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The Why Lab

Pop-Up Social Innovation Labs

Social enterprise or B-corps

The Why Lab Innovation School presents a series of three pop up social innovation labs throughout LA (virtual until further notice). These educational events bring together the community in new ways, to learn future-forward innovation skills while solving some of the biggest challenges within our city. They will explore redesigning systems, innovating new services, and fixing existing ones - with a goal toward equity, justice, and accessibility.

Describe the mission of your organization.

The Why Lab Innovation School is committed to creating a more human-centered workforce by teaching the skills needed in the future of work, so we can redesign our systems and services towards equity, sustainability, and community empowerment.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Our society is at a tipping point of broken systems and services that have led us to inequity, injustice, and unsustainable futures. In order to address the urgent need to redesign these, we need new types of skills, new modes of thinking, and new ways of working together as a community. According to the World Economic forum, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025: including creative problem solving, critical thinking, and empathy, among many others. But we don’t have many spaces to learn and practice all this. In order to work towards meaningful change, we need new educational formats that address the redesign of systems around us, in a way that centers the lived experiences and needs of our communities. We need facilitated experiences that bring together citizens of all backgrounds, skills, and abilities in a safe space to understand the intricacies of our broken systems, and then learn how to innovate new and existing services with an equity-based value set.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

This is an educational program that is delivered in the form of a three-day pop up social innovation lab, bringing together LA residents and professionals to solve complex challenges within our city. These innovation labs will teach the methods of service design thinking and systems redesign while exploring real-time challenges. Participants will learn and practice important skills required for the future of work, such as creative problem solving, critical thinking, and empathy. Each pop up social innovation lab will result in fully-formed prototypes for new services as well as improvements for existing services and systems. These can then continue on to be tested within organizations, setting measurable goals for each idea. The outcomes are part entrepreneurship development, part systems redesign, part workforce development. The curriculum is designed for accessibility and equity. A special emphasis will be placed on inviting under-represented populations of BIPOC, immigrants, LGBTQ+, and people with neurodiversity and disabilities. Each event will bring together local and global experts in the facilitation of complex problem solving, sharing expertise and examples from other cities around the world which are utilizing these methods. The program supports hosting three cycles of this lab in the next 12 months, focusing on three different industries or challenge areas, to be selected in partnership with LA 2050 and the City of LA.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

As famed work activist Grace Lee Boggs once said, “HOW we change the world and how we THINK about changing the world has to change.” This program will create a regenerative impact for the city, by up-skilling our workforce to approach their work through lenses of equity, creative problem-solving, and future-facing innovations. We will see an immediate impact with the creation of new ideas during these pop up events. And we will see ripple effects as these new ways of thinking are then taken into participants’ workplaces. LA has an opportunity to be a cultural and economic influencer by prioritizing the development of the skills of the future and actively creating conversations around redesigning for systems and services.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This program will be built upon the learnings of a similar annual innovation event called the Los Angeles Service Jam, produced by the same team. In the Los Angeles Service Jam, community members come together to reimagine new services in a variety of topics, ending with dozens of service prototypes created and tested at each event. Our current impact is measured by the number of participants and number of new services that are created during the event. We’ve had 10 years of this event, with an average of 60 participants per year, and an average of 12 projects produced each year. This curriculum has been tested in various cities around the world, measuring for educational outcomes, mindset changes, new skill adoptions. We will measure with qualitative interviews of understanding baseline mindsets toward innovation, before and after the event. We will also set individual industry-wide goals for each of the three events.

Which of the create metrics will you impact?​

  • Global cultural and economic influence (“soft power”)
  • Minority- and women-owned businesses
  • High-growth startups

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to PLAY
  • LA is the best place to CONNECT
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE