Social Innovation Camp in Edinburgh

I still don’t really know why the Social Innovation Camp format works, but it does. Last weekend we had another great event up in Edinburgh with six teams of fantastic people all trying to take back-of-the-envelope ideas through to working prototypes that could become new social ventures.

The things that struck me this time about the experience were:

  • How much people learn about the issues — This tweet from Paolo of the Invisible Ramps team was pretty striking, but a lot of other people told me they’d been surprised how different it was building web or mobile tools when the people who are affected by the problem you’re trying to solve are there with you.
  • How it gives people confidence in their own abilities — a few people have said how surprised they were that they could pull off such a big task in the space of a weekend. We also have a pretty good track record of helping people rethink their own careers so they can actually do what we do at a Social Innovation Camp during the rest of the working week too.
  • How good some people are at facilitating and project managing in such an intense environment — herding cats in this particular environment is a very niche skill. It’s not like a single meeting but neither is it like longer term project management where you can use more complex tools. Some people are brilliant at it and it’s a joy to watch.
  • How difficult it is to do international link ups — this was the first weekend we’ve had where there were two Social Innovation Camps on at the same time — ours in Edinburgh and one in South Korea. I wish we’d been able to have more time chatting about what they were up to but the mixture of timezones and slightly dodgy sound systems and webcams meant we didn’t really get a proper chance. Here’s what they produced though.

Congratulations to all the teams. I had a lot of fun and I hope they did too. And thanks to all the people who enabled us to make it happen — we couldn’t do it without a lot of help.

Changing the way I use Twitter

Sitting down to write The Startup Factories made me realise that Twitter has had quite an impact on my concentration span. I’d got to the point with Twitter clients on my desktop, laptop and phone where I was twitchily checking it almost every few minutes and picking up a little endorphin rush each time. I started to feel like a trained rat — except one that was being trained not to write reports.

I also found that more and more of the things that I was seeing was basically puff and PR. I’ve complained that I’d rather people talked about the weather than ‘important stuff’ and that’s true. I also thought that the way that Twitter treated Tom Armitage’s Tower Bridge feed was abysmal — that was a real dent in the reputation of Twitter Inc for me.

So I’m giving up on using real time Twitter clients — I’ve uninstalled them all — and instead using a few daily services ( and are the ones I know about) to see if I can tame them to get the kind of news I want. I think I might have to build my own little extra service to just send me an email once a day with the tweets that have been retweeted but don’t contain any photos or links. They’re usually the funniest ones.

When we were at Demos there was a similar issue with email. My friend Matthew used to laugh out loud at the wrong moments. We basically used the “Staff: all” email list as a real time way of communicating in the office — and there were a few people who were very, very funny on it. It was a bit like the way people use Skype chat lists in the office now. The thing was, Matthew only used to check his email once a day so would get a concentrated burst at some point — and the laughs would alert all of us that Matthew had checked his email. The thing is Matthew was one of the best researchers and managers we ever had — not checking his email every few minutes certainly didn’t do him any harm.
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Social Innovation Camp this weekend

If you’d like to come along to Social Innovation Camp this weekend in Edinburgh, here are the ideas that we’ll be working on:

1.) invisibleRamps

When a building isn’t accessible it’s pretty easy to see what the problem is, even if you’re able-bodied: no lifts, no ramps for wheelchairs and lots of stairs. But there are many other less-visible factors that make buildings and spaces inaccessible.

For people with cognitive and psychological disabilities there are many apparently trivial changes that could make a huge difference to how they experience the built environment.

invisibleRamps is a site that helps people with those disabilities – from colour-blindness to autism – to identify features of their environment that need to be improved; collaboratively building a database of those features to allow architects, designers or employers to make spaces and buildings better.

It’s a little bit like Fix My Street for things that are harder to spot than a pothole.

2.) Homeshare

A site that matches older people who have a spare room with unpaid interns who need somewhere to stay for the duration of their internships.

The idea is that Homeshare reduces isolation and loneliness amongst older people at the same time as widening access to internship schemes.

3.) Bubble

Bubble is a mobile game for tracking and encouraging social contact between people.

The user creates ‘bubbles’ representing people they have contact with based on their existing social circle across different social media platforms. A user’s ‘bubble’ moves further away from them if they have low levels of social interaction over time. Contacts are brought closer again by the user checking in with them either online or face-to-face. The idea is to encourage people vulnerable to loneliness to maintain important social connections.

4.) Foodini

Foodini is a mobile app and website providing real-time information on local food deals.

The aim is to reduce food waste by local cafes and supermarkets by providing a platform to which they can post cut-price offers to a wide user base of bargain hunters in the local area. It’s for food from your local shop.

5.) Lend-a-hand

Befriending schemes and respite services are typically used to provide intensive, long-term support to carers. However, getting someone to provide quick, fast help with small, simple but unplanned tasks – popping to the shop for some milk, or changing a lightbulb – is more difficult to coordinate.

Lend-a-hand is a messaging tool for carers to ask family, friends and neighbours at the same time for help with quick-and-easy every-day tasks where a little bit of brief help goes a long way, leaving the carer to worry about more important things.

6.) Volunteer Impact

Inspired by the happiness-tracking app, Mappiness, Volunteer Impact is a tool for volunteers to self-measure the impact that their volunteering is having on them and the communities in which they are volunteering.

The app captures data relating to volunteers’ health, well-being, social connections, skills and confidence across a period of volunteering to show the true impact of their activity.

It’s always a really good weekend and we feed and water you from Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon. Oh and you might also just find it changes your life. Sign up here.