Category Archives: insight

Because not all the smart people work for you…

british_library_00_1492524cLast week I went to an event about Open Innovation in Public Services at The British Library.

Open innovation involves collaboration with partners and networks to share the risk and reward of developing new ideas. It is an innovation model that is used in the corporate sector and there are an increasing number of public and third sector organisations starting to ‘do’ open innovation.

It’s a good idea, as Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems said “Because not all the smart people work for you”

We heard from five speakers

Vicky Purewal Head of Challenge Prize Design at Nesta spoke about her work to grow the field of challenge prizes.

A challenge prize offers a reward to whoever can first or most effectively meet a defined challenge. The challenge prize concept dates back hundreds of years; canned food was a solution to a problem back in 1795 when the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food.

Challenge prizes as a way to solve problems has seen big growth in recent decades. The challenge prize model is effective in seeking ideas from a wide audience, it is more flexible than grant funding for an idea or project as there are less strings attached and the concept of winning a prize is filled with excitement as opposed to obtaining a more sobering ‘grant’ type of funding.

The design of the challenge prize and process, including the setting of clear goals and context is crucial to the prizes success. Check out some examples of challenge prizes run by Nesta, the NHS and the X Prize Foundation.

Carl Reynolds, (introduced as a Doctor and a geek), spoke about NHS Hack days.

A hack day is a gathering of a diverse group of people for at least a whole day (sometimes more) to work on a specific problem. There is an element of competition, prizes and a commitment to develop the solutions once the day is over. Hacks originated from software developers so usually involve a technology solution.

Carl’s had identified that the poor use of IT was making NHS staff jobs harder and their work less efficient, so the focus of the hack day was to ‘make NHS IT less bad’.

Given that they were starting from a fairly low benchmark, getting some key people together for a hack day to address this challenge was seen to be achievable at a relatively low-cost and risk. After all what could be a worse outcome than the current situation? Things could only improve.

The NHS hack days involve doctors, patients, healthcare experts, technology and software developers and designers. The first one was in May 2012. 120 people attended over two days, eight judges selected the best ideas and there was one overall winner. There was a range of solutions that you can see here.

Heather Niven from GeniUS York spoke about the open process they have piloted to solve the City of Yorks strategic and operational challenges.

In response to massive public sector cuts York Council identified that they could not continue to deliver their services using their current business model.

They developed an open innovation pilot giving staff and local people the opportunity get involved in solving some of the challenges in their local communities. They developed an ideas platform in a record quick time of 3 days. They launched challenges on the platform for a short time period and involved an online community of staff and the public to suggest solutions.

This pilot has repositioned innovation as a priority and turned York Council from a ‘big tanker to flotilla of active networked organisations and individuals’.

Heather spoke about what they had learned; the need to go at a slightly slower pace, the value of getting input from outside of the organisation, how brave senior managers had to be to open up and the shift in culture required to help staff to get involved.  Heather’s ultimate tip for anyone setting something like this up is  ‘be brave and proceed until apprehended’

Jenny Parkin from Camden Council spoke about their Innovation and Development Fund

The Innovation and Development Fund is designed to engage with residents and staff to facilitate and build capacity for innovation in the borough of Camden and help communities make things happen in their local area.

The funds criteria is for ideas that address socially engrained problems in new and different ways, ideas that positively change current practice and demonstrate financial sustainability in a way that is new to the Council.

Asking the outside world to come and help deliver services is a cultural shift and the approach to the fund has been an iterative one of learning and making changes at each funding round. Jenny shared some of the learning about the importance of communicating the opportunity to a range of audiences and the making the process as simple as possible. Jenny highlighted the value of the shift in culture and approach required and the learning journey the Council had been on as much as the end results.

David Townson spoke about the Design Councils’ leadership programme that supports public sector clients to improve products and services.

David spoke of the importance of design as a framework for innovation and how all innovation should originate from an understanding of your audiences and the challenges they face. The real innovation is how you help them solve those challenges.

Getting closer to your audience or customers helps you gain insights that you would not get just sat behind your desk. David spoke about sending Barking and Dagenham Council teams on ‘service safaris’ and forcing people to go to where their customers were and experience what they experienced to gather real information. Following service safaris teams visualised, sketched and prototyped their ideas.

