2012 October - Innovation

In the eye of the beholder?

October 2012
Full report of this meeting available here.

Many current funding programmes (especially those run by the boroughs) expressly ask for innovative ideas and approaches, linking innovation to sustainability, reduced reliance on public funds and greater efficiency and effectiveness. A recent London Funders discussion looked at whether funders are right to be pursuing innovation with these goals in mind? How do we recognise it?  How do we measure it? Does it always involve risk? What’s the difference between innovative and new? Does innovative always mean “better” or just “different”? See the meeting report here

This meeting heard from:

Alice Casey, Senior Development Manager, NESTA, who  drew on examples of their projects Neighbourhood Challenge (in partnership with BIG Lottery Fund) and Innovation in Giving and also cited the  Alliance for Useful Evidence. While stimulating innovation is a prime purpose of NESTA, Alice argues for keeping it in proportion: it is not the answer to everything! For funders it also carries a high degree of risk. Perhaps it is best described as the process of finding good ideas, which are only innovative when applied in practice.

The rest of the meeting took the form of a conversation on how two boroughs are seeking to fund innovation:

Lucy Ashall, Third Sector Development Officer, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea gave an overview of their new innovation fund which will distribute £1.5 million over three years. Organisations of all kinds have been invited to bid to offer new approaches, new services or target new client groups. Sustainability will be a main criterion used in the borough’s decision-making. Applications are being asked to address social isolation, improving life skills or community resilience.

Ann Wynne, Outcomes and Evaluation Programme and Jenny Parkin, Employee Engagement Adviser, London Borough of Camden outlined a different approach to innovation. Here, the same amount of money (£1.5 million) was made available, but over two years. Launched last autumn, the fund is now in round 2 of applications. Wanting more engagement with communities in the second round, the council invited shortlisted applicants to present a short pitch to an audience of 70 people, made up of local residents, businesspeople and community activists. A live voting system was used to select finalists and now 10 projects are in the development testing phase.

Image: http://www.thinkbiggrowfast.net/2012/08/06/think-innovate-how-to-turn-innovation-into-cash/