The Lab is not a place, an organization or a product. It is a space. A space for taking new approaches to family justice innovation in BC. It is a space for diverse groups of people to work together with the support and tools they need.

Why is the Lab Important?

Previous family justice reforms have not resulted in the kind of transformational change that is really needed to make the system accessible and effective for BC families. It remains too complex, too expensive and too time-consuming. A new approach is needed. A small group looked outside the justice system for inspiration and were excited to learn that “lab” approaches are being used in other sectors to effect meaningful social change. This approach is different because it is:

  • Family-centred (we start by talking to families)
  • Systemic (we look for root causes, not just symptoms)
  • Participatory (we gather a diverse group including family members to work together)
  • Experimental (we learn by trying things and are ready to risk failure)

The Lab has chosen to use human-centred design as its primary approach to making change. The Lab is focused on action rather than creating another report with recommendations for what others should do to make things better. We have enough reports. We aim to experiment and to take a “learn as you go” approach while still ensuring we have robust evaluation data. Our initiatives are described on this site.

Our Story

We began exploring different approaches in 2013. In 2014 we held a 2-day workshop facilitated by Adam Kahane and Monica Pohlman, of Reos Consultants, which involved a diverse group of people who explored the complexity of the family justice system and created the first version of the Lab’s purpose statement:

To improve the journey of children and families throughout BC experiencing transition, such as separation and divorce, resulting in an increase in resilience and well-being.

We declared that version 1.0 of the Lab was underway. Since then we have studied and applied developmental evaluation, engaged widely, made connections with others both inside and outside of the justice system, incorporated human-centred design approaches and worked to support the Lab’s initiatives.

A more detailed version of the Lab’s story from 2013 to 2016 can be found here.

Since 2016 we have continued to evolve. A Lab strategy exercise in September 2018 celebrated a move to Lab 2.0. It identified1 three areas of improved capacity (growth of resources of various types, enhanced partnerships and networks and increased staff resources), and important examples of progress including:

  • Opportunities to test the Lab human-centred design model (Youth Voices and Pathfinder);
  • Supporting a diverse group of initiatives within the Lab’s portfolio
  • Relationship building and ally development
  • Building credibility with system stakeholders
  • Helping to shift the dialogue about complex system change
  • Implementing the Lessons Learned process across all Lab initiatives
  • Co-creation of Aids for Action tools
  • Lab branding and getting the word out about the Lab (through the Story of the Lab, presentations, website, blog and social media etc.)

The report provides a long list of results and learnings to September 2018.

In addition, the following areas of focus emerged:

  1. The need to recognize a shift to a “hybrid Lab model”;
  2. The need to tighten and elaborate on the Lab’s Framework for Change
  3. Focus on the Youth Voices initiative as the primary driver for developing prototypes and showcasing the Lab’s family-centred design approaches
  4. Seek opportunities to support others through consultancy services
  5. Strengthen the Lab’s external and internal communication
  6. Strengthen developmental evaluation practices including adding measures for well-being and resiliency
  7. Continue to build the Lab’s physical, financial, human and social capital

All of these activities are in process as the Lab continues to move forward!


1A report summarizing the output from this strategy process led by Mark Cabaj was prepared for internal Lab use and can be read here