The Be. Lab – what’s it all about?

A Microsoft Be. Lab taking place

The Be. Lab is a New Zealand-based, globally-networked centre for access innovation.

We’re creating the Be. Lab because we believe a shift to an innovative, future-focused, systems-led approach to accessibility is critical if Aotearoa is to address what we call ‘the access paradox’. The ‘access paradox’ recognises that our world is currently experiencing, simultaneously, both the profound costs of the exclusion of people with access needs and very real access market opportunities.

People with disabilities remain one of the most underemployed groups – and consequently, one of the most socially and economically disadvantaged. However, alongside this inequality we are also seeing a burgeoning, highly lucrative, and largely untapped market for accessible products and services due, largely, to the aging Baby Boomer cohort – the wealthiest generation in history.

When we consider this paradox, we must also understand the context it exists within. In this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, disruption happens swiftly. And any number of future currents – global migration patterns, crypto-currencies, shifting societal attitudes, climate change-related weather events, political upheaval, the aging population, AI and automation – could profoundly affect the state of accessibility globally. Existing access challenges may escalate rapidly, or alternatively, be eliminated completely. Additionally, the historical, hard-fought-for wins of the accessibility movement have the potential to be quickly and dramatically impacted. Humankind is at a critical juncture – the decisions we make today can either create the most inclusive or the most disabling society the world has ever known.

The Be. Lab seeks drive the next wave of social change for people with access needs by working at the intersection of all of this.

We believe a nation which ensures Access Citizens can thrive will be a nation with possibility woven into every place, every offering, and every system. The Be. Lab is setting out to facilitate this – and to position Aotearoa as a global leader in access innovation – by:

  • establishing an ‘access innovation ecosystem’ which creates the conditions for access innovation to flourish.
  • developing access innovation, access entrepreneurship, and inclusive design capability in organisations, communities, and individuals throughout Aotearoa.
  • fostering future-focused and systems-led approaches to accessibility.
  • connecting organisations and entrepreneurs with access markets.
  • establishing a nation-wide measurement tool which quantifies and tracks access-focused social change.

Where are we at now?

We’ve made some great progress with the Be. Lab development in the last few months. We’ve now:

  • piloted (with rave reviews!) the Be. Lab workshops – a 3 day access innovation deep-dive designed to act as a catalyst for organisational transformation and capability development.
  • brought on board our first Be. Lab strategic partner, Microsoft
  • held a series of conversations with other potential investment partners – more information on those very soon!

We believe deeply in the potential of the Be. Lab, and it’s so exciting to see the energy it’s already generating. As we establish sustainable funding through strategic partnerships we will move into the next phase of the Lab’s development – watch this space!