02/2014 對話訊息:「社會實驗室 」| Social Laboratories

社會實驗室


在推出U形理論之後,研究的旅程進入共同創造原型的過程,創造出新的範例,以實際的行動探索未來。2014年二月的對話新訊息在此談一談社會實驗室這種針對複雜挑戰共同創造解決方案的做法。以下的文章摘錄自札伊德‧海森( Zaid Hassan)的著作《The Social Labs Revolution》(暫譯社會實驗室的革命)。

社會用實驗室透過實驗來解決困難的科學和技術上的挑戰;同樣的,我們也需要社會實驗室,透過實驗室來探索社會的解決方案。  

越來越多人開始將他們的腦力、心力、雙手運用於解決複雜的社會挑戰,在全世界設立許多社會實驗室長達二十年之久。這些實驗室聚焦於消除貧窮、水源永續性、改造媒體、政府、氣候、社會的創新和其他的議題。這些實驗室的成員來自科學界、學術界、商界,還有許多來自未命名的領域、但是希望解決一些困難的挑戰的人。

社會實驗室是一個討論複雜社會議題的平台,有三個核心的特質:

  1. 社會性。社會實驗室一開始先凝聚背景多元的參與者,結合成團隊,集體行動。他們來自社會中許多不同層面:政府機關、公民社會和企業。這些積極參與、背景多元的利益相關人士,並不是專業人士所組成,才是社會實驗室的特性。
  2. 實驗性。社會實驗室並不是單一次的體驗,而是持續、永續發展的努力成果。團隊用一種重覆性的做法,探索想要討論的挑戰,構思出解決的方案,並管理一系列有可能的方案。這反映出社會實驗室的實驗特質,而不像許多社會性解決方案所採用以方案為基準的做法。
  3. 系統性。社會實驗室所發展出的想法和倡議,都成為一種原型,希望能成為系統性的狀態。因此就要試圖想出超越解決部分問題的做法,針對問題的根源探索為什麼問題一開始會出現。

這些特質並非偶然,也不是因為方便。讓一群多元的團體單純地群聚一堂,本身就很困難,更別說要讓他們集體行動。採用實驗性的做法,需要的不只是紀律,也需要相當的穩定性和投入,這在計畫為導向的世界裡更是少見。從根源處解決挑戰,避開政客喜歡挑軟柿子吃的做法,思考更長遠的結構面,探索更不確定的狀態。

即使如此,這些特質在更深的層面來看,都是必要的。實驗室從不斷嘗試和失敗中尋找答案,在工作坊裡分享面對的最困難的挑戰、看著問題的本質,誠實面對 – 這些解決的方案並不是照著我們希望的方向走,而是有效的方案的模樣。如果不是「徹底」展現這些特質的方案,在解決社會挑戰時,就無法展現效能。

我們最大的挑戰就是要避免想要和問題開戰的反應。這種戰爭吸引人的地方,就是轟轟烈烈,而且英雄特質很強。戰爭總是帶出我們內心糟糕又人性的一面,讓我們可以逃避,不用將焦點放在我們自己和我們的失敗上。這種為了正義而宣戰的做法相當危險,又很誘人。從聖戰到伊拉克戰爭,這些戰爭都是以更崇高的理想為名義而戰。

隨著我們社會中的挑戰越漸嚴重,我們會有更多新的誘惑我們上戰場的理由和聲音,呼籲我們開啟新的聖戰。

社會實驗室代表一種新的活動領域,新的空間。將人們凝聚在這個空間的時候,代表一種可以稱為休戰時間的開始,將部分和整體的交戰懸浮起來。人們聚在一起,察覺到戰爭成本太高的真相,體認到必須有不同的做法。社會實驗室是一個地方,一個方法,可以透過不斷創造來探索新的未來。

取自:http://reospartners.com/news-view/812

圖像作家: 李珮玉 Jayce Pei Yu Lee


Social Laboratories


Theory U’s Presencing stage is followed by a Co-creation stage of prototyping the new in living examples to explore the future by doing.  This February 2014 dialogue newsletter highlights social laboratories as a multi-stakeholder dialogic approach for generating solutions to complex challenges.  The following text is adapted from Zaid Hassan’s book “The Social Labs Revolution.”

Society uses laboratories to solve difficult scientific and technical challenges through experimentation; we likewise need social labs to explore socials solutions through experiments.  

A growing number of people are focusing their heads, hearts and hands on addressing complex social challenges, and have been developing social labs for 20 years around the world.  There are labs focused on the elimination of poverty, water sustainability, transformation of the media, government, climate, social innovation and many more issues.  

Some specific examples of social labs are MIT’s Action Learning Labs which include a China Lab, Entrepreneurship Lab, Global Health Lab, Leadership Lab (see: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/actionlearning/labs/).  The Sustainable Food Lab is another great example; it uses collaborative learning to incubate innovation at every stage along the supply chain from producing to distributing and selling food.  You can watch a video about it at: http://youtu.be/O5wioQ5cKJo.  These labs include people who are a blend of scientist, academic, activist, entrepreneur and other things that we don’t have names for yet, who are trying to address some of our most difficult challenges.

Social labs are platforms for addressing complex social issues and have 3 core characteristics:

  1. They are social.  Social labs start by bringing together diverse participants to work in a team that acts collectively.  They are drawn from across society’s different sectors: government, civil society and business.  This active participation of diverse stakeholders, as opposed to teams of experts, represents the social nature of social labs.
  2. They are experimental.  Social labs are not one-off experiences.  They’re ongoing and sustained efforts.  The team takes an iterative approach to the challenges it wants to address, prototyping interventions and managing a portfolio of promising solutions.  This reflects the experimental nature of social labs, as opposed to the project-based nature of many social interventions. 
  3. They are systemic.  The ideas and initiatives developed in social labs and released as prototypes aspire to be systemic in nature.  This means trying to come up with solutions that go beyond dealing with a part of the whole or symptoms of the problem, and instead address the root cause of why things are not working in the first place.

These characteristics are neither arbitrary nor convenient.  Getting really diverse groups of people to simply step into a room together is hard, let alone trying to get them to act together.  Taking an experimental approach requires not only discipline but also a degree of stability and commitment rare in a project-obsessed world.  Addressing the root causes of challenges eschews easy and popular political wins in favor of longer time frames and greater uncertainty.

However each of these characteristics is deeply necessary.  Laboratories produce conclusions gained through trial and error, workshops where many stakeholders shared their most agonizing and difficult challenges, integrity and honesty – they are not what we want solutions to look like, but what they actually look like when effective.  Any intervention aiming to address social challenges that do not have these three characteristics “baked in” will be ineffective.

Our most ferocious challenge today is to avoid the reactionary tendency to go to war with our problems.  The attractions of war, however, are that they’re glorious and heroic.  War brings out something terrible and human within us, and we are drawn to it as a way out of having to focus on ourselves and our failures.  The call to arms in the name of justice is most dangerous and seductive.  From the Crusades to the war in Iraq, wars have been fought under the banner of a higher calling. 

As our social challenges become more serious, we will find ourselves subject to new siren songs and the voices of new prophets calling us to fight new crusades.

Social labs represent the constitution of a new sphere of activity, a new space.  The gathering together of people within this space represents the beginning of what can be thought of as an armistice, a suspension of the battle of the parts versus the whole.  People come together, recognizing the truth that the cost of war is too high and that there is another way.  Social labs are a place and way to explore the new future by iteratively creating it.

Source: http://reospartners.com/news-view/812

Image: “Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges”  by C. Otto Scharmer, 2007

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