The way we work
One of the distinctive traits of JustLabs’ approach is that it integrates methods and methodology, ideation/experimentation and research/learning. Unlike academic centers, our research and learning inform and are informed by on-the-ground experimentation and ideation. Unlike advocacy NGOs, our goal is to use such an on-the-ground engagement to extract generalizable lessons for and scale solutions to the whole field. In short, we test our research and our assumptions of what works through field experimentation, and our field experience becomes the basis of rigorous, practical research and tools that then serve as a common good for all.
Our methodology proceeds through three stages: (1) ideation; (2) experimentation; and, (3) learning and dissemination.
We contribute to the creation of ideas and solutions through two types of activities. First, we leverage the scholarly experience and the analytical skills of our team in order to carry out strategic research on the problem at hand. In line with our approach, the type of knowledge we produce takes a systems and long-term view of the problem, on the basis of which we identify concrete topics and questions that need to be tackled in the short term. And in line with our collaborative and experimental approach, the ideas and solutions that we advance do not come solely from research. Crucially, they derive also from a second source, that is, the ideation and prototyping workshops (“labs”) that we convene.
JustLabs’ work does not stop with the formulation of promising responses to human rights challenges, for two reasons. First, unlike consultancy organizations, we view ourselves as part of the human rights movement. In fact, our leadership and several of our members are well-established human rights researchers and practitioners. This has allowed us to adapt methods from other fields (such as design thinking) based on a close understanding of the need, frames and language of human rights, as well as to galvanize trusting collaborations among human rights actors who see us as one of their own. Second, unlike most academic research centers, our methodology for producing and disseminating knowledge is highly experimental. We promote learning by doing, through the implementation and testing of the most promising initiatives that result from our ideation workshops and background research.
Learning and dissemination
As noted, our work is meant to benefit the field as a whole, not just the organizations or funders that are directly involved in the ideation and experimentation stages. Thus, we put a considerable amount of time and energy into disseminating the knowledge that emerges from the design and implementation activities, as well as from our own research. Moreover, we deliberately engage in collaborations meant to scale promising initiatives by promoting their adoption by human rights actors, from international organizations, coalitions and funders to and national and local organizations.
What kind of tools do we use?
JustLabs’ distinctive methods trait is its
“Swiss-army-knife” approach--we adopt the relevant tools depending on what the challenge calls for.
We employ methods where:
we undertake the latest research on the problem at hand to make sure that our creative process is informed by data and rigorous analysis (research); the actors most impacted by a problem co-design the solution in a process of constant and practical testing and iteration (design thinking)
strategic decisions for today are determined from an in-depth analysis of and insights from possible futures (futures thinking)
conversations, especially difficult and complex ones that go to existential questions of one’s work and life dedication, are enabled by authentic listening and expression drawn from mindfulness and other contemplative practices (contemplative practices)
the learning and design of processes are rooted in the lived experiences of the communities and the actors we partner with (popular education)
we tackle wicked problems with a systems theory approach, one that recognizes interdependencies and complexity even as it seeks to break down those problems so as to make them solvable through a step-by-step approach. This approach entails: (1) understanding the context in which the problem sits; and, (2) using the right tool to tackle the specific problem at hand (systems thinking).
While JustLabs is not meant to be a facilitation consulting firm, we take the importance of processes as much as the “substance” seriously, that is why our facilitation style is cutting edge and at the intersection of dynamism, collaboration, engagement of the whole individual and not just their intellectual selves, and fun. This ensures that all the individuals who come to the lab get to their peak creativity and solutions-focused prowess.