Around the world social innovation labs are gaining popularity as an effective method to create systems change. This methodology involves convening diverse stakeholders together to develop, test and scale new solutions to complex social and service problems. They employ methods typically used in the technology sector to create products such as smartphones. Recently, the Winkler Institute, in partnership with Legal Aid Ontario and the Ontario Psychological Association, hosted one such lab called the Family Justice and Mental Health Social Lab. Its main purpose was to further define how to improve access to justice for individuals with mental health issues in the family law context.
The lab brought together a variety of stakeholders including lawyers, academics, social workers, physicians, and mental health professionals including, a representative from Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario. Participants began by envisioning and drawing representations of what the system and access to justice could look like. These drawings depicted a system that is:
Later, participants worked in groups and focused on three different scenarios to identify the needs, jobs, goals and constraints of different actors within the system including the service user, lawyers, support professionals, and family members. CMHA Ontario contributed by providing a public policy perspective as well as client perspectives from the community mental health and addictions sector. The next session of the lab will delve deeper into these scenarios, provide further insights into the issues and start working towards a solution.