ARC Cohort 2023

The Shame Lab

30th June 2023

We chat with Professor Luna Dolezal from the University of Exeter about her venture The Shame Lab,  an international hub that researches shame and its effects in professional practice and organisations, and provides consultancy and training in Shame Competence. This project is part of the ARC 2023 Cohort.

Q: What is your academic background and what are you currently working on?
My academic background is philosophy and I’m an interdisciplinary scholar, so most of my philosophy is applied philosophy and a lot of it is in the arena of health and medicine. I’m currently working on a couple of research projects, one big one is called Shame and Medicine, which looks at the role that shame plays in health and healthcare. I work on another project that is called Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures, which looks at the interface of bodies and normativity, and technology and healthcare more generally.

Q: How did you come up with your venture idea? Why did you decide to focus on this specific idea? 
The idea is that shame, the emotion and the experience, plays a significant role in the delivery of services and it often interferes with the successful delivery of services and can act as a potent treatment barrier in different ways, depending on the service or the profession. Even though anecdotally we know this, it’s not often taught explicitly and people often don’t understand the effects and impacts of shame and how it manifests in interactions and in service delivery.

The idea is to explicitly teach shame competence, to teach people about shame and its effects, so that they can understand it and work with it if they’re in a clinical encounter with a patient, or if they’re doing a social work visit in someone’s home, or a range of different interactions and scenarios. The idea came from the research that we have been doing around shame in medicine and understanding the role that shame plays in health and healthcare. The idea of developing the training was already in play before I joined ARC, but I hadn’t fully thought about commercialising it in the way that it has happened.

Q: What is the nature of your venture and what does it aim to achieve? How does it tackle the issue?
The venture is called the Shame Lab and we are delivering shame competence training to professionals working in different sectors. We have training for police and another one for different practitioners, such as social workers, education practitioners and people who work in community services.

The Shame Lab is not just about training delivery, it is also a space where we do research. We obviously do evaluations of the efficacy of the training, but we also do research around the issues that come up with shame and related phenomena like stigma and marginalisation, and how shame plays a role in professional practice.

We also do consultancy work and advise organisations around policy and practice to ensure they are shame sensitive. For instance, the police have asked me to review a new policy and tell them where shame might be relevant or where it might be coming up and they haven’t noticed. 

Q: How is the ARC Accelerator supporting you in bringing your venture to life?
It has been really useful being part of ARC, particularly having the very close support of James Woodhams, who is my TTO. Understanding how we could follow a social enterprise kind of model that is financially sustainable, but also generates money to be able to do research or to invest in delivering training to organisations that don’t have a training budget or might not be able to afford the training.

There has been a deeper understanding of the different models that we could use in order to make this possible, because I obviously have a full time job as an academic, so I can’t spend my whole week delivering training. It’s about figuring out a way to be able to do the training work, train other trainers and have that going alongside my academic role. 

Q: What have you learned through the programme that you will bring back to your work or research?
I have learned a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know before, which I will of course bring back to my work and research. Learning more about the translation of research to impact and concrete strategies for impact has been really useful for me.

Obviously, I’m a philosopher and those are always removed from real life, but the research I’m doing is so applied and this work is very much around strategies to actually change practice on the frontline of a profession, such as medicine. So learning about much more concrete ways of understanding how to do that and operationalise that has been really helpful.

Q: Where can we go to learn more?
You can learn more about our venture on the Shame Lab website. If you would like to get in touch, you can email me at