Labs Chat – Child & Youth Mental Health in Canada

Social Labs Chat - Lifehack Meets Canada

We’re constantly scanning the international frontiers to see what emerges around the world that we can learn from, build on, and generally improve our work to see 100% of young Kiwis flourishing by 2050. As an example, a short while back we shared a couple of ground breaking reports from the UK about developing social technologies.

A month or so back, we were delighted to see a Social Lab spark up over in Canada which be looking at Child & Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, with a focus on the school setting. Even better, it was emerging from JW McConnell Family Foundation, who we’ve been following for awhile – they’re known for innovative, community-led work, and great at sharing their learnings (such as this Innoweave program).

We were captured by how well and simply they were able to explain the complexity of running a social lab with simple graphics like this (it’s triggered us to do some more work on our own explanation too!):

Action Framework Child Youth mental Health Wellbeing Canada Social Labs Child Youth Mental Health Wellbeing in Canada

So, we did what we always do – reach out to see whether there’s shared ground to discuss, learn from one another, and short cut one another’s learning processes toward a flourishing society.

We were delighted to hear back from Vani Jain who is leading the work to develop the Lab, and lined up a skype call. Bridging the time zones, we got to know one another and shared more about how our Labs emerged, and where they were headed. It was great to speak with someone so aligned with our vision of supporting everyday wellbeing interventions and solutions which are indigenous to the communities they spring out of, rather than externally created and brought in.

We talked a lot about the role of participative design with communities, not for them – and we learnt a lot from their model of pairing researchers with project champions who work within the schools they partner with. We heard about the energy and enthusiasm from people all over Canada to be part of co-creating the solutions – to the point that they’re asking how they will run workshops with 150 people at a time!

My final reflections were that this was an important bridge to build – two social labs focused on the same aims, but with vastly different strategies of how to get there. We can learn so much from one another; nicely summed up in te ao Māori by the concept of tuakana-teina.


What we’ll be doing because of this conversation:

We’ll be keeping in touch to share some of the things we’ve worked out the hard way, as well as sharing the Lifehack design methodology work we’ve been undertaking with Dr Penny Hagen. We’ll be sharing in some of the learnings that Vani’s team come across with large-scale participation processes in the latter half of the year in British Columbia.

We’ll also be working on some clearer graphics to explain how Lifehack operates on a practical level – we’ve been keen to do this work for awhile, but have been busy building the likes of our Fellowship program, Design Challenge with Massey University, crowdsourcing our direction, speaking at Conferences and more.


Vani sent us this updated graphic from their latest Leadership symposium which goes a little deeper into how their Lab is emerging:

Healthy Schools Social Lab Canada

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