SDG 8.jpg

work-money-wellbeing lab

Our Quest: How can we create healthy relationships with work money and wellbeing (for the collective impact we want)?


The origins of this lab

It all started with the wish to launch our second Social Lab on the theme of work, motivated amongst others by the burn-outs that were occuring in the ecosystem. Quickly we added Wellbeing to the mix, as the kind of Work we as people living on this planet earth need is one where we bring back a sense of harmony between the individual, collective and planetary wellbeing.

The more we contemplated these dimensions and profundity of change the more it became clear that practically none of this can be manifested without the transformation of what we started to call our value-flow-system: How does the way money flows in our society actually represent what we value?


Why this topic?

The success of the industrial revolution has brought side-effects with it that we are now experiencing: Our current ways of how we work, how money as value-distribution-system functions and how we integrate (or not) a profound understanding of Wellbeing in our lifes is out of balance. This manifests in different ways where people, societies, organisations and the planet are pushed to the limits of its capacities.

It seemed to us that the way money flows and the structures as well as individually and collectively held beliefs around money have become dysfunctional to serve the wellbeing of the whole.

To speak metaphorically, it is just as if the blood-system of a human body would have deteriorated to only serve one part of the body, with one very specific kind of nutrients. It’s common sense that when the fragile equilibrium of any blood system is changed this quickly can cause a life-or-death situation to the respective organism.

There are many ways to play with this metaphor. For instance, picture flying with a stunt pilot and doing loops and crazy curves. Now think of the airplane and as a wonderful promise of freedom. Just like capitalism. But once the premise is pushed to the extreme the forces applied shoot your blood either down to your legs or up into your head depending on the orientation, but rarely into your heart. Now, our head is quite frequently used as the basis of our thinking, our hands and legs as the doing and our heart as the place for being. So now, in this metaphor the “solutions” are at hand: “don’t fly like that”, “wear pressure-pants” or “don’t fly”. What do these recommendations lead to when translated into our current reality? How might this metaphor provide a perspective that teaches us something about what is happening in the world and what is needed? For instance we can translate “don’t fly like that” into “new capitalism”, “wear pressure-pants” into “all sorts of solutions that don’t address the root causes” and “don’t fly” into “stop capitalism”. All of these responses are very much present today.

The purpose of such metaphors is to get an idea and a shared image of the forces and dynamics that we are talking about on a large scale. The purpose is not to assume that these metaphors are reality, rather they represent an aspect or quality of reality that is then shown to us in terms that invite useful reflection and ignite our creative mind. The invitation is to play with your own imagination to help yourself understand and grasp the underlying workings of such large concepts like money, work and wellbeing. What images and metaphors might best represent the dynamics of your relationships with work, money and wellbeing? What kind of solutions are you applying to the pressures of your everyday life?

Through this reflections and insights it became evident, that an approach aiming to work at the roots of systemic phenomenons as burn-outs, had to look at Work, Money and Wellbeing in an integrated way. The suggestion is that we should rather look at these dimensions as a meshed-up reality (which doesn’t allow solutions that only work with one dimension) than thinking of them as separate parts that constitute a whole in a mechanical way (which would allow solutions that are only working on one dimension). Or to say it differently, the critique is that almost all discourse today about the future of work (workplace, agile/lean/holocratic etc. concepts), future of finances and money (from blockchain and basic income to personal beliefs) and wellbeing (mindfulness, yoga, ethics, planetary-wellbeing…) isn’t looked at and talked about from sufficiently integrated perspective.

To say it inspired by the words of Margaret Whitley in her book “Who do we choose to be”:

“We need to co-create local ecosystems of sanity, where we bring money, work and wellbeing back in harmony with the planetary reality of our earth.“

With these questions we invited to co-initiate the Work-Money-Wellbeing-Lab. And because the scope of this exploration couldn’t be much larger the question we were sitting with was: How do we design a lab that gives space for the practical, philosophical, spiritual and emotional dimensions of this quest?


the approach

Pre-Lab Phase

During 2017, more than 50 people were reached through different formats (i.e. workshop at co-workation, dialogue evening, personal meetings...). The people are diverse in terms of sector (public, academia, private, culture, NGO, education, politics), regions of Switzerland (6 different cantons) and ages (24 to 76 old). Amongst the professions involved in this first phase of the initiation of the Lab are CEOs, authors, founders, consultants, doctor, psychologist, politicians. And several organisation such as euforia, STRIDE, AXA, Centro D’ompio, Zürich Retreat, Happy Bern Lab, GLP Lab, Impact Hub Bern & Zürich and Swisscom.

