How can we support more women to stand on their own two feet? When they’ve just left an abusive relationship. For a shelter. That’s surrounded by fences. To keep them safe? That’s the question we started with, 3 months ago, as we got to know 18 women living at
a domestic violence shelter in Apeldoorn. A mid-size city on the edge of the Bible Belt in the East of Holland.
But after more than 100 hours, 17 Big Macs, 10 pizzas, and more fries than we’d like to count, we’re asking a different set of questions. We’re questioning whether standing on your own two feet is a sufficient policy goal. Nearly all of the women we’ve met are still standing. Surprisingly, they haven’t let the trauma or the uncertainty knock them down. And yet standing is not the same as moving forwards. Most of the women we’ve met remain lonely, left out, and on the margins. Despite having up to 8 services in their lives.
Social innovation labs are ‘hallelujah-ed’ as the latest vehicles for transforming the way our cities, our schools, our welfare programs, and even our economic systems run. Yet we, lab practitioners, encounter a lack of critical literature and struggle to find learning spaces to improve our practices and deepen our knowledge. The paper “Lab Matters: Challenging the practice of social innovation laboratories” aims to move beyond the current lab hype and deepen our discussions by asking ourselves tough questions. How do we ‘lab’ social challenges? Does labs’ pursuit of systemic impact miss the point? And how could we better prompt social change?