Lab Notes

Lab Notes #1 | w/c 2 October 2017

Our lab team started 2017 with an intense 10 week sprint to co-create Do Fest Dudley, a 3 day open festival which demonstrated ways that people can and are becoming creators of the places in which they live. There was so much energy and interest generated that we decided to immediately follow up with the co-creation of Share Fest, a 10 day programme of activity across Dudley borough. Throughout this time we were doing intense amounts of data collection, observation, reflection and analysis. Our insights have been drawn together into a cultural portrait, a set of provocations and the story of 6 months of CoLab Dudley activity. We will be publishing this and sharing our insights in a variety of ways over coming months.

As Autumn arrives our activities are settling into a rhythm and pace which facilitate more real-time sharing of our conversations, connections, collaborations and learning. Lab Notes are one way we’ll experiment with sharing. This is the first instalment. Let us know what you think.

UnLtd Resilient Communities Session

On Tuesday CoLab Dudley team member Adam Hall hosted a Resilient Communities Session in Dudley for his colleagues in UnLtd who support  social entrepreneurs in all sorts of places from West Scotland to the South East of England. Following a welcome and a bit of background from  the social entrepreneurs behind Gather Dudley CIC founders, we had a discussion about CoLab Dudley… how the lab emerged, our approaches and what we’re learning.

Inhedge and Wolverhampton Street consultation

On Tuesday a small group of us popped along to a consultation run by Dudley Council. The council are “keen to enhance the Inhedge Gardens Open Space as part of ongoing improvements to the town centre”. They are planning to apply for funding to develop the area and ran some consultation activities on 3 October to gain views and ideas from local people to inform their funding application.

It is interesting to reflect how much funding and funders shape what happens around us. In requiring consultation they  can minimise the potential of local people to commenting on a pre-developed plan, required for the funding to be released. There’s little or no scope for testing what works, trial and error, long term relationship building and network weaving. Through CoLab Dudley we’d love to bring some lab and design approaches to the development of the Inhedge green space, engaging people of all ages in creative co-design and testing of ideas.

Colleagues from Dudley Public Health had bought along examples of some inspiring projects from sources  like the Community Lovers Guide This is a great springboard for the ideation stage of a co-design process for projects which may need very little or no funding at all. 


On Thursday we kicked off MapJam, through which we are mapping grassroots sharing projects, open community resources and the commons. The Inspiration Lab was a hive of activity as Jo, Matt and Kali shared knowledge and contacts, including an amazing array of potential connections to different teams in Dudley College which Matt identified. Jamie showed me how Bromford use Google Map tools to store and pin services and partners they signpost to. I introduced Jamie to Kumu, which he thinks might be a useful tool for Bromford. And Kali’s children got on with home school activities alongside us.


  • We need to be clear about what data we want to collect and use. The MapJam instructions and template spreadsheet offer a starting point, we might usefully create some criteria to facilitate shared understanding of what CoLab Dudley would find it useful map, which doesn’t already exist in online directories etc.
  • Through the collation of an initial data set we have an idea of how to structure data for use in Kumu and geographical mapping. A bit of work on this can be done before the second MapJam session.

Connecting with Dudley Council HR

On Thursday Rachel Jones from Dudley Council’s HR team came to discuss the Systems Practice learning we’ve been looking at. Following a tour of the coffee shop, Inspiration Lab, workshop and garden we had a wide ranging discussion about systems practice, culture change, design approaches, and the importance of creative spaces. It was interesting to hear about Rachel’s learning experiences through training she is doing with Roffey Park and we hope to build a great relationship between our work.

We followed up by sharing links to Bromford’s Innovation Lab website and Medium blog, Local Gov Digital’s UnMentoring and a great new RSA Short on from a talk by Simon Sinek on culture change:  

Systems Practice Learning

Ahead of Friday our Head Detectorist Jo was getting excited about the first session of a newly formed team who plan to work through the +Acumen Systems Practice course, and sharing useful links.

The Systems Practice learning team are getting together on Friday afternoons to work through the course workshop activities. In keeping with the ‘social’ element of CoLab Dudley being a social lab, the learning team is diverse in interests, knowledges and experiences.  We are also connecting across to systems work on obesity led by Leeds Beckett University which Dudley Public Health are involved in a pilot for. We are keen to compare and contrast the tools used.

Our first session on framing our systems challenge was a challenge! We’ve approximately identified a challenge which is complex, though it needs a little more shaping. We’ll share more after our our next session. If you are interested in a systems approach you can read and download a free workbook  produced by the Omidyar Group  which accompanies our course.

TEDxBrum outreach

Anneka and Nat from the TEDxBrum outreach team came to Dudley on Saturday to introduce TEDxBrum and the Perspectives event which will take place on Sunday 15 October. They have some community tickets which we can make available to people who otherwise might not be able to be part of the day.  We’ve identified a few curious individuals in Dudley who wish to take up this offer. Get in touch with us if you know anyone who might like to know more. There are also still full-price tickets available, hop over to pronto!

And that was our week. We’d love to hear what’s useful, and what’s not, as we continue to work and learn out loud.

Notes by Lorna Prescott.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *