Designing a social innovation lab

July 14, 2010 at 10:52 am 5 comments

by Aviv Katz

For the past 6 months we’ve been working with Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council on establishing a new, cross-directorate  innovation function, or ‘social innovation lab’. Innovation Knowsley is designed to create a more innovative culture throughout the organisation and mainstream innovation thinking, practices and methods into the core activities and work of the organisation. It will be successful when it can demonstrate evidence that a culture of innovation produces better outcomes for the public, improved value for money, customer satisfaction and lower costs for the council.

Work is progressing on three fronts:

  1. Service design: we are using a service design methodology to develop the blueprint for this new function; understanding the value proposition to different audiences and users, operational requirements and unique touchpoints that will generate engagement and stimulate behaviour change.
  2. Leadership and system change: an integral part of designing a new service is preparing the ground for its eventual  scale-up. We have been working with senior leadership from the Departments of Children and Family, Neighbourhood and Regeneration and Chief Executive to create the conditions for an innovation lab to flourish under the harsh conditions of cost cutting.
  3. Demonstration: designing an embedded function that on the one hand requires radical changes of practice and on the other hand feels familiar and safe requires constant conceptualising and prooving of concepts, as you take more people along with you on the journey.

The ‘lab’s’ three domains include capacity and awareness building, policy and projects. So, we’ve jumped straight into the water and are already working on two major demonstration projects (Transforming Early Years and Child Development Grant), supporting the Child Poverty Programme team to develop new ways of working, and working with policy teams to ensure measurable, disciplined innovation is at the heart of the LAA, the Child Poverty strategy, the Children’s Trust Board and the Council as a whole. Ethnographic research and horizon scanning research that we’ve carried out is demonstrating the use of new sources of insight and informing change and transformation strategy across the council.

Our design team has worked with the Knowley’s leadership team to develop a visual identity, which will be unveiled in the next few weeks. And we are working with the Projects and Programmes function to create a robust methodology that focuses on smart, creative, effectice and people-centred project management, based in part on our Radical Efficiency work.

And if the past 6 months were intense, the next 6 will be even more so! We’ve got events, publications, online knowledge platforms and phase 2 governance arrangement to push through. But most importantly we need to demonstrate impact at several fronts by March. Our annual innovation benchmarking exercise will prove the areas in which Knowsley is developing its innovation capability; and our work on the demonstration projects will prove whether better services can be delivered at 80% or less of currently available budgets.

Some people see a mountain and get scared, others get excited and put on their climbing gear. Onwards and upwards!

More on Labs here.


Entry filed under: Local Authorities, Local Innovation, Social Innnovation.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. income tax calculator  |  July 28, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    do u have a twitter

  • 2. Jackie  |  August 5, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    This sounds very similar to the work I am doing in Kent with the SILK Team. These guys have been working with us for the past 3 years and have helped us to set up various projects. Heres a link to their website.

  • 3. aviviu  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Jackie – that is no coincidence. SILK was definitely one of the inspirations for this work and we are building on much of their successful work in designing this ‘lab’.

  • 4. Mary Rose  |  September 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

    This resonates with some of the work of the International Learning and Research Centre – a not for profit innovation and development centre. Working for the last nine years in the education and community domains, findings and outcomes from our projects are able to inform and make a contribution to the transformation of practice when taken to scale.

  • 5. Christian Bason  |  September 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Great blog. Here are some additional thoughts about the value-set underpinning social innovation labs, based on our experience.


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