Butterfly Labs works primarily with High School students in their classrooms and alongside their teachers. It is typically run during school hours and students select community challenges they want to tackle and form teams. The duration for the labs runs throughout the school year, and each lab costs
We start with empathy and understanding – both of the community and of the other people in the room. We explore what people are passionate about, what they would like to change, and work with each other to build out ideas that may solve problems. It can be messy, challenging, and it pushes people to develop skills they did not know they possessed – in problem solving, team work, and communication. It’s also fun.
It is for people who have ideas or who are searching for ideas to improve the community. The focus of the lab is to ensure participants think about and spend time with the people they want to help. This focus helps foster genuine empathy and compassion. This focus works for both community development and entrepreneurship, as well as other applications.
Empathy here means a practice. A practice of continually connecting and understanding other people, what motivates them, frustrates them, makes them laugh, and moves them to tears. From this empathy you can start creating an idea to help people. From this same empathy you can change an existing idea into something that works before you’ve spent time and money building prototypes and generating financing.
With an approach to community development and entrepreneurship that places empathy for a community of clients at its centre, the negative impact of “failing” is reduced. Your assumptions and hypotheses around the problem change while learning what the challenges and opportunities actually are. This way, whatever you end up building is grounded in actually solving real problems that you’ve discovered along the way, as opposed to building something and then realizing the real problems after you’ve launched.
Butterfly Labs is about teaching youth how to understand the world around them, about their place in it, and how their perspective shapes the world. It’s also about teaching young people how to not only identify problems or opportunities, but to explore them and continually search for the actual underlying problems. It’s about providing young people with the questions they need to ask and giving them the experiences they need to drive their own projects.
Butterfly Labs is mobile and adaptable, and is a "pay what you can" model (subject to the availability of facilitators).