At the end of the process the teams have a sketchbook of ideas and have engaged with their customers, providing insight and a better understanding of the problems that their communities face.  Only when you have an understanding of the real problems your customers are facing are you in a position to solve them.

Open innovation is now part of the Barking and Dagenham training programme, creating a cultural shift, a different approach to problem solving and more importantly providing more effective services.

How do I start doing Open Innovation?

There are many ways to develop open innovation to help your organisation develop better products and services. If you are considering this there are five key tips to consider.

  1. Be clear on your end goal.
  2. Build good relationships, seek to understand your audiences, whether staff, customers or the public
  3. Communicate clearly at every stage, keep people in the conversation, listen and respond to feedback
  4. Be open about what is working and what is not and learn from it
  5. Just start. You won’t have all the answers and that is exactly the point. The value of open innovation is finding solutions with others.

How could your organisation use an open innovation model to develop better fundraising and services through challenge prizes, hack days or an open innovation programme?

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The Dragonfly Effect – its all wings and analogies

The Dragonfly Effect is a book by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith about ways to use social media to drive social change.

They use the analogy of the wings of a dragonfly as the four essential ingredients in any social media campaign.

It breaks down how to ‘do’ social media to drive change into four ‘wings’.

Wing one; is about focusing focus on a single concrete measurable goal or outcome and then breaking it down into small manageable actions or chunks.

Wing two; is how to grab attention and get noticed amongst all the other noise that we are all bombarded with.

Wing three; is about engaging your audience emotionally through telling stories and making a personal connection.

Wing four; is about how to make it easy for your audience to take action and enable others and the importance of providing fast feedback.

There are some interesting case studies, and they give tips for beginners on using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and building networks. However, I was disappointed with the overall content as it was repetitive and cluttered and I found the number of dragonfly and wing analogies a bit irritating. (The dragonfly analogy is apparently because the dragonfly is the only insect to move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert)

However they make some good basic points, which apply to any activity designed to drive change, that of

  • Focusing on the end goal
  • Grabbing audience attention
  • Engaging with the audience
  • A clear and simple call for action

So my advice is, if you are planning to use social media (or drive any sort of change) to take these principles and get on with testing out your campaigns and messages rather than spending time reading the book.

I’d love to hear about what you are doing and what is working and not working for you on social media right now….

Do you check your mobile when you are on the toilet?

At the Institute of Fundraising Convention last week there was a lot of talk around technology enabled giving (or TEG, yes, we have a delightful new technology enabled acronym) and in particular the use of mobile.

Heralded as the most powerful device ever invented; enabling us to access life’s essentials from money to friends to pizza, our mobile phone is a device which the majority of us do not leave home without.

There were some interesting stats from The Mobile Mindset Study, including;

  • nearly 40% admit to checking their phone while on the toilet. (*and that’s just the people who admit it. Personally I bet its more)
  • 63% of women and 73% of men ages 18-34 say they don’t go an hour without checking their phones.
  • 73% say they felt panicked when they lost their phone
  • 24% said they check their phones while driving.

We also learnt that 80% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone. In fact globally more people have access to mobile then they do to clean drinking water.

In developing countries most people will only ever access internet on mobile phones (which was somewhat ironic as I didn’t have an internet connection in the conference session) meaning that globally mobile is going to be an increasingly important channel.

In 5 years mobile users will overtake desktop users. (a friend of mine actually had to explain the term ‘desk-top’ to a young person recently, who was baffled at the whole concept of a computer belonging to, or being static on a desk…..)

Mobile has also changed consumer behaviour in that people are constantly connected, and continually juggle and filter information. People have developed continuous partial attention disorders (CPA for acronym fans), a new condition which disables a person from concentrating on one thing for longer than about 10 seconds (in severe cases).

So, given all these stats, it was interesting that in a digital fundraising session when the audience were asked how many websites are mobile responsive one hand went up. And only four people knew how much of their web traffic came from mobile. (Most organisations get 10-15% of their web traffic from mobile and the number is increasing) And only one or two organisations had surveyed their online audience in the last 2 months. (there was significantly more than four people in the room in case you were wondering)

We know fundraising is about building relationships, understanding and connecting supporters to the cause, and making it easy for them to get involved. We also know that almost everyone is carrying the internet in their back pocket; connecting them to the world. Yet it doesn’t seem that we are developing our communications to ensure they are accessible to these growing audiences? Why not?

