The Social Impact Lab Alberta


We are working toward creative & sustainable solutions in Athabasca!

We know that people in Athabasca want what’s best for their community and are ready to collaborate across sectors, social groups, and demographics to create a positive future for everyone. In April 2023, we began conducting community interviews with residents of the Town & County to learn more about their successes, challenges, hopes, and vision for Athabasca, culminating in a 3-day trip to Athabasca to connect in-person, hear from more Athabascans, and host a community workshop. Based on everything we heard, we identified 9 insights that reflect the different priorities and concerns we heard from the community and selected one as the topic for The Athabasca Design Lab.

You can read all about this work and our insights here and here.

Additionally, you can find articles about our work from the Athabasca Advocate: IntroductionSession 2Sessions 3-4Session 5Session 6

Workshop participants' vision for Athabasca

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The Athabasca Design Lab

The topic for The Athabasca Design Lab is

“Athabascans often learn about critical information from others in the community. Those who are less connected miss out on important opportunities, worsening isolation. How might we address the communication gaps of access, awareness, connection, and power in Athabasca to provide Athabascans the opportunity to choose how they’d like to engage in community?"

In The Athabasca Design Lab, we will use a human-centered design process to address this opportunity, from building empathy to producing new ideas that could benefit the community all the way to prototyping and then testing those ideas in Athabasca.

The Athabasca Design Lab sessions are facilitated through 4-6 hour in-person workshops on the third Thursday of the month from 9am-1pm or 9am-3pm at Athabasca University's ARC building. Sessions include coffee, snacks, and a catered lunch.  

The ADL participants gathering inspiration from communication solutions across the world.

So far, each of the 30+ Athabasca designers have facilitated 1-5 empathy interviews in the community to learn more about social issues that affect our neighbours. We focused on interviewing a broad section of Athabascans from both the town and the county with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, which has provided us with a slough of feedback and perspectives to inform our work.

At our second session, participants recorded the data from our conversations onto post-it notes and set about organizing them to find connections and patterns. We grouped the data first by the topic (housing, transit, mental health, and other) and then broke those topics into sub-themes. From here, The Athabasca Design Lab participants selected a topic of focus that underlies many social issues in Athabasca: Communication. Athabascans noted that some social supports are inaccessible to them because of communication gaps, that it can be difficult to find housing without relationships with landlords or connections in the community, and that there is no central place to find information in the county. We also heard that people often don’t hear about events in their community before they occur, leading to a sense of disconnection.

To date, The SIL AB team has facilitated skill development that will benefit participants in future innovation, including the processes of: interviewing; data synthesis; insight creation, assessment, and selection; creating “How Might We…?” questions and Point of View statements; and ideating to form new and innovative solutions. We will select the best ideas, turn them into prototypes, and test these ideas with the community to determine the best solution or group of solutions for Athabasca. This critical skill building will support participants in repeating this team-oriented process as needed to solve for future concerns in their community.

Interested in Learning More or Participating?

Our final wrap up celebration is on June 6. Anyone from the County of Athabasca is invited to attend to provide feedback about our ideas, celebrate the success of The Design Lab, and learn more about the next steps. Please join us for 10am-1pm at AU's ARC building; a free lunch is included.

To RSVP, please contact Kelsey Brown, Project Designer
Phone: 403-441-2275

Explore epsiode transcripts

Land Acknowledgement

In the spirit of our journey to promote reconciliation, we would like to honour the truth of our shared history and acknowledge Treaty 7 territory and the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy, that includes the Kainai, Siksika, and Piikani First Nations.

We acknowledge the traditional lands of the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda, including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations. We would also like to recognize the Métis people, and the Inuit people who have made their home here in Mohk’insstsis, also known as Calgary.

How You Can Get Involved

The Athabasca Design Lab Celebration

Join us to hear local Athabascans share their ideas about how to improve communication in the County. Free lunch is included!