Incubating Multidisciplinary Innovation
A year after its official launch, the living laboratory 1125@Carleton is a dynamic physical and virtual space that provides opportunities for Carleton researchers to collaborate with external partners in building more sustainable communities. On Nov. 25, an anniversary event – called Scaling Up and Scaling Out – celebrated 1125’s accomplishments and helped spread awareness of the potential of the 7,500-square-foot facility in the Human Computer Interaction Building.
“There’s a buzz,” says the lab’s new creative director Tim Hutchinson, who has a long-term interest in supporting healthy communities. “The engagement has been building since the spring and over the summer. With the return of students and faculty for fall term, activity at 1125@Carleton has really taken off.”
As a key contributor to the transformation and innovation agenda of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Hutchinson brings to the table a wealth of program and policy experience in the health, social services and government sectors.
Along with Hutchinson, five others have brought new insights and energy to the living lab since April.
Executive Director Mary Herbert-Copley, who likes to emphasize the “wicked” problem solving capacity of the lab’s deliberative design approach, has many years of senior executive experience in policy and program development, and in implementation in public and not-for-profit sectors. Her non-profit involvement allows her to connect 1125@Carleton to many social, economic, environmental and cultural projects in the real world.
Psychology Prof. Craig Bennell, who is director of the Police Research Laboratory, joined 1125@Carleton as academic director. As such, he is focusing on connecting researchers across the Carleton campus with partnership and research opportunities.
Together with Rebecca Neu, Mitacs business development specialist; Cheryl Murphy, administrative assistant; and Kevin Williams, facilities assistant, the 1125 team has been refining existing synergies on campus to better connect with real-world issues.
With the recent completion of a strategic plan, 1125@Carleton is well positioned to contribute significantly to the university’s Strategic Integrated Plan’s goal “to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.”
Giovanna Mingarelli is the latest of three entrepreneurs-in-residence (along with Jason Daley and Joe Cummins) to join the lab. An up-and-coming expert on gamification of politics, social engagement and crowdsourcing, Mingarelli is involved in many youth empowerment initiatives such as Global Dignity Canada and is passionate about helping students build their dreams into lifelong work.
“The lab,” she says, “is providing us with a space to collaborate and problem solve around issues that need multi-sector or interdisciplinary support. It’s an ideation space where we can take an idea and work it into a prototype that can have lasting effects on the community.”
Executive-in-residence Ann Dale, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development at Royal Roads University, brings her experience in virtual deliberative dialogue and community engagement to her mentorship role.
Herbert-Copley points to the 40-plus problems that have come into the facility to be addressed.
“We are broadening and deepening knowledge mobilization and accelerating innovation,” says Herbert-Copley.
Currently, seven startups-in-residence, employing Carleton faculty, research resources and students, are working in the space. Four social enterprises are also present, such as Timsel, which developed an app to assist people with mental health issues, and the Campfire Project, which is creating narratives for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
“There is an upward trajectory,” says Bennell, whose role is to involve the campus. “It’s a new way of thinking about research and education. It’s a way to broaden researchers’ ways of tackling problems.”
A project Herbert-Copley likes to cite is Ottawa’s GottaGo!
“This is a group of citizens who passionately believe we need more public toilets,” explains Herbert-Copley. “Originally, it was a local issue, developing more efficient public toilets that are accessible and environmentally friendly, and we end up with research that could address needs everywhere. It’s a ubiquitous issue, with potentially global solutions.”
Since April, the lab has hosted about 60 events, such as workshops, seminars, boot camps, hack-a-thons, and competitions. In the new year, learning activities will include the Apps4Billions hack-a-thon and Hacking for Homelessness.
While current activities are designed to meet the needs of Carleton researchers and the regional ecosystem in the Ottawa area, going forward, there are no limits to the sorts of problems that can be tackled in 1125@Carleton, say organizers.
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