What is a living lab?
Living labs are open innovative spaces where all project participants are considered equal co-creators of both knowledge and end-outcomes. Living labs around the world have created a network of researchers and practitioners who are working in experimental ways. In order to push the boundaries and adapt to changing conditions living labs adopt a flexible and reflective approach. The living lab methodology is robust and globally recognised for its inclusivity and participatory nature.
What does our living lab do?
Net Zero Lab explores what 'treading lightly' means for different communities and sectors. We conduct research with real people in the real world. We work collaboratively to co-define problems and co-design different approaches to them. We work to build the adaptive capacity of the communities we partner with through processes and games that practice the skills we need to adapt to ever-changing systems.
Our focus isn't on solving problems. The problems the lab works on are complex and often socially embedded across multiple systems. They are often described as ‘wicked problems’ because they are locked in place by policies and other socio-political and technical drivers. So we focus on approaches rather than solutions.
We map these problems through co-research activities and analyse them using a combination of complexity analysis tools and social lenses. Mapping is never a perfect or complete process, we can only map what we see and know, so we map problems and systems with lots of different people to gather as many perspectives as possible.
As part of this mapping process, our team explores the ways wicked problems are experienced by different people, and the way they emerge and intertwine with different sets of problems in different contexts. This level of complexity in a problem is often referred to as 'transcontextual'. We build an understanding of these problems and their intersections, we study how they are adapting and consider the multitude of ways we could approach them.
We imagine diverse futures that are socially just and ecologically sustainable, then we co-create transition pathways and projects that can activate and mobilize transitions towards those futures. Part of what makes our work unique is our plural approach, to the systems, social and individual levels of problems, and to the many possibilities those futures hold.
Through our workshops and masterclass events we explore these futures with different people in different communities and aim to build capacity in whatever ways it might be needed. The lab's founder, Dr Niki Wallace, often speaks at events, on panels and at conferences about living labs and the work we do at Net Zero Lab.