Adopt and adapt

We work with local places and systems to implement the boldest and best innovations, that have the strongest evidence of impact from elsewhere. We work closely with local partners to help them ‘adopt’ the core and essential elements that have been proved to make an impact and ‘adapt’ the features of an innovation to reflect different contexts and different local needs.

What does ‘adopt and adapt’ mean?

Our own adopt and adapt methodology has been used many times to scale an innovation from where it originated to multiple new sites. Our approach is particularly effective for systems innovations involving many local partners, and requiring changes in practice, organisation, collaboration, funding, governance and accountability.

Unlike a ‘lift and shift’ approach – which 100% replicates what happened in the original site across new sites – our adopt and adapt approach holds true to the innovation’s core values, principles and approaches to practice. At the same time we flex new ways of working, structures and operating models that reflect a locality’s unique circumstances as well as building on what already works well.

This approach offers fidelity and flex – fidelity to a set of core values and principles, which have delivered successful change elsewhere, and flex that responds to the particular needs and strengths in a different place and context.

Why would ‘adopt and adapt’ benefit my organisation?

By adopting innovations that have been tested elsewhere, places have a stronger evidence base supporting the changes that they make – this includes evidence of impact, viability and feasibility. This reduces the risks to different partners in a system, and increases confidence when embarking on complex and large scale change. Local systems are also reassured that they will be able to build on and grow the existing strengths in their system, and they are not about to implement a one size fits all approach. Places also benefit from the investments, lessons and mistakes made elsewhere, significantly reducing the at-risk investment costs, and reducing the timescales to a new approach going live.

Why work with Innovation Unit on ‘adopt and adapt’?

Innovation Unit has developed our adopt and adapt methodology over many years, and learned hard lessons from experience of applying this approach in different places, systems and sectors. In particular we are grateful for all that we have learned from working alongside our partners and clients on a range of different programmes.

We have developed a range of tools and resources to help the adopt and adapt process. We know how to ‘hold’ teams adopting innovation through difficult, and daunting change. We also work hard to keep everyone enthused to meet their original aspirations. We support adopters to make a compelling case for change, develop their theory of change, and identify the outcomes and indicators to use in evaluation. We support adopters to coproduce their new model with their local communities, and design, test and prototype their adaptations before implementing at scale. Our team also provides a proper two-way partnership, acting as facilitators, coaches and critical friends.

How does ‘adopt and adapt’ work in practice?

The National Lottery Community Fund supported our Living Well programme, working with mental health systems in Salford, Tameside & Glossop, and Edinburgh to adopt and adapt the Living Well system first developed in Lambeth, South London.

Through this programme we help mental health trusts, voluntary organisations, local authorities and people with lived experience of mental health issues to transform adult community mental health services and close the gap between primary and secondary care.

The DfE appointed Innovation Unit and Mutual Ventures to deliver its five-year Strengthening Family, Protecting Children programme to scale three innovations – No Wrong Door, Family Safeguarding and Leeds Family Valued – across 15 local authorities.

We work alongside the three inspiring innovators, North Yorkshire County Council, Hertfordshire County Council and Leeds City Council, as they support the adopting authorities to change their local children and young people’s services to help more families stay together safely, by changing behaviours and building healthy relationships that last.