Social Innovation Lab
The Social Innovation Lab (SIL) is a 12-week interdisciplinary and immersive experience encouraging coop students, the Social Innovation Fellows, to create innovations that matter, solve real-world issues and work in a high-intensity environment. Students partner with an external organization, e.g. WGBH, Zoo New England, Boston Children's Museum, State of Massachusetts and others, to address a challenge they are facing. Throughout the process, the Fellows are connecting with over thirty external thought partners and organizations to harvest subject matter expertise and transfer it to the SIL challenges.
From preventing homelessness, effective recycling systems, stroller re-designs and support mechanisms for individuals with disabilities to assisting patients undergoing strenuous infusion treatments, zoo visitor engagement, and animal enrichment, the problems tackled can be quite diverse. However, the process is always the same and follows design thinking principles:
- Uncover: Analyzing the challenge to truly uncover and analyze what the problem is and where the window of opportunity lies. Close work with various stakeholders, experts, and mentors is essential.
- Ideate: Ideation doesn't happen alone. Each team member will be on the hot seat at least once a week and utilize the insights of his/her peers as well as the innovator-in-residence to accelerate possible solutions and ideas.
- Prototyping: Wentworth students are makers turning ideas into reality. The goal is to impact lives, generate scalable solutions, and impactful ideas. Early prototypes and concepts will be developed, tested, stakeholder input solicited and evolved iteratively.
- Realization Plan: Each team is going to provide a scalability study to our partner to make sure that their concepts and ideas can spread and sustain within the community and/or organization.
In 2013 a variety of projects were undertaken by the Fellows. Gentoo Inc. developed a vest to assist and improve the lives of patients undergoing infusion treatments. Critical Link was started as a database of resources such as rehabilitation clinics, affordable daycare facilities, food banks and job training sites for social workers. Additional projects included a process to make sustainable waste management easier for large organizations and Sonas, a way for visually impaired individuals to experience the world more seamlessly.
The Fellows partnered with the Franklin Park Zoo to create increased visitor engagement at each exhibit. The Fellows focused on three key areas: animal enrichment, visitor animal engagement and visitor education. Specific focus was dedicated to the giant anteater and the Western lowland gorilla.
Partnering with WGBH, the Fellows were to determine critical competencies to foster innovative thinking and entrepreneurial confidence in DSG students and reinforce existing programming. They were to create a set of activities to illustrate how these competencies can be strengthened and decide on the format for instructional materials.
The education system in the US has created a very structured, stagnant thinking environment which has lead to a decrease in curiosity, choice and experimental thinking. The Boston Children’s Museum was trying to solve this problem by teaching children and parents about self-directed play. The Fellows were tasked with creating a mobile, reusable Pop Up Museum that was convenient, sustainable and could be used by children of all ages.
For the second project of the 2016 Social Innovation Lab, the SIL Fellows partnered with the City of Boston to share ideas with manufacturing companies on how to open up conversations with young talent as a way to build interest for their industry. The scope of their project included illustrating advanced manufacturing career paths in Massachusetts and producing suggestions and a physical kit for the manufacturing industry to increase talent pipeline.