Recognising ‘what is’
Mobility Lab working through the Capitals
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”
- Terry Pratchett
The goal of the first part of the workshops, was to gain an understanding of what outputs and outcomes were already being generated by a project.
We did this by drawing on the Capitals Framework (based on the IR framework) to talk about existing or future projects within the Labs, through a new lens. The greatest value of this framework is to look at the outcome of Research Labs work through a range of categories, thereby teasing out the plurality of value generated, somewhat like shining white light through a prism and finding that there’s a range of colours within.
6 Capitals adapted from IR Framework
The Capitals Framework is flexible, as it can be used for:
  • evaluating an existing initiative - “what value did we create during a research activity / project in each capital?”
  • designing for a future initiative - “what areas do we need to pay attention to across each capital, to achieve goal X?”
  • visioning for a future state - “what do we want the future to look like across each of these capitals? What might be probable / preferable / plausible / possible?


This canvas is used to help structure the workshop, to map various types of capital generated by a research activity.
Example canvas for Mobility Lab's research on an open source bike rack


  1. 1.
    Introduction and clarification of each of the capitals (one form of definitions can be found in the IR Framework) - 10 mins
  2. 2.
    Group discussion about a project to clarify boundaries for the session - 20 mins (in the session with XYX Lab, I ran this as a making session using organic materials to explore how different these mediums would be for the rest of the process).
  3. 3.
    Solo time to generate specific examples of outputs/outcomes which were generated by the project - 10 mins.
  4. 4.
    Return to group to all place examples onto a visual capitals framework. Collate any duplicates - 15 mins.
  5. 5.
    Group reflection: what do we notice about what we’ve generated? Do we have any bias in what we’ve noted? Which areas are most and least represented and why? Is there anything surprising? - 30-45 mins.
  6. 6.
    Optional: More solo / group time to generate any additional examples which have been spurred through reflection time.
  7. 7.
    Optional: Refine findings from each capital by ranking and highlighting 3 most important examples. This could also be done using synthesis methods (such as affinity mapping).


  • Explore through conversation and/or making. Examples could include developing models of a project (such as with organic materials) or sketching ideas (such as Draw Toast).
  • Generate ideas solo to begin with (standard ideation methods).
  • Zoom out to see gaps - these can be bias, or actual gaps in outcomes.
  • Design synthesis - overview from Jon Kolko.
  • Affinity Mapping - example.


To engender research which focuses on both social and planetary outcomes, I would suggest considering using Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Framework.
Last modified 2yr ago