The Social Labs Masterclass

How To Solve Complex Challenges

“The growth of complexity in society has gotten ahead of our understanding of how complex systems work and fail.”

— Sidney Dekker

“Despite working in philanthropy for over two decades, participating in the Social Labs Masterclass opened a new window on effective strategy for me. We have since supported all our staff and two hundred of our grantees to participate in Masterclasses.”

— Daniel Ash / Chicago Community Trust

The Social Labs Masterclass is designed for organizations interested in creating effective strategic platforms for addressing complex social challenges. 

We run Masterclasses for teams working on diverse challenges. We have supported teams to create strategies for youth unemployment, poverty and inequality, racism, gun violence, food sovereignty, bonded labour, democratic reform and climate change. 

Teams work at multiple levels, learning what it means to be effective both strategically and tactically. This allows participants to grasp how to design strategic responses that meet the needs of the most vulnerable. We ground these design choices in practical questions of impact and investment resulting in realistic solutions to our most difficult challenges. 

We have worked all across the world over the last fifteen years, on issues such as climate change and food supply chains, as well as nationally specific issues such as child malnutrition in India and racism in the United States. The Masterclass builds on these experiences.


What Happens In A Masterclass?

The first part of a Masterclass is a half day Foundation Module focusing on complexity, business-as-usual responses and why they fail. We then articulate the elements of a more strategic response.

The second part of the Masterclass consists of the Practice Module, where each team is intensively coached  over two and a half days. The output for each team is the creation of an effective strategic response to a complex challenge of their choosing.

What Will I Learn in A Masterclass?

Preconditions For Action

  • Crafting a compelling challenge statement

  • How to cost an effective strategic response correctly

  • How to make the business case for your strategy

  • How to calculate the expected Return On Investment

  • How to ensure the right stakeholders are a part of your strategic response

  • Understanding horizontal and vertical diversity in constituting a multi-stakeholder team

Designing An Effective Strategy

  • How to constitute and build effective teams

  • How to design effective, iterative and experimental processes

  • How to set-up an “agile” project management regime

  • How to design the architecture of your intervention including governance,information design, capacity and innovation functions


  • Understanding the multiple capitals framework including social, human, information, financial, physical and natural capital. 

  • Understanding how a genuinely “sustainable” strategy is designed.