What Is a Research in Action Lab?

A Research in Action Lab is an 18- to 24-month commitment to a community that builds partnerships to address a specific economic problem in a sustainable way and create a shift toward more equitable systems.

Labs rely on the Federal Reserve’s research expertise and convening power and bring together community partners to find local, sustainable solutions to economic problems. Labs address the three major areas of focus for the Economic Growth & Mobility Project (EGMP): infrastructure, workforce development, and job creation.

Three elements are necessary for a successful Research in Action Lab: community champions, relevant research, and actionable solutions. Labs need community champions with in-depth knowledge of key stakeholders and local economic development concerns to spearhead the process. Through their leadership and the Federal Reserve Bank’s outreach strength, EGMP hosts powerful convenings on economic equity. Effective convenings are community-driven and encourage innovative, actionable solutions in a collaborative setting. Research produced by the Federal Reserve or other partners informs local stakeholders as they define the problem, develop formal solutions, and delegate roles to respond to the challenges to economic growth and mobility in their community.

Goals of Research in Action Labs

Research in Action Labs lay the groundwork to institutionalize partnerships, pilot innovative programs, and ultimately prompt systems change. The partnerships established within labs continue their work on issues beyond the convening in an official capacity as an institutional body. The groups then build clear visions and launch pilots to achieve their goals. Pilots give rise to new programs, which in turn spur systems change toward more equitable economic development practices.

Phases of a Research in Action Lab

Labs occur in four phases, focusing initially on the discovery and definition of the problem and moving partners toward design and delivery of solutions. During this process, stakeholders come together around a common definition of an issue and discuss collaborative ways to address the particular barrier to economic mobility using local resources.

The phases are:

DISCOVER

  • Identify stakeholders
  • Facilitate conversations
  • Expand knowledge of problems or issues
  • Invite new voices to the table

DEFINE

  • Conduct research — qualitative and quantitative
  • Define the problem
  • Designate a focus area
  • Build consensus

DEVELOP

  • Identify best practices in other places
  • Brainstorm possible solutions
  • Reach out to interested funders

DELEGATE & DELIVER

  • Select actions and next steps resulting from the lab
  • Delegate projects to funders or government
  • Hand off to local stakeholders 

Infrastructure

An infrastructure system that works for everyone is the bedrock of a thriving economy. Everything from transportation to affordable housing to broadband deeply influences a person’s ability to access opportunity. Infrastructure labs address gaps in the distribution of these resources.

Workforce

As the knowledge economy demands more from workers, people increasingly need digital skills to stay competitive in the job market. Workforce development labs look at ways to improve education, help people develop skills, and address obstacles to employment.

Job Creation

Equitable economic development means creating quality jobs for low- and moderate-income workers. Job creation labs promote access to opportunity employment, entrepreneurship, and ideas on how to increase the number of quality jobs.