Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab @ WISIR

Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab

Welcome to the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR) Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab, a Fall term participatory learning Lab made possible by the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)'s Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement grant. This lab will allow the university community to focus our top-talent onto local issues to find solutions with global impact.

The lab is a research study investigating innovative approaches to enhancing teaching and learning and how to foster deep student learning at the University of Waterloo. The lab is designed as a miniature social innovation lab based on the ground-breaking approaches created by WISIR as outlined in the 2016 Social Innovation Lab Guide.

A social innovation lab is a curated participatory design experience in which participants focus on a ‘wicked problem’ – a tricky, complex challenge persists despite the best efforts of companies, governments, charities, and academics to solve them. Climate change, mental health and wellness, social inclusion, and chronic poverty are amongst the wicked problems that have global impact and local manifestations. This social innovation lab brings together researchers, community stakeholders, and students from a variety of relevant disciplines and organizations to build deep, shared understandings the problem at hand, providing a platform for students to design and test early-stage solutions.

The 2022 Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab

The 2022 Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab will tackle affordable housing, a pervasive 21st century challenge with immediate consequences for Waterloo Region. Guided by a team of facilitators at WISIR, students, instructors, researchers, and community leaders from across Waterloo Region will attend multiple in-person or remote design sessions to better understand affordable housing, design innovative solutions, and connect test these prototype solutions locally.

2022 Transdisciplinary Systemic Innovation Lab Timeline

Who can participate?

  • University of Waterloo course instructors
    Any and all University of Waterloo instructors teaching a course in the 2022 Fall Semester can choose to participate in this study. Learn more and register as a UW course instructor here.
  • University of Waterloo students
    University of Waterloo students enrolled in a participating course can apply to participate in this study. Learn more and register here as a UW student here [link to student participation page, registration, and consent pending].
  • Researchers and academics from any institution investigating affordable housing. Learn more and register as a community member here.
  • Waterloo Region and surrounding area community leaders, stakeholders, and people with lived experience of affordable housing. Learn more and register as a community member here.

Lab Design

The lab consists of four design sessions and one post-lab reflective session. WISIR Lab Designer Tara Campbell is drawing much her designs from the recently published book Design Journeys through Complex Systems.

1] Framing the system

This session will set the context for the lab, the topic of affordable housing in the region, and begin to delineate the boundaries that participants hope to stay within as they work through the design process.

2] Understanding the system

Understanding explores the forces that create system behaviours. Well-defined systems methods are translated to design tools for finding and mapping variables and identifying feedback loops, and locating leverage points with high potential for system change. In this session we will pull together analysis of the current system from insights from the Framing workshop and Listening homework into visual maps. 

3] Envisioning desired futures

Here we will move the journey toward desired future systems, with several tools for collaborative foresight and defining total system value. Possible futures desired by system stakeholders are articulated and the envisioned value created by the vision is mapped. 

4] Exploring the possibility space

The possibility space explores the most effective design interventions with potential for system change. Systemic design tools help define scenarios, leverage points for change, and identify the places and times for influential intervention. 

5] Reflection

This short reflection session examines:

  • what was learned, what was missing
  • what partiipcants felt they were able to contribute and where they want to go deeper
  • positionality and “should we?”
  • tools and opportunities for further learning