A few years ago, if I had to go to a meeting in London, I pulled out my trusty A to Z of the capital and found the street I was looking for. Often it was a struggle. These days my phone finds my destination immediately.
But if it wasn’t for the humble compass there would be no satellites and global positioning systems. The discovery of the compass was a breakthrough that ignited the Age of Discovery and won Europe the wealth and power that later helped fuel the Industrial Revolution.
The compass was an invention. The way it developed, however – the ins and outs of its design and development – that was all about innovation by some of history’s greatest minds.
And that’s pretty much what is going on, on a small scale, in care and support. Pointing the way are many great examples of innovation – approaches to care and support that are designed around what really matters to people.
This is discussed in a joint report from Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Nesta: Growing Innovative Models of Health, Care and Support for Adults.
The conclusion of that report? That the challenge for those wishing to innovate in care and support services is to scale up smaller, community-focused successes so that many more people can benefit.
In the same way that the first compass-users needed to navigate choppy waters, care policy makers and providers have a great opportunity to chart the creation of innovative services based on what citizens are saying is important to them. Furthermore, they can build on what some organisations are already doing to provide support in new and exciting ways.
TLAP, SCIE and Shared Lives Plus are now taking this to the next stage, with the creation of a DHSC-funded Social Care Innovation Network.
This network will bring together innovative providers, commissioners and citizens to identify the key ingredients that will support shifting innovative approaches from the margins of care and support delivery into mainstream practice.
The network can support local authority commissioners, local partners, care providers and others to test new ideas and share learning and support with others.
So TLAP will be doing things like developing a ‘directory of innovation’ to support commissioners and, together with SCIE and Shared Lives Plus, developing a digital platform, which will draw together learning from the group to make tools, ideas and good practice examples available to a large audience.
We will also deliver face-to-face action learning events to look at specific challenges and identify practical solutions. The network will initially be made up a small group of innovators and commissioners. You can register an interest now.
The network will be expanded to include others committed to growing innovation and the learning materials generated will be openly available.
So, what’s the direction of travel for innovation in the care and support sector?
Well, I hope it’s well on the way to becoming a default approach to improving people’s experiences, outcomes and lives.
In the same way I use the phone in my pocket to find my onward destination, I believe social care innovators are likewise navigating a speedier and more creative path to deliver support that fits with what people say they want more than anything: happier, healthier, independent living.