So to summarise the key messages on mobile fundraising;

  • mobile is becoming more and more important to engage with multiple audiences
  • use of mobile is growing fast
  • make your content is accessible for mobile
  • you cannot pretend that mobile isn’t happening
  • if you can’t help people give on mobile you are missing out

Or perhaps I got a warped view because all the people in the room were not putting their hands up because they were CPA suffers and really stressed out at not being online and connected? Possibly. In a funny way I kind of hope so.

‘If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad’

Today I was reading Kevin Baughen’s Penguin Blog, ‘Which charity brand will be the first to jump on admin costs? And it reminded me of couple of sessions that I saw at the FIA Conference earlier this year.

Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable and founder of Pallotta Teamworks spoke about how charities overheads are perceived by the public, media, government and their own staff.

Dan challenged the popular belief that the more of a donation that goes directly to services and the less that is ‘wasted’ on overheads including salaries, staff development and administration, the more effective the charity. He spoke about expectations that charity staff should be paid far lower than their equivalents in corporate organisations, and receive less investment in personal development and training, because they are compensated by the ‘feel good factor’ of working for a ‘worthy’ cause.

Dan used an example of soup kitchen A and soup kitchen B to illustrate his point. Soup kitchen A reports that 90% of every donation goes to the cause; soup kitchen B reports 70%.

But what you don’t know from this topline statistic, a statistic from which many people base their decision on which organisation to support, is that soup kitchen A serves rancid soup in a run down building with unfriendly staff, while soup kitchen B is open all the time, employs friendly staff, serves hearty nutritious soup in state of the art facility and also does case management.  In this scenario when making a decision on which organisation to support, the percentage that goes to the cause is not a good question. A better question would be; which charity makes the most difference?

Many charities are apologetic about the costs involved to raise funds. Almost half of charities claim that there are no costs associated with their fundraising. The lack of transparency regarding expenditure required to deliver sustainable fundraising only exacerbates public, media and government perceptions that somehow charities should fundraise for free, and that donors should expect 100% of their donation to go directly to services.

Adrian Sargeant in his Masterclass on ‘What every board should know about fundraising’ raised a similar point. He commented that “If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad.”  The most important measure is the difference that a donor has made.

Adrian went on to highlight that in the UK we lose 50% of new donors in the first year. Then 30% year on year. In 2007, 38% of donors stopped giving. Over half of those stopped because they no longer felt personally connected. So, if we don’t continue to engage and build relationships with donors the initial cost of recruiting those donors is wasted.

Developing long-term relationships requires investment. It simply can’t happen for free. Charitable organisations must continue to invest carefully in their fundraising and at the same time be bolder and more transparent about the real costs involved in running an effective sustainable fundraising programme.

This paradigm shift has to be led from within the sector. It is the responsibility of charities to change the perceptions of the public, media and government and help them understand that fundraising efficiently does indeed cost money.

Kay Sprinkel Grace described fundraisers as brokers of dreams, giving supporters the opportunity to make a difference to the world. Yet our big dreams and ambitions, and those of our supporters are often reduced to apologetic conversations about how much it costs to raise a pound.

How can you be bolder about the real cost to raise a pound? And more importantly how can you show your donors that their donation to your charity will make the biggest difference?

It was much easier before the internet came along and wrecked everything

I’ve gone a bit techy this week. On Tuesday I went to the launch of ‘More than shaking an online tin – How can we take technology-enabled giving to a new level?’  – a new report by nfpSynergy for Spring.

Yesterday I went to the Institute of Fundraising technology group’s conference.

In particular I enjoyed the opening plenary by James Kliffen, Head of Fundraising at Medecins sans Frontieres  on fundraisers making the digital transformation. My key take outs were;

  • The importance of recruiting and keeping monthly givers.
  • Volunteer doctors and nurses working in difficult and dangerous places tell their stories to engage donors. Brilliant.
  • Thank you letters are written by the doctors and nurses working on the front line – very special and powerful.
  • When their emergency tsunami appeal raised all that they could responsibly spend on aid for tsunami after 5 days they stopped their appeal. Brave and transparent.
  • Their newsletters are sent only when there is news and they never make an ask for money. Interesting given the recent and ongoing ‘how often should we ask’ debate.
  • The pinball effect when people ‘bounce’ off different messages but only remember the last message they saw, so when you ask them how they found you the answer is often ‘I Googled it’ so its hard to measure what activity is more effective at driving traffic to your site.
  • The biggest challenge is data integration and there was no single answer on how to do it.

