Turn your innovative ideas into reality!!
Anyone can create new ideas or try to innovate – what is critical is whether you test and implement an innovation. By following these four steps, charities can make sure they follow through on their innovative ideas: 1- Ideas and innovation The first step in any innovation process is to generate ideas. No idea is a silly idea and it is critical that as many people as possible engage – which means gathering ideas both internally and externally. The process should consult staff, partners, customers, funders and even competitors. Then you should prioritise and make sense of these ideas. Idea management platforms such as Wazoku do this kind of thing well. The goal must be to find a structured way to catergorise and prioritise your ideas, so that your long list becomes a shortlist. 2- Incubation The next step is to incubate the best ideas. One way to do this is to develop a concept paper and use it to consult stakeholders. Incubation could just be further theoretical development, or it could move into piloting or an initial roll-out of the idea. Do collaborate with others, but be strong enough to roll out the best ideas and test them yourself, see what works and what doesn't and agree a clear focus. For example, in the video games industry new games are tested with avid users before full release. It is also critical to measure the success and lessons from your incubation phase. Don't let innovation be an endless idea fest! 3- Implementation Once you have incubated your best ideas, it is time to focus on an issue, a solution, or a set of sensible parameters and implement your idea fully. At Save the Children, they chose to implement Families and Schools Together (Fast), an evidence-based programme that helps parents build healthy relationships with their children in school and at home. Save the Children have used their fundraising capacity and enduring commitment to improving children's outcomes to grow and scale the intervention across the UK, and they are also working to track and monitor the implementation. Fast has also always had a dedicated set of resources and people working on it, and once a proven success it could be scaled and rolled out further. This enabled it to gain both internal and external buy-in from bodies such as local authorities, voluntary and community organisations and the Department for Education as well from as parents. 4- Exit or sustain The final step in any innovation process is choosing to either exit or sustain the project. The innovation can't go on for ever! I recommend either developing a plan for transition to exit or stabilising the idea so it becomes embedded in the the day-to-day working of the charity along with the other services that you already deliver. There are also long-term implications to keep in mind. If the project can be sustained, it is important to think about long-term ownership, whereas if you decide to exit then there will be lessons to learn and transfer to future innovations. Don't forget that, even if the project becomes self-sustaining, at some point you will need to send it back through the innovation process to check that it is still relevant, and perhaps make plans to adapt or replace it altogether. In these circumstances, the innovation process is very much an iterative one.