Improving the health of the ocean is one of the urgent, complex problems of our time. If it were simple to solve (e.g. with time, effort or money) it would almost certainly have been. The threats to the marine environment - and by extension to human wellbeing - are too entangled for neat single-issue solutions. Anything less than systemic change will be insufficient.This is no reason to become discouraged or to give up. Rather the opposite. It is a motivation to approach the issues from multiple points of view, to imagine, to experiment and to learn from failure; to appreciate what works and to understand how things could be systemically improved. This is the essence of the “lab approach”: enabling accelerated systemic innovation with reduced risk.
Marine CoLABoration is an example of using the lab approach to enhance flows of knowledge in the environmental sector, thereby developing the capacity needed to improve the health of the ocean. It was initiated by the UK branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF) “to explore how human values and the value of the ocean are reflected in individual and collective decision-making and can be utilised to increase ocean protection” (Marine CoLABoration mission statement). FoAM designed, facilitated and documented the lab process during its incubation phase. This article provides a reflection on the lab approach in general and on Marine CoLABoration as a specific case study.