OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

LAB 21: Co-Learning Labs with 21st Century Guidance Counselors (**REVISED**)

Call it an Incubator. Call it an Accelerator. You may even call it a Social Enterprise. Either way, LAB21 is a branded network of co-learning spaces ushering career-minded and goal-oriented 16-24 year olds into the 21st century world of work.

Photo of DeletedUser
77 61

Written by DeletedUser


The lab's mission is Three-Fold:

  • To engender a collaborative haven where young people are creatively motivated to communally build 21st century skills, gather relevant information, and seize opportunities to carve successful careers across industries, sectors and markets.

  • To engage youth in innovative strategies for social impact within their communities and the world at large.

  • To engage local communities in unearthing, polishing, and celebrating their most natural resource - Their Youth.  


In an ideal world, LAB21 would be the 'innovation bedrock' of communities seeking to support youth as they transition from school to work.  Like libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, parks, and movie theaters, LAB21 would be woven into a community's fabric.

LAB21 aims to be a household name amongst young people seeking innovative approaches to prepare for their careers outside of the academic environment.

Led by a cadre of 21st Century Guidance Counselors contracted to continually 'mind the gap' between academia and business, these lab stewards will also craft, coordinate and deliver authentic, experiential programs in service to youth of diverse backgrounds and interests.


· 16 to 24 Year Olds 

. Lab Stewards

· Parents

· Individuals

· Educators

· Local & National Governments

· For-Profit Businesses (local and global)

· Non-Profits / Social Enterprises / Foundations


· Young people deserve a dedicated 'go-to' place that guides their transition from school to work -- a nurturing, pause period of observation, reflection and preparation. 

· Ready, willing and able young people should be empowered as creative builders and collaborators of the future world of work.

· Preparation for the world of work can and should take place in wholly new and supplementary creative learning environments.

(Inspiration: General Assembly / 3RD WARD / Starting Bloc)



LAB21's hybrid programs and initiatives are the crux of its existence and rely on a guided framework developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

(Note: Please explore the hyperlink above as the information therein forms the building blocks of LAB21's programming design)

Areas of focus will include:

· Global Awareness

· Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy

· Creativity and Innovation

· Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

· Communication and Collaboration

· Media & Technology Literacy

· Flexibility and Adaptability

· Initiative and Self-Direction

· Social and Cross-Cultural Skills

· Productivity and Accountability

· Leadership and Responsibility

(Although this framework is solely the development of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, I was happy to find such serendipitous alignment with my own ideas and vision for LAB21.)


As 21st Century guidance counselors, lab stewards will be Social Entrepreneurs and Innovators in their own right.  For the most part, they will be recruited from amongst business school graduates seeking to pave Social Impact careers (**This does not preclude other qualified individuals).

Each steward will act as the CEO/Director of a particular lab, applying a business education framework to the lab's overall mission.  

The local community being served will inform the strategic approach of each steward.

(Supporting stewards will also serve the lab's mission)


Programs will be delivered quarterly in four distinct tiers, each of which will include:

· Classes (supplemented by website and interactive online courses)

· Workshops

· Career Sessions (one-on-one)

· Conferences

· D.I.Y Entrepreneurial Labs

· Projects in Residence

· Events

· Fellowships

Each tier will also consist of a cohort of fellows, the size and composition of which will be determined by the location of the lab, community served, and the availability of resources.

Tier 1 Programs

Designed and delivered by LAB21 for its secondary school members.

Tier 2 Programs

Designed and delivered by LAB21 for its post-secondary school members.

Tier 3 Programs:

Designed and delivered by LAB21 for non-members of the youth community at large.

Tier 4 Programs

Tier Four Programs are those designed and delivered by external organizations in partnership with LAB21 for both members and non-members alike.

4. PHYSICAL SPACE (w/ a nod to effective design of Co-Learning/Co-Working spaces):

· Studios (for classes, workshops, meetings...)

· Digital Media & Tech Station (laptops, tablets, digital cameras, printers, creative digital tools (i.e. Adobe Creative Suite.)

· Business Library [ contemporary twist to include books, journals, magazines, articles across a range of industries / (Digital & Physical) ]

· Cafe (Sustainable products and organic foods)

· Lounge

· Event Space


Membership is open to 16-24 year olds who are ready, willing and able to join the LAB21 community and who demonstrate (through a short & sweet application), that LAB21 is an appropriate 'next step' in their transition from school to work.

