A Social Lab with Youth Leaders in Colombia

Photo: Social Lab Medellin.

Two activities marked the summer of the Youth, Peace and Security program here. They are two parallel activities that emanate from the same idea: a Social Laboratory. Our program is currently executing a city-wide social lab (Social Lab Medellin), and a localized one in the northwest region of the city, in comuna 5, Castilla (Social Lab Castilla). Social Lab Medellin was launched on August 2nd at a small restaurant. Thirty people gathered—the core team of “the Lab”—for the first time as a group to elicit the social issue that will be transformed. From the CEO of a major insurance company in Colombia to the director of the Medellin philharmonic, and to youth community leaders, young YouTubers, and representatives of the city’s government as well as the private sector, everyone showed up only wearing a name tag on their chest, titles and professions aside, and with the certitude that everyone’s presence added a distinct view of the city and the social problems that it has. Between cooking, eating, and conversing, the question arises: how can we together reduce the youth violence in Medellin?

The initial stage of Social Lab Medellin is following the U Theory process. Having identified the central social issue that every participant of the Lab is concerned about, the next steps are to hold weekly meetings, for two months, at different locales of the city as part of the “seeing” and “sensing” U process. During these meetings each one of the participants of the Lab has the opportunity to share with the rest of the team the kind of work they do, and to demonstrate their role as leaders in the city. A week after the launch, we met at Eskuela 4 Elementos, a hip-hop school for children and youth, whose director is part of the Lab. We aim to finish the “seeing” and “sensing” process by mid October to begin the “crystallization” stage of the U, and then start the “co-creation workshops”.

Photo: Social Lab Castilla

On August 19th we held a pre-launch event of Social Lab Castilla. Here, we met with twenty people that represent the social reality of the neighborhood: youth leaders, university students, social activists, and representatives of the transportation company of this area. This meeting took the form of a Theory U workshop initially, and ended with an open conversation that generated a pluri-perspective vision about the shared experiences of conflict and violence that the youth of this area face. The next step for the Social Lab Castilla is to hold a meeting where the core team will elicit the central issue to be transformed, and this gathering will constitute the official launch. The meeting will be held during the month of September. After this, just like in the Social Lab Medellin, this team will follow a Theory U process.


Author: Joán Lopez is Program Coordinator of the Youth, Peace and Security Program.

Photos provided by author.

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