In autumn of 2017 two Dialogue Evenings (see next Chapter) were organised aimed at diving deeper into the topic of regenerative work. The different role models of work that one has encountered throughout one’s life were explored. And the personal stories around one’s experience of work and well being addressed. These events and numerous conversation shed light on the relationship between money, work and wellbeing.

Differently to the pre-lab initiation phase of the Gender Lab we chose an approach where a core group of 9 people was invited for the co-initiation of the Lab in January 2018. The weekend (from Friday to Sunday) was aimed to be both, highly explorative (no agenda dialogues and explorations) and practical (bringing forth a portfolio of concrete social experiments).

Social Lab on Work Money and Wellbeing: Cycle 0.5

The first 0.5 cycle of labs started March 2018. The idea was to run with a group of co-initiators through the lab process ourselves in order to find out how the lab-process will look like in Cycle 1.0, where we wanted to reach out to externals. Further the intention was that the core-group should itself be a representation of the diversity of people we were aiming to invite for Cycle 1, so no individual would “hold the space” alone, but the core group itself would build the foundation on which the future of the lab would be build upon.

This core-group agreed to meet for four 3-day-retreats in March, April, May and June. During those retreats the aim was to maximize our learning. For this we aimed to experiment radically. In one of our co-creation sessions we defined the following goals:

1. Activate an ecosystem: why? how?

  • There are many great initiatives and organisations out there, but their actions are not coordinated. What is lacking is an awareness of how the parts (e.g. euforia, Zürich Retreat, …) form a new and coherent larger whole. What is needed is a place and process in which we can learn how the parts can start “seeing themselves from the whole”.

2. Action Learning Cycles: Learning by doing (internal capacity building)

  • As little theory as possible but as much as needed

  • Learning, developing and applying theory building on our experiences as we collectively move forward.

3. Build container (program, space, frame, platform)

  • How does the Lab Cycle 1.0 look like? Feel like? How many people? How often do we meet? What do we do together a) during the lab? b) between the lab? Who should be there?

4. Prepare the social field for future cycles (relationships)

  • It is all about relationships. How can we be “on the radar” of all relevant people? So that people come to us to ask: how is it going? Can I be part of it? And feel that “something” is happening there.

  • What are the different ways to be part of this experiment and exploration? How do we cultivate those relationships (read: keep track/”manage”) them?

  • Build collaborations and sustain them via collaboratio helvetica as a platform

5. Prototypes that have an impact (output)

  • Existing prototypes and initiatives as outlined in the “portfolio of concrete projects”

  • Other prototypes created by us or the cohe-community

6. “Geistige Umschlagsplätze”

  • Places where knowledge is transferred

  • See Scharmers article on ´education´he talks exactly about these places where vertical learning is practiced!


Future of this lab

A lab is a highly experimental space. In this spirit we aim to push the boundaries and actively seek for new pathways of convening and co-creating to increase the chances of a meaningful breakthrough. Zaid Hassan describes the running of Labs in his book “The Social Lab Revolution” as “elaborated systemic betting”. In such an endeavour failure has to be reframed as integral part of the process. In fact, nothing really new can happen without and attitude of learning from difficulties. In this first cycle we encountered many difficulties in translating our intentions and skills into a powerful lab experience. Due to these difficulties, changes in the collaboratio core team and cohe’s overall set-up we decided to put the lab on hold for now and focus our energy on the projects that are already up and running. A thorough learning-evaluation is currently being deployed, as you can read in the next section.

Learnings of cycle 0.5

There is no doubt that in this experiment everyone involved learned very important lessons moving forward. We as collaboratio helvetica are currently in the process of making sense of this rich experience in collaboration with everybody that was involved, so we can really harvest our insights & evaluate this social lab. Later this year we will share our findings with you and the community. And then from a point where we are one experience wiser, more knowledgeable and hopefully also skilled - we’ll try again.

The future of this Lab

Currently the future of this lab is undefined. If you want to explore the topics of Work, Money and Wellbeing in your space, organisation, team in the form of a Dialogue Evening, reach out to