We have gone from being a stomping ground for start-ups and initiatives fostering positive social change, to now a brand specialising in social innovation consulting.
Building a community of changemakers
The story of Good Lab began with one simple question: How do we enable people who have brilliant ideas to tackle social issues scale up their work, and thus their impact? Conversations with a number of them revealed that space – suitable work space that offers flexibility and opportunities – was one of the biggest challenges for innovators. This is why Good Lab pioneered the idea of establishing a shared space and hub for social entrepreneurship in 2012, a time when co-working spaces were almost unheard of in Hong Kong – not to mention one that is made for social entrepreneurs.
Grooming aspiring social entrepreneurs for greater impact
We then began to provide mentoring for people who are passionate about fixing social problems. For some, we offered coaching that helped them gain deeper understanding of the issues they feel strongly about and subsequently come up with ideas how to turn things around. For others, we accompanied them on their growth journey, during which we provided incubation support such as business and publicity advice. We also connected them with our like-minded allies which often resulted in unexpected yet impactful partnerships.
As we witnessed the innovators’ impact on their respective areas of expertise, we started to imagine the kind of difference it would make if there are more of them. We organised public workshops and bespoke training for aspiring changemakers, introducing to them the idea of social innovation. A lot of them became inspired and went on to push for changes in their own organisations, with some being our close partners today.
Advocating thought leadership in social innovation
For the same reason, knowledge building was also a big part of our work – because, how can one be part of the solution to social problems when one doesn’t understand the challenges at hand? We took on the role as a staunch advocate of global trends such as tri-sector collaboration, as well as hot topics such as ageing society, inter-generational understanding, sharing economy and smart cities. All in the hope to spur local actions to help tackle pressing social problems.
What kept us going was how our work ignited a boom in social innovation in Hong Kong, with hundreds (or perhaps thousands, we lost count) of social innovators emerging over the last eight years.
We are proud of the fact that we contributed to the formation of a local social innovation ecosystem and helped shape it into what it is today. But at the same time, we felt we could do more. We gave ourselves a new challenge: As the concept of social innovation became more popular, how can we further promote it as a culture in organisations, and particularly, cultivate a changemaker mindset among key players in different sectors to achieve collective impact?
Helping organisations thrive and achieve collective impact with grounded insights
This is how we dived into the uncharted waters of social consulting. Along with multi-faceted efforts in supporting the social innovation community, our earlier years of working with social start-ups, NGOs, businesses, and the government have allowed us to pursue depth in areas such as community design, youth empowerment and service innovation. Positioning ourselves at the intersection of key players in the social and public sectors as well as the civil society, we work with them to figure out new ways to address challenges in those areas of focus. Increasingly, we are also walking the innovation journey with our partners to deliver creative solutions on the ground. Our approach is always underpinned by Design Thinking, which always begins with putting ourselves in the shoes of individuals and communities.
Despite the transformation, Good Lab upholds the same mission and values. We want to continue to nurture changemakers and help them become champions in their fields of work. We aspire to be the intermediary between different players to facilitate dialogues. We want the culture of innovating for good to be embedded in organisations of all sizes, with the social and public sectors being the most important of all. In all of the work we do, we hope everyone can join us to imagine the kind of future we want and start becoming part of the force of change to make that happen.