Design Labs: Our “Secret Sauce”

Home BlogDesign Labs: Our “Secret Sauce”

Realizing a thriving economy powered by a healthy workforce calls for new ways of thinking and doing. Design Labs help us do just that. Design Labs follow a proven problem-solving process known as Design Thinking. Through this process, we’re exploring solutions to some of the most complex issues within our workforce.  

Doubling as participatory action research methods, Design Labs are interactive, workshop-style sessions that allow us to engage multiple stakeholders and collect data to inform better solutions. The tools we use during the meetings enable us to get ‘outside the box’ and tap into different ways of knowing. We host these meetings in inspiring spaces and use creative tools, like play doh and giant whiteboards. After the meeting, we narrow in on the most realistic and emergent solutions and seek ways to put them into action. 

Design Labs are a key part of our work at Workforce Collective. We’ve hosted several throughout our ‘Engaging SMEs Project’, with employers from small to medium sized organizations (SMEs) to explore how to attract and retain immigrant/newcomer talent. The goal is to support equitable employment outcomes for newcomers, while addressing labour shortages and workforce diversity within SMEs. 
More recently, we hosted a Design Lab to explore how we might attract and retain Early Learning & Childcare (ELCC) workers. Participants included economic developers, regional councilors, Early Childhood Educators and childcare operators. Together, we generated solutions to the lack of ELCC workers that is leading to limited access to childcare for young children (and their working parents).  

Next up, we’re planning to host Design Labs related to immigrant employment, the workforce within the care economy (like non-profit & charities and healthcare), and innovation in education & training. 

In our “What is a Design Lab?” podcast, Rachel Crane and Kaleb Meeks discuss the history of Design Thinking & what principles ‘good designers’ lead with, for example: 

✔️ Empathy – with your employee, user of your service, a participant in your program, or with the stakeholders around the design table

✔️ Embracing change, ambiguity & getting outside the box

✔️ Willingness to experiment, test, let go of what isn’t working and… yes, sometimes even fail

✔️ Collaboratively engaging stakeholders in the problem-solving process

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