I heard a case study from Deniz Hassan from Merlin about their experience of fundraising from Facebook. He talked through the mechanics of how Merlin used Facebook to engage and grow their donor base. Three key take outs were;

  • Any campaign must be integrated into other fundraising and campaigning activities.
  • You have to test and refine and test and refine and test and refine…..
  • Do not forget the fundamentals of fundraising, engaging hearts and minds and telling stories.

Howard Lake did a great session, ‘Creation, curation, donation’ with lots of practical tools that you can use to find, edit, sort and present strategic messages and make the most of the good and relevant information that already exists on the web. My three favourites are;

  • Scoop it – for publishing your own magazine style content.
  • Storify – to build stories from a range of media on the web.
  • Wordle – for generating word clouds.

The conclusions from both the report and the conference are broadly the same.

  • Mobile is big, use of smartphones is increasing and there are real opportunities for charities to develop in this marketplace.
  • Integrating and measuring the impact of different digital tools is difficult, which also makes it difficult to choose which tools to use in the first place.
  • It’s important to remember the fundraising basics, engaging donors through storytelling and showing them how their support makes a difference.
  • Do not underestimate the resource needed to ensure you get the most from your use of technology.
  • Charities must take risks and test new technology to remain competitive.
  • It was much easier before the internet came along and wrecked everything.

You can download the Spring ‘More than shaking an online tin’ report here or see a brief overview of the report on the UK Fundraising blog.

You can also download the presentations from the Institute of Fundraising Technology conference here. 

Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life

Innovation is a buzzword topic. You can even do a Masters Degree in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at City University in London. It has its own acronym; it is fondly referred to as the MICL.

This is great because they have free public lectures. Last week I went to listen to Professor Patrick Jordan talk about Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life.

Quality of life is defined as the wellbeing of individuals and societies. There is an increasing emphasis on the importance of quality of life and wellbeing. The Office for National Statistics is now attempting to measure national wellbeing in the UK.

Jordan suggests that there are nine major factors that need to be taken into consideration when measuring quality of life in his 2010 paper, ‘The Good Society Framework’.

The nine factors are explained below with examples highlighting how innovation and creative thinking are helping individuals and communities improve their quality of life.

1. Relationships; the quality of our social,family and interpersonal relationships is the single most important factor in measuring quality of life or wellbeing. Research has shown that there is a loneliness epidemic in older men.  Men communicate best when bought together round a task. Men in Sheds is an innovative project responding to this by establishing a task based shed network providing a community of support and social interaction for men.

2. Economy; this refers to people’s degree of economic spending power and the extent that jobs develop and reward individuals. In tough times, with public trust in large banking corporations at rock bottom, there has been an opportunity for the development of peer-to-peer economics. Zopa provides opportunities for people with savings to lend. The lenders earn interest and the borrowers receive better rates than banks can offer. Regulated by the FSA, Zopa has half a million members who have to date lent more than £190 million.

3. Environment and infrastructure; this is about how pleasant, effective and efficient our environments are. Transport for London invested in an initiative to ensure public transport in London was accessible to people with disabilities. Yet, despite the improved access, people with disabilities were not using London trains and buses. In particular wheelchair users didn’t use buses. Transport for London worked with Jordan to establish why. He discovered primary reason wasn’t the physical barrier; it was because of the uncomfortable interaction with the driver and the public. Bus drivers are measured on punctuality, the additional time to help a wheelchair user on and off the bus meant their bus would arrive back at the depot late. Because of this they often didn’t stop for wheelchairs – or were stressed and rushed when they did. Making using the bus a bad experience best avoided. Therefore changing the time measure for drivers, rather than the physical environment may improve the bus experience for wheelchair users.

