by Mandy Cowden
Last week the Trust went on a study visit to Glasgow to learn more about Social Innovation at the Unusual Suspects Festival. Mandy Cowden, Community Social Work Broker at Clare CIC came along and here’s what she thought about it all…
It is not a label I had considered before but am delighted to now think of myself as an ‘unusual suspect’ after attending the Unusual Suspects Festival in Glasgow which was billed as an opportunity to bring the social innovation community together.
I hadn’t even realised I was part of a community either, because working with social innovation often feels like being out on one’s own or with a small group of like- minded people.
The festival gave me a chance to see CLARE’s work as part of a wider movement and two sessions in particular stood out for me.
Session One: A Better Future; What Kind of Social Care do we want?
This session was attended by a really interesting and diverse group of people and facilitated by the Coalition of Care and Support Providers, the Institute of Research and Innovation in Scotland, Collaborate and Edinburgh College of Art.
What struck me most was indeed the variety of people present and their collective willingness to look at what role innovation will play in what social care will look like in the future.
When we split into discussion groups I was so impressed by the fantastic work people are engaging in.
For example, a retired gentleman who, having helped set up universities in Scotland, is now out of retirement and trying to build volunteer networks to support people in the islands of Scotland; there were similarities with my own work in CLARE.
We spent some time in the session talking about personalised support and innovation – the use of one-page profiles to ask service users essential questions such as; what is important to me? What do people like about me? What can you do to support me?
As part of the session, Collaborate http://collaboratei.com/ a London based group, discussed some of their research into the need to collaborate in order to bring about transformation of how we provide support and they provided copies of Collaboration Readiness and also The Collaborative Citizen.
Session Two: Creating the Conditions For Social Innovation to Flourish
This session was facilitated by the Melting Pot an organisation set up to stimulate and support social innovation and focussed on a piece of research they had completed which set out five conditions necessary to make social innovation flourish.
This session was a natural lead on from the Better Future workshop and made us think about how we make social innovation happen.
I thought about this in connection with my own work as a community social worker in a very innovative project seeking to change what support looks like and how it is delivered.
Five key areas were identified that I could easily see connections with our work at CLARE in:
Encourage – A recognition of the need for support for workers and service users who do question the status quo and want to take risks.
Foster Connections, Creativity and Ideas – collaboration but not just across sectors and professions. I think it is also vital to plan in partnership with service users’ experiences of current services and their aspirations.
Cultivate Local Solutions – working not just from the community upwards but from the views of people who use services themselves. This has been the CLARE approach, to talk to individuals about what they want but also to see the broader connecting issues across communities.
Create Safe Spaces for learning and reflection. As a practitioner engaged in innovative work having the opportunity to speak to others engaged in service development is vital.
I also think our service users need to be able to talk about their hopes and fears about embarking on new ways of getting services such as self -directed support.
For me challenging the status quo and being innovative is a partnership approach between those needing support and those trying to find personalised ways to deliver it.
Invest in Social Innovation – Changing how money is spent, looking at delivering meaningful outcomes and investing in preventative supports.
In conclusion, I think we all need to be innovators of social change and work together collaboratively to design better personalised support because, from a selfish perspective, we are investing in what we are most likely to need in the future ourselves.
A huge positive for me in these sessions was this opportunity to share in the positive culture of innovation. I have come away with lots of e-mail addresses of people I want to talk to more.
This blog first appeared on the Building Change Trust’s website.