Innovation Unit’s role in place-based transformation

Innovation Unit has a strong track-record of place-based transformation of public services – transformation that cuts across service and sector boundaries in a place to create much better outcomes for the people using them.

This is one part of a much bigger picture in wholesale transformation of place, which we believe shares many of the same practices and principles for success.

  • Alliance for Complex Lives: transforming support for adults with complex lives in Doncaster – a place-based solution to rough sleeping.
  • My Care My Way: integrating health and social care for the over-65s in West London.
  • No Wrong Door: a holistic, place-based offer for adolescents in or on the edge of the care that aims to reduce the number of young people coming into care, and to support those already in care to find permanence in a family based setting.

There are some key skills that underpin our ability to do this work with real, long term impact. We believe these make us a powerful, potential partner for many different kinds of place-based transformation:

  • Convening: our ability to convene, and facilitate difficult conversations – bringing together diverse groups with different interests to find a common way forward, without flinching from the hard stuff
  • Connecting: our ability to link up a system from top to bottom and side to side, so that different players can actually hear each other, begin to understand each other’s perspectives, build relationships and collective action. Helping participants to grow a common language and agenda, and speaking different languages at different times to help this to happen
  • Learning: our ability to generate insight from action whilst it is happening, and to use this to help our partners to adapt their work and keep heading in the right direction. Understanding the work as a ‘probe’ – as much about offering clues as to what next, as being the end in itself
  • Grounding: enabling lived experience to have a voice – not just enabling participative research but producing materials that travel, and experiences that bring them to life and encourage diverse coalitions to consider the implications
  • Enabling: we have tools and processes to build the capacity of local people to do this work for themselves, over time.

And, of course, we also have core offers that could be powerful tools to support place-based transformation:

  • We help local systems to adopt and adapt innovations that have been successful elsewhere, by helping them understand where fidelity is essential, and where things need to flex to fit a new context.
  • We help local systems of public services improve outcomes and reduce inequality, by developing a shared vision for change, designing and testing new solutions, and mobilising a local alliance that can deliver change long after we have gone.
  • We design and deliver innovation programmes that develop new ideas, test and evaluate promising innovations, and spread and scale the most successful.
  • We play the role of learning partner: helping organisations and systems learn from practice, research evidence and lived experience. We run formative evaluations and deliver learning programmes that connect and share learning between innovators and adopters.

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