The Social Labs Revolution
A New Approach to Solving Our Most Complex ChallengesPaperback Engels 2014
People often ask, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we solve global hunger?"
- Offers a more dynamic, powerful, and practical way to address difficult social problems than the dominant planning approach
- Features inspiring examples of the results social labs around the world have achieved
- Provides detailed guidance on how to start a social lab in any setting and on any level
People often ask, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we solve global hunger?" That very question demonstrates the fatal flaw in the dominant way of dealing with difficult social challenges: they're treated like straightforward technical problems. Organizations do a few studies, establish some goals, devise a plan, and attempt implementation. As a look around the world sadly shows, this hasn't worked.
Issues like poverty, ethnic conflict, and climate change are incredibly dynamic and complex, involving an ever-shifting array of factors, actors, and circumstances. They demand a more fluid and adaptive approach. The answer, says Zaid Hassan, is social labs.
Social labs bring together a diverse a group of stakeholders not to create yet more five-year plans but to develop a portfolio of prototype solutions, test those solutions in the real world, use the data to further refine them, and test them again. Their orientation is systemic-they are designed to go beyond dealing with symptoms and parts to get at the root cause of why things are not working.
Hassan builds on a decade of experience-as well as drawing from cutting-edge research in complexity science, networking theory, and sociology-to explain the core principles and daily functioning of social labs, using examples of pioneering labs from around the world. He describes a fast-growing global movement around a new generation of ambitious social labs that are tackling big challenges such as dramatically reducing global emissions, preventing the collapse of fragile states, and improving community resilience. The Social Labs Revolution offers a new generation of problem solvers an effective, practical, and exciting new vision and guide.
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PREFACE Notes from a Practicing Heart
INTRODUCTION What Are Social Laboratories?
What Does It Mean to Be Winning? / Playing in the World Cup / The Scale-Free Laboratory / A Cascade of Social Labs
1. The Perfect Storm of Complexity
The Perfect Challenge / What Is a Complex Social Challenge? / The Futile Optimism of Optimization / Yemen as a Natural Experiment / Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail
2. The Strategic Vacuum
Business as Usual / The Expert-Planning Paradigm / Flying Autopilot in the Perfect Storm / A Lack of Genuine Strategic Intent
3. The Sustainable Food Lab: From Farm to Fork
The Race to the Bottom / The Multiple and Conflicting Logics of Food / What Is Sustainable? / Systemic Spread Betting
4. The Bhavishya Lab: The Silent Emergency
The Bhavishya Alliance / The Moon Shot / Movement Requires Friction / Fail Early, Fail Often / Business as Usual and Its Radical Refusals
5. The New Ecologies of Capital
The End of the Beginning / Emerging Forms of Capital and Preventing Collapse / The Dumbest Idea in the World 87 / More Rainforests, Fewer Plantations
6. The Rise of the Agilistas
The Practical Wisdom of Social Labs / Starting with Current Realities / Events Rupture Dispositions / The Right Stuff
7. Steps Toward a Theory of Systemic Action
First Requirement: Constitute a Diverse Team / Second Requirement: Design an Iterative Process /Third Requirement: Actively Create Systemic Spaces
8. Starting a Social Lab: Seven How-Tos
Strategic versus Tactical Thinking / #1 Clarify Intention/ #2 Broadcast an Invitation / #3 Work Your Networks / #4 Recruit Willing People /#5 Set Direction / #6 Design in Stacks /#7 Find Cadence Conclusion Next-Generation Social Labs Averting the Zombie Apocalypse / State Collapse: A Stabilization Strategy / Climate Change: A Mitigation Strategy / Community Resilience: An Adaptation Strategy / The Battle of the Parts versus the Whole
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