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The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach to Solving our Most Complex Challenges Paperback – Feb 3 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (Feb. 3 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1626560730
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626560734
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #49,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"This book provides decision makers with a practical guide to addressing complex challenges. It offers a clear-eyed, hopeful, and realistic approach that is timely and much needed.'
- Cherie Blair, CBE, QC, founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

"Welcome to the social labs revolution - and to Zaid Hassan's splendid account from the front lines of this movement bringing new ways to tap and focus collective intelligence for systemic innovation.'
- Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability, MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of The Fifth Discipline

"This book should be compulsory reading for anyone whose ambition is to change the systems that perpetuate poverty and inequality rather than just to mitigate the symptoms.'
- Kate Wareing, Head of Innovation and Learning, Oxfam GB

"A profoundly important and timely book. Hassan has been at the center of the social labs revolution since its beginning and explains this powerful new approach to tackling the world's most pressing challenges in a clear, concise, and compelling fashion.'
- Joseph Jaworski, author of the international bestseller Synchronicity

"Zaid Hassan offers an innovative, powerful new approach for tackling our toughest global challenges and bringing about lasting social change.'
- Minh-Thu Pham, Director of Public Policy, United Nations Foundation

"Increasingly we face complex social problems that we can solve only through working together, not only with friends and colleagues but also with strangers and opponents. Zaid's book shows us a new way of doing so. It represents an important milestone in learning how to address our most profound challenges.'
- Adam Kahane, author of Solving Tough Problems, Power and Love and Transformative Scenario Planning

"We know that social, experimental, prototyping, and systemic approaches have worked in the Internet ecosystem and for entrepreneurs - Zaid Hassan's radical book shows us how they can work for complex social issues.'
- Howard Rheingold, author of the bestsellers Virtual Reality, The Virtual Community, Smart Mobs, and Net Smart

"Anyone interested in doing something about the complex, multicultural, economico-politico-social problems that the planet is facing must read this book.'
- Edgar H. Schein Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of Humble Inquiry

"Democracy, society, and civilization are all undermined by those who seek only to profit from the future. The Social Labs Revolution opens up the space to see, seed, and grow better future possibilities.'
- Dr. Angela Wilkinson, Counselor for Strategic Foresight, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

"Real transformational change requires a radical transformation in the way civil society creates strategy. The Social Labs Revolution offers a promising approach to achieving just that.'
- Wael Hmaidan, Director, Climate Action Network International

"Through his hard-won practical wisdom, Zaid Hassan bravely and honestly outlines a radical new approach to solving our toughest social challenges. Read this brilliant book.'
- Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder and Chief Product Officer, DeepMind Technologies

"A powerful and practical book - read it.'
- Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back and Senior Columnist, Financial Times

"This truly personal, analytical, and luminous work based on years of research, reflection, and experience is essential reading for all those who aspire to effect deep and sustainable social change.'
- Gabriella Etmektsoglou, Director, New York University Berlin

"This is a highly readable, provocative narrative, filled with insights, questions, and, above all, a deep yearning to know how best to make a difference in this troubled time.'
- Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science and, most recently, So Far from Home

"Zaid Hassan's extremely compelling and readable manifesto is for people looking for effective solutions beyond packaged development programs and short-term or one-off social entrepreneurship projects. It is a work of information and insight that can be applied right now.'
- Melissa Finn, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University

"Drawing from his own experiences, Zaid Hassan shows how to engage with complexity in the real world and offers a compelling alternative to plans that can often be outdated by the time they are written.'
- Danny Burns, Team Leader, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

"Required reading for policymakers, practitioners, academics, and engaged citizens everywhere.'
- Milla McLachlan, Director, Southern Africa Food Lab

"Read this book if you seek wisdom and practical experience with solving tough problems. Hassan is a facilitative leader of systemic change, not merely an observer, and he writes well.'
- Hal Hamilton, Codirector, Sustainable Food Lab

"This is the type of book I will always have two copies of: one as an immediately useful narrative with insights on every page, and one to  share with others.'
- George Roter, CEO and cofounder, Engineers without Borders Canada

"Innovative, informative, accessible, and relevant, Zaid Hassan's book is a necessary tool in understanding today's volatile, exciting, and dynamic world. Strongly recommended.'
- Wajahat Ali, cohost of Al Jazeera America's @AJAMStream

"A must-read for all those who are in the business of trying to tackle the many social problems afflicting our planet.'
- Kamran Bokhari, Vice President, Middle Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Stratfor, and coauthor of Political Islam in the Age of Democratization

"Zaid Hassan brings many years of experience understanding processes of social change. He rightly identifies that the world is going through a very challenging period - and his thoughts deserve to be engaged with thoroughly in addressing those challenges.'
- Dr. H. A. Hellyer, Nonresident Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution

"All our important problems are systemic; this book will help you not just find better answers to the problems but learn how to build better strategies for changing the systems themselves.'
- Alex Steffen, Planetary Futurist in Residence, IDEO, and author of Carbon Zero

About the Author

Zaid helped found Reos Partners in 2007 where he serves as Managing Partner of the Oxford office. Reos Partners is an international organization dedicated to supporting and building capacity for innovative collective action in complex social systems, which also has offices in Cambridge (MA), The Hague, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Sao Paulo and San Francisco. 

