Health Change Lab allows students from a wide range of faculties and disciplines to work together to find practical solutions to real-world challenges.

Health Change Lab inspires creation of new Surrey City Lab

August 03, 2018
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By Clement Woo

The success of Simon Fraser University’s Health Change Lab was a key catalyst for the creation of the Surrey City Lab, announced last week as a three-year collaboration between SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and the City of Surrey.

“The Surrey City Lab will provide a nexus to expand the Faculty of Health Science’s experiential learning programming for students, enabling them to help address pressing health and social needs in Surrey communities,” says Dr. Tania Bubela, Dean of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Change Lab programs have been running at SFU since 2011. These unique, once-in-a-degree programs enable students from a wide range of faculties and disciplines to work together to find practical solutions to real-world challenges. In 2016, the first Change Lab focused specifically on health-related issues was established in partnership between RADIUS, Social Innovation Hub (Beedie School of Business) and the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS).

In Health Change Lab, students work in interdisciplinary teams to investigate a community health-related challenge that are priority issues for the City of Surrey. By developing and testing prototypes, students learn about health promotion, social innovation, human-centred design and entrepreneurship. At the end of the 13-week program, they pitch their final prototypes to community partners, many of whom have served as guests and mentors throughout the term.

FHS lecturer Paola Ardiles is one of the co-designers of the Health Change lab. She emphasizes that the interdisciplinary background students often leads to creative ideas and solutions for public health problems that can have a direct impact on the community. Some of the public health priorities tackled by students in the past include refugee resettlement, food security, seniors’ isolation, and active transportation.

The Surrey City Lab will allow for co-created projects between students and the City, and will include direct curriculum connections to City of Surrey priorities and challenges. Partnering with KPU will provide opportunities for KPU and SFU students to collaborate with one another. “We’re trying to break down institutional barriers in order to service the needs of the Surrey community and create a greater impact.” Ardiles says.

Several city-university partnership programs have been created in other cities across Canada and elsewhere in the world, including CityStudio in Vancouver, which was also co-founded by SFU and will serve as a model for the Surrey City Lab.

The Surrey City Lab launches this fall and Ardiles is excited for the future of the program. “The focus is on teaching now, but the hope is to spark research potential in the future.”

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