Social labs are a new approach to working on social change and innovation. One way of understanding a social lab is to see it as a hub or a platform that seeks to catalyse emergent innovations through diverse strategies and interventions. CoLab Dudley is based in Dudley Town Centre where we have co-created a series of spaces for experimenting with local people.
Social labs build core teams of people with a breadth of skills and capabilities. Our team is currently made up of six Network Guardians leading on platform design and building, and wider team members who bring specialist skills and talents as and when the work of the lab demands. Team members have experience, skills and knowledge in; hospitality, geography, journalism, sales and marketing, teaching, storytelling, catering, engineering design, leading charity sector projects and programmes, retail, strategic design, book-keeping, civic engagement, running businesses, documentary making, administration, community development, visual design and communication, ethnographic and participatory research, photography and videography, supporting social entrepreneurs and leading innovation work inside organisations,
Labs stay close to people (ordinary citizens) and help them to make change in the place that matters to them in ways and timeframes that make sense to them. We call these people doers. We make it easier for them to create, share, make, do and learn things together. While doers feel the deepest benefit from the work of our lab, ripples spread to encouragers and to our fellow travellers in other places.
CoLab Dudley Partners
Dudley CVS is a charitable company established in 1974. Dudley CVS is a local infrastructure body with a vision for caring, vibrant and strong communities where everyone can fulfil their potential. Dudley CVS has a focus on creating opportunities to do things differently to create change or movement.
Gather Dudley is a Community Interest Company incorporated in March 2016. Their work towards the social mission of building a resilient community within Dudley began with establishing a coffee shop on Dudley High Street.
UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, a UK registered charity set up in 2002. Their job is to reach out and unleash the energies of people who can transform the world in which they live. They call these people social entrepreneurs. Dudley is one of 27 places in UnLtd’s Resilient Communities programme.
The Big Lottery Fund ensures money raised by players of The National Lottery helps communities to achieve their ambitions and thrive. The Big Lottery are investing in and learning with CoLab Dudley through Emergent Cultures.
We call people who try things out and get actively involved in hands-on making, creating, sharing and learning doers. The ideas we support them to design and test are usually small social innovations.
You’ll easily spot doers if you come along to a practical project such as Crafternoon, Trade School Dudley or the Repair Cafe. You’ll find some of them making use of platforms like Creative Connect and gather‘s Acoustic Night to share their creativity and talents. Some doers are, or might become, social entrepreneurs. We incubate and support their emerging social enterprises in a variety of ways. All are bringing heat and activity to a town centre which is hungry for it.
Doers we’ve met come from a range of cultural backgrounds, localities and countries, and speak many languages (this is a characteristic which projects like Trade School Dudley transform into opportunities for connection and sharing). Some doers were born in Dudley and have always been here. Others are temporary visitors; out of choice or because of housing decisions made by other local authorities. We welcome all and value the intimacy of relationships not the duration.
Doers are all ages, from toddlers and children who accompany their grown ups in activities, to retired people who worried about loneliness before they became doers. Some doers are also carers, some are living in vulnerable situations, some have physical and / or mental health challenges, others are as a fit as a fiddle. Some doers are students. Some have degrees, others have no qualifications. Some work full time. Some are looking for work. Doers turn up on their own, with partners, and as whole families. Doing in Dudley is open to all.
Encouragers are people who encourage and support hands-on doing and /or the projects, spaces and platforms. Many of them work in the public and voluntary sectors, others are volunteers in groups, clubs or charities. You can hear some of their voices in Detectorism Insights #1. Other encouragers are local business people or residents who donate all sorts of resources and respond to call outs for items to be used in spaces or projects.
Fellow Travellers are people we know who are experimenting with ways of developing new cultures in places, from activating urban commons to deep systems change work. We connect and convene Fellow Travellers to help share and spread learning. Below are some examples of what they are working on.