Opportunities through the Social Innovation Programme

Five of the social innovation workshops have been held already with six more to come throughout Northern Ireland in the next five weeks. You can get more information and book online here.

The heart of the design thinking process is about empathising with people who use our services and keeping the focus on their needs. We have learnt to delay coming up with ideas or solutions until we have truly understood the people we providing our services /products for. The process has also taught us the importance of generating lots of new and varied ideas based on what we have learnt that the empathise and define stages and pushing ourselves to reframe the challenges that we face. Only then should we start to prototype our ideas and then test them with our users. We need to be prepared to take risks and fail fast if needs be.

The two parts of the programme are:

  1. Skills Programme
  2. Techies in residence

After completing one of these you can then apply for a seed fund of £10K-20K

It has been good to involve some of those that were part of the programme last year in the workshops to share their experience of the process and the impact that it has had on them. Mary Ryan CEO of MACS came to our Portadown session to talk about what they had learnt from the Social Innovation Skills Programme. She said:

We came to the programme with the challenge of doing something for children at a younger stage as whenever the young people come to us they already have a lot of complex issues. The process challenged us to think differently and we have now changed how we approach the issue. We involved a range of experts with different skills and expertise – staff, managers, young people through the care system. Through the process we have come up with the idea of a real home for children aged 5 years and above, we don’t want it to be like a children’s home. We went to visit other homes in County Tipperary and Clare which have informed our practice and staffing model and we plan to go to Denmark in November to look at therapeutic communities. We worked on the prototype and built a model house. At all stages we were thinking of the child who would live in the house, the process encouraged us to be imaginative and we wrote a story about a young child who we were doing this for, which made it real.

We are using the seed funding for a feasibility study and tendered for experts to do this in collaboration, to establish need and look at houses. We are also talking to experts about therapeutic parenting.

The process has really helped us and the facilitators were brilliant. The programme kept us to task and kept momentum going. We would not be where we are now without the input of the programme.

You must be prepared to take a risk and try something new

The other part of the programme – techies in residence – have a short film that introduces us to each of the organisations that took part last year and tells us what they have achieved so far.

The deadline for applications is 1 December 2017. The application is really straight forward and focuses on the challenge that you would like to address – this could be an organisational challenge or a societal issue that needs to be addressed in a new and innovative way. You don’t need to know the answer or the solution just why it needs to be addressed and how that would be beneficial. You can apply online and if you want to chat about it please don’t hesitate to contact Paul Braithwaite at Social Innovation NI.

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