Zaid has worked around the world, on issues ranging from the sustainability of global food systems, child malnutrition, re-designing financial systems, climate change, and countering violent extremism. He is currently leading on a major effort to reduce global emissions; on a UK-wide strategy to practically increasing the resilience of communities and an effort on preventing state collapse in the Middle East. 

Over 2009-10 Zaid was an Associate Fellow of The Institute of Science, Innovation and Society, Said Business School at the University of Oxford. He has been a contributing author to the innovative green website, since its launch and writes columns for the Islamic Monthly and Religion Dispatches. He tweets @zaidhassan

Foreword author Joi Ito is the director of the MIT Media Lab. He is a leading thinker and writer on innovation, global technology policy, and the transformative role of the Internet in society in substantial and positive ways. Ito is a vocal advocate of emergent democracy, privacy, and Internet freedom, serving as both board chair and CEO of Creative Commons, and sitting on the boards of Creative Commons, Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The New York Times Company, Mozilla Foundation, WITNESS, and Global Voices. BusinessWeek named him one of the "25 Most Influential People on the Web" in 2008. In 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute.

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The book is neither particularly well-written, nor particularly relevant. Hassan doesn't appear to understand complexity at all. He talks about the global context but doesn't seem to understand that either. The book is now being used as the basis for a strategic planning 101 course where complexity is hammered into small boxes, using too many post-it notes and producing an outcome that satisfies no one. I work in the field of international development and I attended one of his social labs workshops thinking it might offer more insights. The facilitation and content were terrible. Several people in the group complained and requested refunds. So many better alternatives are available and in use - e.g., Otto Scharmer's Theory U and Presencing Institute - save your money for one of those.
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Zaid Hassan's book is a good read and well-written. Contrary to the hyperbolic quotes on the back of the book and smattered online, it is not the quintessential guide to social labs. That is not a criticism of the book, just the PR.

The book is not something that will give you an ABC of how to build labs, rather it will give you some idea of how to think about the lab process and whether it is right for what you want to do. What I loved the most about the book is that it provides an unvarnished view of the collaborative process of lab-making and living, which means there is a lot of overt and covert frustration mixed with hope and aspiration for the process. It's a wide-eyed view of what social change is about.

What I would have liked was more evidence to support the oft-made statement about how labs "work" and what they do. There is some good tales to tell about what was done, but less about how those activities could be connected back to the lab. It's a hard charge, but something that could have more treatment.

The last part of the book on recommendations is the least attractive. It feels like an add-on encouraged by the editor as if to say "hey, you need a X-point guide to give your readers." It's too bad, because the points are not well articulated or substantiated in many cases. That all said, this was an enjoyable book to read and worth the time investment (it's thin, and focused). It's a good addition to the literature on an emerging idea that is spreading worldwide.
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Format: Paperback
If you are on a quest to meet the chalnges of a complex world then you must read this book. The story and approach outlined by the author have revolutionized my thinking on how to gather community to tackle our most complex problems. Far from being a strict methodology, the author wisely presents a direction that community can move in to create a lab that creates systemic change within their local context. But be warned that the work is long and has no definitive outcome; rather it creates an opportunity to develop and test solutions. As someone who has worked in non-profit for a long time I found this book to be a way of helping me solidify the impulse to address my communities issues in a direct and understandable way. If you, like me, are always tilting at community and global windmills, then you must read this book!!
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Zaid Hassan's well written and accessible "Social Labs" deeply resonated with me on a personal level. No only does the book help us to find better solutions to a myriad of complex problems we face at the group, organization and global levels, but it also outlines a path to live an individual and impactful life of curiosity, courage and discovery. I feel more empowered to live a life of service and purpose; to ally myself with fellow collaborators; and continuously fail up until I reach my potential having read his book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
One of the biggest challenges that I have encountered as a lawyer and a person focused on resolving systemic conflict is finding ways to mobilize stakeholders in conflict to address issues on a larger, more complex scale rather than on a piece meal basis.

This book both a theoretical and practical framework to address such challenges. Recognizing that the complex problems will only be solved by complex solutions, Zaid provides a compelling framework on how to get diverse actors to come together to develop and then implement a variety of strategies to address the specific problem. While I would have appreciated a more practical ideas on how to develop a social lab, I think that the whole point of the social lab is for participants to drive the process. Learning how to create the environment is possibly one of the best takeaways the book has to offer.
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