Applications will be accepted during a given time period, requiring prospective members to complete the following:

· Personal Profile

· Personal/Professional Statement

· Creative Expression Submission (in a format of personal choice) that responds  to a social impact prompt.

· Strengths Finder Assessment/Quizz (optional and offered by the lab)


LAB21 ID Card: 

Allows lab stewards to keep track of members and the progress of these members.

The lab could potentially collect profile information related to one's purpose, professional goals, skills gathered, internships and projects completed, workshops attended, etc and then visually reinterpret that info into something like Lydia Howland's "Experience Bank" where it would then live online. 

In the end, it wouldn't be a typical resume but rather, a unique experience profile that can be shared, updated, etc on social media sites, thereby elevating a young person's 'professional status' on his or her social media profiles.

Additionally, the card could allow members to earn points for attending classes, workshops, conferences, etc which they can then redeem at select venues in support of the lab's mission.

Each lab may generate a business model/revenue model that works in tandem with its resources and capabilities.

Not-for-Profit Strategy
Social Impact Bonds (if it can be made applicable)
Values-Aligned Corporate Sponsorship
Values-Aligned Celebrity Sponsorship (i.e. several celebrities may sponsor a cohort of students in a given quarter)
Values aligned University Sponsorship

How will your concept support young people as they transition into the world of work?

LAB21 provides a stationary, 'offline' and collaborative learning environment with direct access to viable people and resources. Additionally, it introduces 'Social Impact' career paths to 16-24 year olds entering the 21st century world of work. Moreover, it would create solidarity amongst youth throughout the world. Every space will replicate a creative learning environment conducive to work/life balance. The labs will be the antithesis of the rigidity and coldness of school buildings. Alumni will be asked to share their stories and career trajectories, and perform mentorship duties to new and incoming members. ENVISIONING SUCCESS A. External Projects: 1. Start Up Scramble ( 2. Skunkworks Projects (Concept by Imran Malek) 3. The Young & Unemployed Conference (Concept by Ana Cecelia Santos) 4. Purpose Workshops (Concept by Luc Shorter) 5. Youth Cafe (Concept by Haiyan Zhang) B. Internal Projects (Sample Scenario): 1. Young & Oh So Green: An initiative of the New York City Chapter of LAB21 LAB21 partners with representatives of the film and television industry to carve 'green' jobs for youth from under-resourced communities. Working in coordination with major film and TV studios, the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment, Net Impact, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, OpenIDEO and The Work Foundation, LAB21 is paving a system for training cohorts of young people in greening up the acts of productions around New York City. As Green Production Assistants, youth gain employment and productions gain dedicated Green stewards in their offices and on their film sets, helping to implement sustainable policies and practices. Additionally, the program introduces these young people to sustainability and opens the door for other green career paths. C. A Barclays Bike in Brooklyn Catch a young Brooklynite on a Barclay's branded bicycle lately? Chances are that he or she is headed to LAB21; a Barclays sponsored co-learning space for young people dedicated to paving their career paths with creativity and determination. Communal biking gets these young people where they need to be when they need to be there. It also sends a positive alert to communities that a concerted effort is being made on the behalf of these young people. D. Community Projects-In-Residence Young people consult companies, cities, districts, etc on projects that match their skills and interests and that provide social value to the communities in which these young people reside. Ex: Youth are challenged to design and share solutions to product and/or service delivery in a given market. For instance, youth determine the immediate needs of their communities and with the co-direction of Lab Stewards, they engage the companies and people beneficial to that execution. Bike Paths for Youth: If Youth were introduced to biking and were able to bike to and from school, how might that change the city's transportation system for the better? How might this curb truancy? How might it help communities and focus on health? A DAY IN THE LIFE OF LAB21 A Typical schedule for a creative member interested in Marketing, Digital Media and the Tech industry: Monday 4P - 445P: Workshop: "Master Your Major with a Minor Exploration" BREAK -- Lounge / Cafe / Media & Tech Station (with co-member) 515P - 545P: Class: An Introduction to New York City's Tech Sector: Part 1 6P - 7P: D.I.Y Lab: "How to Kickstart Your Social Network" Wednesday 4P - 430P: Session: Meet with your Lab Steward for continued career guidance, Discuss potential fellowship opportunity with TechCrunch 430 - Close: Utilize lab's resources: meet with cohort for further exploration Saturday 10A - 11A Digital Finance: Learn how Barclays powers financial literacy in the digital world 1P - 5P: Event - Career Fair: "S.T.E.M.MING From D.ART": Explore Careers at the intersection of Design, Art, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math. Meet creative artists working in these fields.

