Does technology-led social innovation in Australia have to be blue-sky?
I'll get to the point of this blog post in a moment… but first:
I blogged about FutureGov's Australian Patchwork pilot back in March. This is a recording of FutureGov's Dominic Campbell presenting at a "BlueSky" session hosted by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI):
Its well worth listening to the whole ~40 minutes of Dominic's presentation. He and FutureGov have been involved in a number of social innovation projects in the UK:
- Patchwork - a simple web application which allows users across multiple agencies to quickly and simply access the contact details of other front line staff working with their clients.
- Casserole - a neighbourhood food sharing scheme that connects people cooking at home with others in their community who could benefit from a home-cooked meal.
- Simpl Challenges - challenge platform for local government and organisations, helping them to run events that kick start and support brilliant ideas for local and social good.
- Enabled-By-Design - a social enterprise focused on improving the design of independent living products and services.
If you are reading this in Australia, one of the interesting things to note about all of these projects is the way they have been developed in partnership with government and other social innovation funds, such as NESTA and Nominet Trust. Corporations, such as Google, have also played a role in supporting early stages of the innovation process.
This level of support is notably absent in Australia, but has been critical in kick starting these projects. For example, Casserole is one of a series of projects funded through NESTA based on a £34million (~AU$57million) package from the UK Cabinet Office's Minister for Civil Society.
In comparison, the recent GovHack event did offer financial "prizes":
"There is over $50k in the national prize pool and a further $120k of local prizes for which local participants compete. Individual prizes are typically $1000 but included in the prize pool are a number of larger general, entrepreneur and developer prizes to assist teams to continue developing their ideas beyond GovHack."
Unfortunately, the largest awards were actually for mentoring and education (a $40K and $10K prize). The funding range for the other awards was between $385 (in kind donation) to $5,000.
Lets compare the Nominet Trust's latest program, Social Tech, Social Change funding program that is offering to fund 20 programs for 12 months with £50,000 (~AU$80,000).
If you take the time to explore the Patchwork blog archives, you can clearly see that social innovation solutions like Patchwork simply don't appear as the result of a single weekend of hacking - like any successful startup, it takes passion, time and money. (btw its also nice to see mention of my former Headshift UK colleagues in the archives tool!)
Finally, why should we invest this level of funding into technology-enable social innovation - because it will eventually save the community money and deliver better outcomes:
The LIFE Programme, another project my former Headshift UK colleagues were also involved with, is interesting because, like Patchwork, technology is an important part of the overall solution:
"The average front line social worker spends just 14% of their time with their clients. The Life Team workers aim to spend 80% of their time with their clients. This is achieved through technology and a specific programme structure."
So, what do we need to do next to move from blue-sky thinking to actually doing? Discuss.