Kathleen Solis, a development communication specialist at UNICEF Philippines, talks about a platform of collaboration between the government
and the academe to finding practical solutions to social problems. (Photo: UB Media Affairs and Publications Office)
A lecture-workshop session highlighting the concept of social laboratories was held at the University of Baguio Centennial Hall last July 6.
Zaid Hassan, in his book “The Social Labs Revolution,” defines social laboratories or social labs as platforms for addressing complex social challenges.
Hassan noted that social labs have been “quietly brewing for almost 20 years and that hundreds of people around the world have been and are developing social labs… There are labs focused on eliminating poverty, on water sustainability, on transforming media, on government, on climate, on social innovation, and on many more issues.”
Accordingly, social labs have three core characteristics: they are social (social labs start by bringing together diverse participants to work in a team that acts collectively), experimental (the team doing the work takes an iterative approach to the challenges it wants to address, prototyping interventions and managing a portfolio of promising solutions), and systemic (the team tries to come up with solutions that go beyond dealing with a part of the whole or symptoms and address the root cause of why things are not working).
The HEED, which stands for Humanitarian Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Design, is a research- and design-based social lab which “integrates the strengths of various disciplines to address pressing problems of underserved communities in the Philippines.” In her talk, Prof. Jill Manapat, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, noted that HEED, which is based in UP Diliman, operates to bridge the gap between theory and practice by providing students opportunities to “learn how to solve real-world problems;” create impact through projects co-created with underserved communities; and foster collaboration in the academe and beyond. She said HEED is currently working with women in a partner local community on building a plastics recycling facility.
Meanwhile, UNICEF Philippines has a particular social lab in place which is focused on harnessing the youth’s potential in facilitating community development. In her lecture, Kathleen Solis, a development communication specialist at UNICEF Philippines, cited the case of Sultan Kudarat State University and the municipality of Kalamansig (in Sultan Kudarat) in terms of collaboration between the local government and the academe. In the platform, according to Solis, the local government and the academe work together to raise and facilitate solutions to local issues. “The government undertakes researches and the academe provides technical guidance and support (specifically research agenda) in the conduct of the researches,” she explained. The students, as part of the platform, carry out regular research activities and undergo on-site and off-site coaching and leadership sessions with offices under the local government, she added.
"We want the youth to acquire the building blocks of good citizenship, and that can be done by exposing them to local issues and governance. Also, we want to promote better accountability for the children and the youth by creating space for participation. Finally, we want to nurture values of good citizenship by aligning student research with local issues,” Solis stressed.
Furthermore, Prof. Khanjan Mehta, Vice Provost for Creative Inquiry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, emphasized in his lecture education that focuses on impact. One way of promoting such, he said, is by establishing a campus-wide network of open and accessible creative spaces. Putting emphasis on projects that will subsequently create social impact is also one way of encouraging an impact-focused education, he said. “As an example, Lehigh students have developed an accessible mobile application that allows parents, teachers, and speech therapists of children with cochlear implants to better understand what is being heard through the implant. Low-cost diagnostic test strips have also been developed and are being used in Sierra Leone in Africa.”
Following the lectures, a workshop and a plenary discussion concluded the activity. Deans, faculty members and students attended the event.
Prof. Khanjan Mehta, Vice Provost for Creative Inquiry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has emphasized education that focuses on impact.
(Photo: UB Media Affairs and Publications Office)
Group discussions concluded the activity. (Photo: UB Media Affairs and Publications Office)