Cancer Research recently announced plans to launch a mobile phone game, GeneGame. Anyone who has a smartphone will be able to download the game, which takes 5 minutes and involves analysing gene data. It is part of Cancer Research’s ‘Citizen Science’ initiative, which involves asking people to help the charity analyse large amounts of data. You can read more about GeneGame on UK Fundraising.
I am a big fan of this idea. It is fantastic to see a charity doing something so innovative. And it got me thinking about the way charities use the term ‘innovation.’ There’s a lot of talk about it in the sector at the moment. In my experience though, not every organisation is truly innovative, whatever they might say. It requires guts, leadership and fresh thinking. It takes a certain appetite for risk to do it well, and the confidence to handle the consequences if it doesn’t work out.
GeneGame follows Cancer Research’s Dryathlon campaign, which used social gamification ideas to raise £4 million for research. What I love about both these initiatives is that they involve their stakeholders every step of the way.
I do worry though that the larger charities are most commonly associated with innovation. Of course it takes money and the right skills to get new ideas off the ground, but there are thousands of smaller charities all over the UK who are doing things differently . One example is the Three Faiths Forum, whose aim is to build understanding and positive relations between people of different faiths, beliefs and cultures. They have won UN awards for Intercultural Innovation.
Philip Ybring, their Communications Manager, told me that, ‘We have also developed a leadership programme for university students of different faiths and beliefs – ParliaMentors – where 45 aspiring leaders/year are mentored by MPs in Parliament and work on social action projects together. As a result, understanding and connections are built primarily through shared action.’ Three Faiths Forum now reach over 10,000 people a year and Ybring says that external evaluation has confirmed that ‘young people are more comfortable interacting with people of different faiths and beliefs, show a developed ability to identify prejudice and to challenge discrimination as well as improvements in their ability to appreciate and promote shared values of respect and tolerance.’
Both Cancer Research and Three Faiths Forum’s work show that innovation is an attitude. And in my view it doesn’t always have to involve big budgets, or lots of digital expertise.
I’d love to hear more examples of charities, both small and large, who are being genuinely innovative. Please do share them.