Tag Archives: hack

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?


The World at my Feet

That’s just it, we all have the world at our feet. The challenge is whether we choose to embrace it or not.

I’ve travelled to many far-flung places, and for me, travelling represents a departure from normal life, experiencing new places, meeting new people who are different from you. It’s about freedom and escapism. Putting on a backpack with only a rough plan of where I’m going or how I’m getting there is such a departure from my normal planned and structured every day life. Recently I’ve discovered that you don’t have to travel far to feel the buzz of travelling, sometimes some of the most beautiful places, magical people and unique experiences are right there on your doorstep, if you just care to take a closer look.

I work for a charity and last week I was invited to climb Ingleborough which is one of the three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park by some of our volunteers who are leading a sponsored challenge walk there in September. They wanted me to come and experience it for myself. Although I lived not far away, in Leeds as a student for four years, my student days didn’t involve much hiking outdoors, more drinking indoors. So getting out into the Yorkshire Dales was a long overdue missed opportunity.

The climb to the top of Ingleborough took about 2 hours, the scenery on the way was spectacular, rolling hills, forests, small houses dotted across the landscape.

Beryl, a volunteer, has lived in the area for 50 years, since she got married. She was a mine of information with stories about the people who lived there as well as being a historic encyclopaedia. It was fascinating how Beryl talks about Ingleborough with so much love and compassion; she lives there and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She is an amazing woman, she knows everyone in the whole local community, she is on charity committees organising dinners, raffles, events and has raised a lot of money and respect. And she knows how to really laugh.

The views from the top were amazing, and for me to be there was a real achievement.  The only others there were a scattering of sheep, looking a bit puzzled and a couple of people. A father and daughter doing a sponsored walk to raise money for the daughters trip with Raleigh International to go to Borneo. Beryl gave her all her loose change.

Travelling is about the people you meet, the stories you hear and stories you become  a part of, the food you eat, the scents you smell and taking a leap of faith in yourself, doing something you wouldn’t normally do. You don’t have to travel far and wide, you just have to be you and immerse yourself totally in your experiences where-ever in the world that may be. That’s what makes life, and travel rich. Beryl bought Ingleborough to life for me. Go on, I very dare you to step out of the ordinary tomorrow. You have the world at your feet and the only person that can take a giant step to embrace the world is you.

If you want to find out more about climbing Ingleborough for charity follow this link.