4. Health; in particular access to good healthcare and food. Jordan spoke of a hospital project in Korea. They turned their radiography ward into an entertainment centre. Patients could upload photos and listen to their own music in an attempt to take some of the trauma of sitting in a stark and unwelcoming ward by making the experience as comfortable as possible.

5. Peace and Security; this refers to levels of crime and if people feel safe in their homes and public spaces and whether or not society is affected by war or terrorism. Jordan spoke of initiatives to develop more effective ways to identify terrorist suspects. Currently terrorist suspects are single people in a public place, looking nervous, with a backpack, meeting another single nervous person. Anyone who has ever been on an internet date is a hot terrorism suspect based on current techniques.

6. Culture and leisure; this is about identifying if there is a rich and rewarding
culture and opportunities to participate in leisure activities.  GoodGym is an organisation that connects people who want to get fit, with physical tasks that need to be done and benefit the community. So rather than mindlessly pound a treadmill you can run to an elderly neighbours garden that needs digging. Great concept.

7. Spirituality; the choice to practice which religion you choose, access to spiritual and philosophical teachings. An example is the Meditator app for smart phone has been developed to enable more people to relax and experience the benefits of meditation.

8. Education; this places the importance on enriching educational opportunities the enable people to function effectively in society. An example of a project enabling better educational opportunities is the US Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP). Based on the premise that levels of achievement are often inhibited by low expectations, KIPP uses the slogan ‘work hard be nice’ to build the confidence and expectations of students from undeserved communities that they will go to, and do well at college.

9. Governance; so whether there is democracy, fairness and freedom of expression. Social media has given the masses a voice and the ability to spread campaigning messages. There are many examples of groups coming together to have a voice or take action; from the organization of the riots in London last summer to the uprising in Egypt last January.

Jordan’s final point was that using innovation and creativity to create a better quality of life was for all. Not for the few that can afford it – but for everybody.

How can we better engage our creative and innovative skills to improve our individual and community wellbeing? What do you think?

PS. You can find out more about MICL at a free open day conference in London on 11 June.

Focus on where you want to go

Over the last few weeks I have been travelling in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes I have been travelling with friends and sometimes on my own.
ImageI’ve learnt lots of new things, mostly through trial and error and with the help and kindness of strangers. Who knew you were not allowed luggage on the train from Wellington? (it has its own secret carriage) Or that shops often shut at 4pm and lunch finishes at 2.30?

I’ve been grateful to many people for their directions and help. I also have several observations.

  • People are kind and happy to help – and pleased to be asked for help.
  • People are proud of and keen to tell you about the area in which they live.
  • People like to recommend places to go and things to do and see.
  • People are interested in where you are from and how you have enjoyed visiting their country.
  • Most people have a friend or relative in the UK that they wonder if you know.
  • Most people are rubbish at giving directions.

Most people are rubbish at giving directions because they know too much about the area and tell you information that is irrelevant. Most people also start by telling you the way not to go. For example….

Helpful person 1

  • Helpful person 1: “So you come out of the station and on your left you will see the water.”
  • Me: “Great – So I look for water…”
  • Helpful person 1: “Don’t go to there”

Helpful person 2

  • Helpful person 2: “Go to the end of the road. At the roundabout see the big council building, with a yellow and blue sign and to the left of that there is a park.”
  • Me: “Great – so I’m looking for a council building, yellow and blue and a park”
  • Helpful person 2: “Don’t go that way”

Helpful person 3

  • Helpful person 3: “At the bus stop you see a deli type shop with beautiful flowers in the window and it does excellent coffee.”
  • Me: “OK – looking for the deli and flowers”
  • Helpful person 3: “Don’t go that way – go the other way”

OK so I think you get it. My question is; wouldn’t it be better to focus on what I should be looking for and where I should be going, rather than giving me information about the landmarks that I should avoid?

It makes me think of a driving analogy that a friend told me.

“You are driving. The road is icy and your car spins out of control. There are telegraph posts at about 10 metre spaces along the roadside. If all you think about is not hitting the post, the likelihood is that you will hit the post as that is what you are focusing on. What you should be focusing on is aiming for the gap. You need to focus on where you are going.”

We often spend time concerned with where we don’t want to go, whether in work, relationships, life or simply giving directions to hapless travellers.

If we focus on where we do want to go rather than on where we don’t want to go, surely we stand more chance of arriving at the right destination?