The Lab is Go!

In September 2017 the Dartington Service Design Lab was launched. This new incarnation of the charity builds on the 50-plus year heritage of the Dartington Social Research Unit.

We are proud of the work that the Dartington Social Research Unit has done to promote greater use of science and evidence in relation to public policy, in particular encouraging greater investments in prevention and early intervention and the use of rigorous evaluation and good quality data to inform service provision.

Whilst there is still a long way to go before this is commonplace, we are pleased to see many others picking up this cause.

As such, it has been time for us to take stock on our core mission, purpose and approach, and refocus our work on what we think is the next generation of approaches to applying research to policy and practice.

Our refreshed purpose is to reimagine and services and public systems are designed and delivered in order to improve the lives of children, families and communities. We will do this by taking a scientific approach coupled with an inclusive process that involves the people who use and deliver services.

The Lab builds on many of the strengths of the prior research unit: deep respect for good quality research, science and data; an understanding of public systems; and a focus on doing work that is ultimately beneficial for society. But it is different in several ways. It is more focused – having a narrower span of interest with the aspiration to become known for doing a few things but doing them really well.

Going forwards the Lab will focus on:



Designing, testing and improving services using rapid-cycle innovation methods.



Exploring and simulating how complex health and social care systems may be redesigned.



Innovating with engaging ways of communicating complex data and information to inform decision-making.


The Lab will retain a primary focus on children and young people but has started to apply the approaches to other areas such as mental health and homelessness, and other vulnerable populations.

As a charity that has seen many incarnations in its 50-plus year history and has always sought to break new ground, this is in many ways a natural evolution.

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