This is a guest blog from Sarah Sinnott of Catch22. Sarah builds partnerships to create social impact at Catch22 – a social business that has been thinking differently about delivering services to vulnerable people for over 200 years.
Innovation is no longer a nice to have, as Lucy Gower says, it’s “urgent and important”. At Catch22 we’re interested in innovation in all aspects of our work from frontline delivery, data capture, social finance / investment and models of sustainability. So how do we make it happen?
- Take risks
Innovation and risk go hand in hand and therefore as a sector we need to be better at embracing it. Innovation needs investments of time, resource, support (to succeed and fail) and some structure for it to focus on. This kind of investment isn’t often available and hence the leadership from funders (like Nominet Trust, Google and Nesta) in terms of legitimising and embracing innovation is essential. Be open and ready for opportunities where funders will let you take risks, they are increasingly there as long as you’re looking.
We did this with Nominet Trust who enabled us to embark on our first digital project, The Social Action App. With no track record of digital development, but a clear vision of improving chances for young people by digitalising social action, they offered us the freedom and the resources to try something risky and new…
- Try something new
Catch22 has just launched a Fellowship to scale good ideas, support social entrepreneurialism and embrace innovative approaches. It’s early days and the first of its kind in the sector but we hope it will demonstrate how bigger organisations can better embrace innovation. http://www.catch-22.org.uk/news/catch22-launches-first-fellowship-social-entrepreneurialism-dr-charlie-howard/
- Don’t fail too fast
Ideas are easy, delivery is tough so despite the current zeitgeist of ‘fail fast’, remember that implementation is not always easy but that’s the point, and that’s why you’re doing it. Get senior level buy in and make sure you hold your nerve for as long as possible. The Social Action App has been quietly building momentum for 18 months now and just this week the recognition of Google proves it’s been worth it. Catch22 is now a finalist in the 2014 Google Impact Challenge and in the running to win a £0.5million grant for the app.
- Don’t bother about trying to be innovative
One sure way to kill innovation is to focus too much on it. The interesting things happen in your rear view mirror, in your peripheral vision. So don’t try to search for the next big innovative thing and then build the structures to tie it all down. Rather build your organisation and your staff’s abilities to spot opportunity and be flexible about introducing it into your existing work. You’ll need to be good at connecting ideas and networking people and eeking out scarce resource to do this rather than managing and counting and measuring.