most serious consequences? Which are of most concern? Which causes are easiest / most difficult to address? What possible solutions or options might there be? Where could a policy change help address a cause or consequence, or create a solution?

Read a detailed description of the Problem Tree method.


Conduct an actor analysis

Identify and analyze actors that are involved in a system, to help you identify additional Lab Participants or Lab Friends.

These can be actors that already support your agenda, or actors that still need to be convinced to act in a certain way. Building on your context analysis, identify actors that are ensuring that the system remains the same, as well as those that are tackling the issue.

Exercises to analyze actors:

List all the stakeholders you can think of, then rank them in a matrix order of their influence over the decision-making system (1=low position/importance; highest score = total number of actors).

Then, in a separate column, rank them in order of their potential impact on the Lab (1=low impact; highest score = total number of actors).

Read a more detailed guide to doing actor analysis.


C. Assess your convening power

Ask yourself if your convening question from the previous Phase is still valid. If not, how will you revise it?

Now, look again at your context and actor analysis. What beliefs and relationships need to change because they sustain the status quo?

Use your answer to identify relevant stakeholders to include in your Lab. Now ask yourself if your core team has sufficient convening power to bring those stakeholders into a room.

What is convening power?

Convening power is when you have enough credibility in a system to get crucial actors to take an issue seriously, and act upon it. This is critical to the success of a Lab.

We have already learned this the hard way. In Indonesia, neither Hivos nor its partner Riset Indie had the convening power to get stakeholders from Bandung City involved. The Lab arranged interesting gatherings and generated useful ideas, but failed to meet its goal of policy change on provisions of informal street food vending.

If you need more convening power, ask yourself which individuals or organisations in your network do have that power. Try to co-convene the Lab with them.


D. Set up project management processes

With your core team, decide how you will manage the project:

  • define roles and responsibilities
  • draft a timeline
  • create a budget that gives you enough time to prototype and test solutions.


E. Complete the Labs design framework

Complete the questions below about the project design.

Use what you have learned from the steps above, and revise information from the steps above if you need to.

Lab design framework:

Answer the following questions as a group: (Download a template)

Lab focus
1. Does the Lab focus on issues that can best be addressed by multiple stakeholders in a Change Lab process?
2. Is the convening question connected to your programmatic Theory of Change? [Only answer this if the Lab is part of a bigger Hivos programme]

Conditions for success
3. Inclusivity: how are more vulnerable stakeholders system included? Are they able to speak out, fully participate and drive the agenda?
4. Transparency: How accessible is information about the Lab for different kinds of actors? Think about accessibility, communication and visibility.
5. Convening power: who is convening or driving the Lab? Do they have the credibility and authority to convene the actors required to tackle the issue?
6. Reflexivity: How will the Lab adjust to changes in external context, or internal changes within the actors in the Lab?
7. Sustainability of the long-term change process: When will the Lab end, and how will it be sustained after that point? Think about which actors will 'own' the process, who will commit resources towards it, and what intangible outcomes (see step 11) will be created.


F. Plan how to capture and communicate what you learn

Specify key learning moments in your Lab, and build them into your project management cycle.

  • Decide and document how you will capture and share what you learn.
  • Go through the Labs questions (below). Use them to find ways to sharpen and improve your Lab design.


Learning questions for labs:

Answer the following questions as a group (Download a template)

1. How will the Lab function as a learning vehicle? How can the process led to new findings, incorporate citizens' voices and knowledge, and bring better understanding and knowledge exchange between different sectors and actors?
2. Is the Lab a space for social innovation?
a) When the process yields relevant ideas for prototyping, how will you implement them and foster new learnings or pathways of change?;
b) Has the process yielded new advocacy messages [if it aims to do so]? Are those messages being communicated / owned by the Lab stakeholders (including those holding power)?

Outcomes / impact

3. What tangible outcomes do you think the Lab might aim to achieve, i.e.: policy change / implementation, new services or infrastructures, better conditions for citizens (ie: diets, health, safety, access)?
4. How might you know if the Lab is making progress towards those outcomes? When will you check?
5. What intangible outcomes do you think the Lab might achieve, i.e.:
- Human capital (new capacities and skills)
- Social capital (increased trust and collaboration)
- Intellectual capital (new knowledge and learning)

Document the steps.

Choose the simplest format possible - the SKIL team wants to share what you find with the rest of Hivos.


All Labs share what they learn, treating this knowledge as a 'public good'.

We want to give back what we learn to the system (unless it's confidential information). We also want to be as inclusive as possible, keeping the door open for new actors to join the process. That’s why it is important to communicate our steps. Discuss as a core team what your comms platform will be, and make sure you allocate time and resources to it.


Completed the 'Defining' and want to move on?

Move on to the next step - Phase 2: Exploring