Transforming Early Years: looking for innovators…

January 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm 5 comments

 By Matthew Horne

We are looking for innovators…

Effective early years services give our children the start in life they deserve. We know that they are not yet delivering everything to which we aspire, and yet the funding crunch places existing support for families with very young children at risk.   

NESTA and the Innovation Unit believe that this tension can only be resolved through ingenuity. We need to radically rethink the ways in which we support families with very young children, rather than simply tweaking existing solutions to be more efficient or cutting back on services altogether. 

We are looking for early years innovators working in localities from statutory, private and third sector organisations who work with families with young children. We want these leaders/social entrepreneurs who think that we can do much better working with families to strengthen them and make the more resilient and get better outcomes for children even if  funding is reduced over the next 5 years.

We want to  ensure that any innovation actually happens and changes local systems of provision. To that end we are also looking for inspired local system leaders ( from the Council or PCT ) who want to change the way early years services are commissioned and organised and are prepared to work and learn from innovators in a locality.

This programme will work with local providers of early years children’s services, front-line staff and communities to transform locality-based services so that they:

  • Significantly improve outcomes for young families;
  • Demonstrate a 30+% reduction in costs within 3 years.

Over the next 12 months, NESTA and the Innovation Unit will trial tools and approaches that help these local partners to find innovative ways of delivering radically better and more affordable early years services – and give them the support necessary to make their ideas a success.

The lessons from this national programme, on how we can continue to radically improve services in times of major spending constraints, will support leaders of children’s and other public services across the country.

About NESTA’s Public Services Innovation Lab

Daunting challenges face the UK’s public services, not least climate change, declining health and a rapidly ageing population.

At the same time, the economic downturn and tighter spending constraints are putting immense pressure on our public services to find more efficient and cost effective methods of delivery, without compromising on quality.

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is applying its expertise to find innovative ways of delivering our public services. More effective solutions at cheaper cost will only come through ingenuity.

Our Public Services Innovation Lab is trialling some of the most innovative solutions and bringing them to scale across the country’s public services.

About the Innovation Unit

The Innovation Unit (IU)is a not for profit social enterprise with a strong track record of supporting innovation in the third sector, education and children’s services, and local government. We are interested in ‘radical efficiency’ in public services – innovation that significantly improves outcomes and reduces costs.

The IU is currently exploring examples of radical efficiency in public services across the globe, in a research project funded by NESTA. This work on international case-studies of ‘different, better and affordable’ public services tells us that by taking a new perspective on major social challenges – and getting creative about the resources and suppliers deployed to resolve them – it will be possible to ride out this financial crisis, with far better services at the other end of it.

You can read more about both the methodology and emerging findings on the Innovation Unit website here:

To find our more get in touch on


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services, Innovation Policy, Local Authorities, Local Innovation, Public Services, Radical Efficiency, Third Sector Innovation.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. clay barham  |  January 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    The most valued gold are the pebbles dropped into the placid waters by pebble-droppers who make waves and wakes with their individual ingenuity, as cited in Save Pebble Droppers & Prosperity on Amazon and If we continue to discourage and Obamanize individual interests, there will be no innovation, that which made America so prosperous.

    • 2. Matthew Horne  |  January 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      Clay, What point are you trying to make?

  • 3. KC Chan-Herur  |  February 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    It is never too early to start encouraging a culture of innovation. Some examples that might inspire potential new thinking and applications:

    1. – A top innovation consultancy, chaired by David Kelley, who is a professor at Stanford University. Check their social innovation portfolio and generous free toolkits. IDEO’s UK office is in London.

    2. Stanford University, School of Education, has a program for low-income elementary school that is most innovative. Check It has a close working relationship with the Nueva School.

    3. – Innovative PreK-8 school that schools & educators from around the
    US & world visit to learn about its passionate learners, philosophy, curriculum, social emotional learning program and Innovation-Lab. The I-Lab was designed by the Nueva faculty and students with the Stanford (graduate design program.)

    KC Chan-Herur
    Managing Director

  • 4. uberVU - social comments  |  February 2, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by laurabunt: Looking for early years innovators! To transform services for families with v. young children…Get in touch for info

  • […] This is why the Innovation Unit is looking at building resilience within families, encouraging and supporting families to be better equipped to deal with everything life throws at them. We’re working with providers of early years services to come up with some radical innovation to support families with very young children to become more resilient. You can read more on this in Matthew’s post here. […]


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