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LEARNING: an equitable exchange of knowledge and experience among peers

LAB: a place for experimentation

Our signature “Learning Lab” is an immersive learning and engagement experience for cross-departmental teams in public institutions. We originally co-designed this learn-by-doing program with one of our clients to offer learners the opportunity to build skills in creative problem solving, while strengthening human connections within teams and across organizational silos.

Over the course of six sessions, participants work in small teams and apply Human-Centered Design (HCD) methods to address a real world challenge, while also skilling up on project management, effective communication, data synthesis and more. The Learning Lab culminates in a “Demo Day” where each team presents the prototypes they developed to their peers, organizational leadership and, when appropriate, community members to see where their insights informed decision making.

This HCD learning experience differs from others in that it allows learners to immediately apply tools and techniques to public sector challenges. That means the Learning Lab makes space for considering greater complexity and constraints, organizational hierarchies, and the higher stakes that come with serving communities with diverse needs.

Below are some of the skills gained and shared in a Learning Lab:

  • Conducting stakeholder interviews
  • Sharing research insights
  • Data synthesis & analysis
  • Facilitation
  • Team and people management
  • Collaboration & interpersonal skills

Learning Labs are adaptable to many contexts, from cross-departmental collaboration to a focused project team. We can also vary the types of sessions and workshops based on participant need, including:

  • Storytelling
  • Virtual facilitation
  • Ideation
  • Design challenge/problem definition
  • Rapid prototyping


What we’ve heard from our clients is the Learning Lab offers professional development that doesn’t feel like another “pitch” from vendors, and directly benefits the individual, that individual’s team, the wider organization, and oftentimes the communities you serve.

“I came out with skills to be a better manager, adding a more human approach to each day, adding emotion and not just the business. ”
Learning Lab Participant, City of San Jose

“Learning Lab created a culture change within our organization. A culture change that is decoupled from tech and based on peer-to-peer, human-to-human feedback. This culture is translated into flexibility and adaptability in the workplace.”
Founder, Department of Civic Things

“This is how things grow. Had it not been for the Learning Lab process, dozens of relationships among our staff would not have sparked and bloomed. Conversations that started because of and during the Learning Lab are still happening today.”
Learning Lab Participant, City of San Rafael

“My team worked on several projects so far that you can actually see Learning Lab at work. One that comes to mind is the Emergency Services Project: we are using Learning Lab tools and Learning Lab put faces to names. Reaching out to people who can push projects forward happened immediately and continues until today. We’ve all gained more skills by talking to each other. ”
Learning Lab Participant, City of San Jose

A Community Learning Network

In addition to the dynamic co-creation that takes place in a Learning Lab, past clients and participants have valued the opportunity to build community across departments within their organization. We further help to cultivate this learning community through curated workshops that build on skills gained in the initial Learning Lab. We have found that giving Learning Lab alumni opportunities to come together on a regular basis to innovate and share their unique approaches helps weave a culture of creativity and curiosity more sustainably into teams.

If your team could use a trusted framework for creative, collaborative problem-solving within your government agency, nonprofit or social enterprise, contact us to learn more about how we might right-size our approach to fit your needs.