The learning behind the Lab 

Sharing the ideas and thoughts that encouraged us to host the Ideas Lab
Published in Inside Iriss on 15 Mar 2024

If you’re familiar with Iriss work, you will know that we have had projects running for a year in three thematic areas - Space to Practice, Day-to-Day Dignity and Foundations for Change. Last week, we ran an Ideas Lab event, that brought together new organisations and teams that had submitted an expression of interest in working with us as partners in 2024/2025. It was a brilliant event, full of energy and drive from 18 committed individuals across 5 teams. As we move to beginning these varied and exciting projects, we wanted to share with you our thinking behind the Ideas Lab. 

Remote video URL

This is the second year that we have invited the sector to tell us their project ideas, and build our partnership work from there. Reflecting on last year, we found that Development Leads and partners had encountered some of the same challenges when getting projects started. We were all taking time working out if we had the right people involved; sometimes we felt a little stuck in linking our solutions to the problems we wanted to solve; and in an often online world, it was taking that little bit more time for us to build the kind of relationships we know are needed for success. 

So this year, we wanted to meet the partners early. We wanted to begin to explore some of those ideas - Are we asking the right question? Do we have the right team? Is this fix, the right one? - as early as we could. To do this, the day was structured around key questions that Development Leads agreed are key to get right at the early stages of a project:

  1. How do you find the energy for change? 
  2. How do you know that the solution you’ve proposed, is going to fix the problem you’ve identified?
  3. What in your context is going to support you to realise your project, and what might be a barrier?
  4. How do you know that all the right people are involved in your project, and at the right time?
  5. How are you going to know you’ve been successful, and what could your impact look like? 

We hope that beginning to interrogate some of these complexities and questions early, will allow us more time to build our projects with our partners.

But the Lab wasn’t just about allowing Iriss to more effectively plan our projects. From our work last year, and beyond, we know the conditions out there in the social care and social work sector are challenging. We know that people can often feel small compared to huge systems; can often feel so busy, they don’t have time to think; and can be so overwhelmed by what needs to change, that they don’t know where to start. So for us, the Lab was also an opportunity to invite people to step out of some of that worry and complexity, and to get excited and energised about their idea. 

We know that bringing people together; giving them space and permission to think; and linking them up with others committed to doing things differently, can create the conditions for people to find their motivation. Change projects can be difficult; and the drive and optimism that is key to this work, is often hard to find on your own. From our work, we know Iriss has a role to play in supporting changemakers from different projects, backgrounds and locations, to learn and be inspired by one another.

So, purposefully we brought people together; carved out dedicated time; and chose an excellent space that was light, bright and spacious - with excellent coffee and snacks! It was a reminder that a positive environment isn’t just an added extra - it’s foundational to good work. 

As an Iriss team, we know how helpful it was for us to meet the people behind the projects and to get to know the contexts that these projects are working in. We’ve been able to familiarise ourselves with the project topics, and take time as a team to build them into our work plan. But, most importantly, the Ideas Lab was a success for our attendees. 

Participants told us that they valued the dedicated time to think: 

You rarely get given supported and supportive time like this. The tools used and support given lead to a productive, open and inspiring day. 

It has been very beneficial to have taken the time to explore our project. This has been time really well spent. 

People said they had been able to connect to, and feel enthused about their project:

I’m leaving with feelings of excitement and enthusiasm for the project and what is ahead

An energising session and enables the ideas to really be brought to life and challenges explored. 

And of course, the chocolate cookies went down a treat! 

Excellent venue, food and coffee!

Great venue, good food. 

So, with our new partners lined up for 2024/2025 keep your eyes on Iriss to follow the journeys of these exciting new projects. We look forward to sharing the stories, the learning and the inspiration from these projects. A huge thanks to those that attended. We can’t wait to begin work with you!