What is the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab?

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 of us 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 (not just in words but in action)
  • systemic
  • participatory
  • experimental

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. We already have five initiatives underway.

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 initiatives.

The Lab’s adopted model as of April 2017 is:

For more on the Lab’s backstory, take a look at a PowerPoint presentation outlining events to the end of 2015:


The Windsor Yearbook on Access to Justice recently published “The Story of the Lab” in which Jane Morley Q.C. and Kari Boyle fleshed out the journey of the Lab in more detail.