What online or in-person components of your concept will best support this transition?

Lab Stewards will be vital to the success of LAB 21. Bringing a sense of entrepreneurship and innovation to the programs and initiatives of the LAB will work to engage all stakeholders. Q&A Viability? Supporting 16-24 year olds as they transition from school to work requires commitment of time and resources from multiple stakeholders in order to scale and sustain a stationary solution to youth unemployment. Quick and easy doesn't seem to be a viable solution to this complex problem. Young people want and need to identify a solution that isn't going to run away from them -- one that is there to stay -- literally. So, this concept will stand upon the legs of city or municipal buildings that are no longer in use. Warehouses formerly utilized by the manufacturing industry are also prime real estate for LAB21. Additionally, LAB21 offers governments and non-profits a fresh, provable and scalable approach to tackling youth unemployment in a way that the social sector has yet to implement. Companies like General Assembly How do you make sure you get the commitment and engagement from local business? LAB21's goal is to get engagement from large businesses as well as local businesses. In particular, the corporate world is better positioned to support the lab's overall reach and impact. LAB21 would target both internal and external Corporate Social Responsibility teams to secure sponsorship in various forms. Sponsorship will also be secured from local businesses for distinct and relevant programs. Organizations that support open education forums bring LAB21 closer to realization. The lab's computer stations would be equipped to harness collaborative learning from MIT's open courses or ITunes University or other similar open courseware. Opportunities for Implementation...? LAB21 Pop Up A pop-up version of LAB21 in its most minimal form would be an ideal and immediate practical implementation of this concept. Lab Stewards would design programs as well as coordinate the delivery of existing programs to wider youth audiences throughout open venues in a given community. These programs could be delivered on underutilized office spaces or venues on weekends or during non-business hours. Barriers for Implementation...? As a ground up concept, LAB21 requires initial capital and resource investments. How will you ensure this concept is sufficiently differentiated from either a job centre or Internet cafe? Apart from the design of the physical space and curricula, Lab Stewards will be a defining factor of LAB21.

My Virtual Team

Matthew Taylor Meena Kadri George Zisiadis Maegan Spencer Bryann Alexandros Carol Shu Ola Nilsson Paul Reader Simon Finch Chris Hughes Haiyan Zhang Lydia Howland Luc Shorter Ana Cecelia Santos Imran Malek

Evaluation results

18 evaluations so far

1. IMPACT & REACH: How much impact and reach do you think this concept could have in helping young people transition into the world of work?

A great deal – something like this would really make a difference - 83.3%

A moderate amount – it’s certainly helpful but probably not a game-changer - 11.1%

Not very much – it’s unlikely to make a significant difference to young people seeking work - 5.6%

2. FEASIBILITY & RESOURCES: Thinking about the resources needed to implement this concept, how feasible will it be for your community to turn this concept into a reality? (Hint: when you think about resources, think: people, money, time, technology, infrastructure, partnerships and any other inputs for implementation)

Highly feasible – resources wouldn’t be an issue for my community if we tried to implement this - 11.1%

Moderately feasible – my community could do it if we could get find assistance with some of our resource constraints - 72.2%

Not feasible – it would be almost impossible for my community to implement this concept; it's just too resource-intensive - 16.7%

3. SUSTAINABILITY & LONGEVITY: Does this concept feel like it could be sustained as a project, business or movement over years rather than just months? Will continue to be relevant in future?

Yes – this concept has enough momentum to stand on its own two feet and remain relevant for years to come - 44.4%

Maybe – it’s not clear how long it would take for this concept to stand on its own feet or how it will continue to be but there’s reason to feel hopeful - 50%

No – this concept will have trouble sustaining itself in the long-run and probably won’t be as relevant in years to come - 5.6%

4. ORIGINALITY: How new or innovative is this idea? Are there many different versions of this concept out there already or is this something more disruptive and unique?

Very original – I’ve not seen anything else quite like it - 27.8%

Fairly original – there are similar things out there but this particular version brings a new element to the table - 61.1%

Unoriginal – there are already too many other concepts out there that are similar to this one - 11.1%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world - 66.7%

I liked it but preferred others - 27.8%

It didn't get me overly excited - 5.6%


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


The workplace is changing so rapidly. Do you think that employers would recognize the skills being taught and know how to fit them into existing organizations?

Or, does that not even matter, because lab-goers are not trying to fit in to old organizations but are preparing for organizations that they will run themselves in the future?

View all comments