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Lab Report: The First Social Startup Lab


Sofia describes what a Social Startup Lab is

David describes what a Social Startup Lab is

On Tuesday the 15th of June, London Creative Labs held the first of its Social Startup Labs in Vauxhall, South London. At Social Startup Labs, 50 participants (social entrepreneurs from across London) learned by doing how communities can work together to create and grow social businesses that provide or enable employment opportunities for all (including the disadvantaged) and make their neighbourhoods better places to live, work and play!

At the end of the day, five social ventures successfully emerged with clear actions to be taken within a week of the Lab.

The Event in three sentences
  • The morning was about building the bigger picture of needs, assets and opportunities of a bunch of people in a room
  • The afternoon was about taking action that was informed by the bigger picture from the morning.
  • The power of community was used to encourage and provide lift-off for individual initiatives, working them from idea to social startup, social project or to bring fresh teams around existing social project or startups.

The next Social Startup Labs will be take place on the 23rd of July. Info and tickets here.

Some pre-event buzz: "Glad to be living in the age of this kind of community innovation and activism" Indra Adnan

Output: Full Output from the lab

  • A new social startup, social projects and fresh help for existing social startups were the outcomes:
    • "Transcend Capital" committed to raising over 50K of social venture capital commitments within one week.
    • "Grow Up" overcame a legal hurdle that had kept them stuck for 6 months,
    • "Useful Visitors" social startup forwarded their Africa-based plans.
    • Two social projects also emerged; one to raise visitor numbers to a fledgling Brixton skill share project, and another raised a petition to create a Job Creator's Allowance.
    All of the ventures moved forward and have become part of the growing London Creative Labs community of that is being designed to nurture them. Offer support and ideas to the new ventures here.
  • Participants got a rough picture of needs, assets and opportunities. A database of those items now exists -- the source for a participatory map!
  • Networking! A felt sense that "collaboration can happen quicker than you think"
  • Event Photos by Pip Dudrah.
  • More Videos [coming soon. Currently digitizing. Editing to follow]
  • Raw data: needs, opportunities and assets. Click here to see it

  • Evaluation

    The Verdict

    Overall, it worked. The morning was the weakest link -- it just about held together, the afternoon picked up and the end was on fire!

    What worked well -- morning

    There was a rough sense of a bigger picture from the morning-- people sensed the potential of what we could do together, and although there was also a sense that our bigger picture could be clearer people described the day as powerful.

    What worked well -- afternoon

    As we began in the afternoon, the open space approach worked very effectively as a launch pad for people to initiate project ideas. As people discovered there were more ideas than there were teams, they self organised beautifully to form about 5 teams of 5 people. The lean startup and business model canvas process got teams able to start imagining both initial viable business models and then lean start up principles also helped to move towards a bootstrapped approach. Both were received well. The Action cycle was fabulous... all the teams reached the first two "wows". A date was set for groups to gather at in a week's time to reflect.

    Things that could be improved

    • Morning could be more fun (hence the game and high-energy networking)
    • Help people be grounded so that we are all in a better state to listen and see patterns.
    • Potential for improving the networking for people at the event (bee hive game/ speed networking)
    • This would put people into a better state to look at the bigger picture (they had already got something from the process)
    • Big potential for building a shared picture through conversations (using the world cafe process)
    • Use conversation first, before producing data rather than the other way around so everyone can get a quicker sense of the whole.
    • Human conversation offers plenty of shared context. When people state their needs in conversation, a lot is gleaned that cannot be when just reading an isolated post-it note.
    • We might even avoid generating so much data, and also it is easier to cluster data that we are all familiar with live.

    Unedited Feedback from Participants who were there at the end of the day

    What did you get out of the the event?

    • Met amazing people
    • Built faith in community building
    • Built trust
    • Great 1-1 conversations with old friends and new contacts
    • I liked experiencing the opening of "opening/open-space".
    • Great lead-in to teams which eventually lead to a great + lucky group for an Action cycle (aiming for the third wow)
    • Well done!
    • Surprising and fascinating insights with social enterprises which I had not known or anticipated before
    • Enjoyed the wonderful networking opportunity and to discuss and brainstorm
    • Encouragement And challenge by observing others
    • New connections and learning/Development opportunities
    • Ideas for future facilitation (exercises, icebreakers, questions)
    • Met interesting people
    • Discovered some useful processes (lean startup, wow thing)
    • A sense of the importance of limits and planning in lean startups (prototyping in the simplest way)
    • and in the Action cycle (setting limit of a week, consensus on goal and specific commitment)
    • Met great people
    • Learned a lot
    • Saw how things are possible when you dare to try
    • Challenged myself
    • Gauging the sector
    • Revisiting the grassroots
    • Bit of centering
    • Optimism that collaboration can happen more quickly than you think
    • I got much needed clarification on the way forward in my life
    • I also got access to a diverse but strong network of individuals who I would like to hold me accountable to my projects and commitments
    • I met lots of people
    • I now know a bit more about social enterprises and the people who are involved
    • I would love to learn how to facilitate a process like this
    • Sales support and possible deals
    • A project that I did not expect but may meet my needs
    • Hope for community autonomy
    • Very useful links with motivated people
    • Inspirational
    • The power of the network
    • The importance of action and commercial/business approach -- Social enterprise is an enterprise
    • Expand mind
    • How easy it is to do
    • Exposure to interesting projects
    • Potential friends
    • Interesting ideas and inspiration
    • Reassurance that I am not alone
    • A process I can adapt back in Nigeria
    • An expanded network
    • Clarity on my project
    • Energy and inspiration for the next part of my journey
  • A broader view +understanding of individuals +motivations of social entrepreneurs + their purpose

  • What should we do differently?

    • Great -- keep it as it is
    • Clearer intro- but not a big problem [yes we will improve that]
    • Greater focus on projects with champions than floating needs [not all needs are opportunities]
    • Or more structure around organizing those floating needs [yes, we are working on this]
    • Share email and twitter contacts [done]
    • More leverage of the delegates/network [working on this]
    • More focus on follow-through [talked to Tom --
    • Nothing!
    • I might want a classified adds @ the beginning or b4 the start [yes, we will encourage people to do this beforehand]
    • Speed networking [it's in there now]
    • Team role badge? (ways of speeding the discovery and integration)
    • More clarity about the aim of the day, re-scope, purpose
    • More probing question or guidelines about how to identify what our needs/assets are
    • Venue with better acoustics
    • Not sure the "funnel" approach worked effectively
    • Realistic view of what's achievable
    • I would have some corporate organisations be part of the facilitation team
    • The morning session felt a bit confusing -- perhaps a clearer explanation of how it ties to the afternoon
    • a comfortable environment
    • Focused facilitation
    • Quality "design and branding" of resources
    • Mixture of grassroots and senior practitioners
    • Better focused first half of the day--too long and not very useful to the second half of the day
    • 2nd half of the day didn't feel connected to the energy invested in the first half
    • I think the morning process could be improved but I am not sure how
    • More presence/listening awareness of physical space?
    • And/or more specificity of needs and opportunities and assets (putting in context)
    • It could probably have been shorter
    • Morning session might have been more useful in groups of 5 rather than 2
    • The event could do with a wiki -- some permanent record of attendees and issues
    • Mix social entrepreneurs with a broader range of local people
    • Cultivate a sense of places, tap into connectedness
    • Make the participant community a more permanent one for sustainable change
    • A couple of real -world case studies highlighting key learning points
    • Invite successful -- well-known social entrepreneurs
    • Describe the objectives (without a lot of detail or giving away the content of the day) so that attendees have a better idea why they are there.
    • Or invite openness (those who were open stayed in the end)
    • Make an event that is shorter
    • Define the message/process so it can be sold to people

    How would you like to stay involved?

    • Spreading the word
    • Networking
    • Content design and dev
    • writing
    • Extent LCL/SSL beyond London/abroad!
    • I'd like to propose business modelling training labs to tighten up the BM canvas work (in SSL or addition to)
    • I'd like to help LCL create a suprlus-generating business model
    • Support for community engagement
    • Specific mentoring/coaching support for jobseekers
    • Volunteer or Facilitator
    • Promote to peers
    • Keep me on the mailing list
    • Could help out with mobile apps expertise if required
    • My involvement seems to be emerging along the way
    • I'd like to be an active part of the lab
    • I would like to volunteer in future in whatever way I can
    • To be honest, I am not sure that I would!
    • However I would like to have/keep a list of people who attended
    • I would like to learn how to facilitate a process like this
    • Keen to help design something similar for recent graduates
    • Create network and help others
    • Lean Startup and BM gen facilitation of supported projects
    • Join email list for future events
    • Yes I would like to be involved going forward

    Blog posts from participants on their experience and thoughts on the Social Startup Labs

    Scott and Dan have a deep understanding of what we are trying to do.