New solutions, impact at scale: innovation for the many not the few

Words Julie Temperley

Scale is a word on many lips and wish lists. And nowhere is scale a more urgent or important priority than in our public services. So how do you scale an innovation that works? How do you persuade and support people to adopt a new solution to a wicked problem that actually has impact?

In January 2018 three major reports about scaling innovation were published. Adoption and spread of innovation in the NHS, Growing innovative models of health, care and support for adults and last but by no means least Against the Odds, the result of a two year collaboration between the Health Foundation and Innovation Unit to better understand how to successfully scale innovation in the NHS.

Against the Odds launched on Wednesday 25 January sparking interest and debate at the event itself, on social media and in the press. Delighted as we were to have engaged the attention of so many smart and busy people, we were also unsurprised.

Scale is a word on many lips and wish lists. And nowhere is scale a more urgent or important priority than in our public services.

We are rapidly running out of money and time to fix some of our biggest challenges: too few hospital beds for our sick; not enough decent, affordable care for our elderly; too many young people beating a path from care to custody; too little support for adults with mental health problems to recover, even less for children, and so on.

But this is not one of those ‘everything-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart’ blogs. This is a good news story, albeit punctuated with a little frustration at times. Because if there is one thing of which we are increasingly certain, it is this – whatever the social challenge, someone, somewhere has a brilliant new solution that works.

At Innovation Unit we are privileged to work with energetic, inspiring leaders and practitioners innovating in public services; developing and testing new solutions to wicked problems.

  • As part of the Spring Consortium and with the Department for Education we are working with commissioners and providers as part of the Innovation Programme in Children’s Social Care to develop new ways to keep children safe and give young people who are in care loving homes.
  • In West London we are working with the CCG and our partners PPL as they develop new approaches to care for people over 65, helping to refine and grow their new integrated care service, My Care, My Way.
  • And in Australia in Elevate, we are working alongside AISNSW and schools across New South Wales to design new models of learning that will help all their students reach their full potential.

The problem is not a dearth of great ideas or evidence-based practice, but the know how to scale these beyond their birthplace.

So how do you scale an innovation that works? How do you persuade and support other people, not the innovators, to adopt a new solution to a wicked problem that actually has impact?

It is a massive challenge and much thinking has understandably focused on the failure of new solutions to scale; the failure to deliver on their promise of improvement for many and not just the few.  

Understanding why things haven’t worked is incredibly helpful. For instance Adoption and spread of innovation in the NHS offers an analysis of relative spending on innovation and adoption, which delivers a powerful ‘ah-ha’ moment for anyone wondering why this is so hard.

 

Adoption and spread of innovation in the NHS, The Kings’ Fund, 2018

Adoption and spread of innovation in the NHS, The Kings’ Fund, 2018

 

But the good news is, there is good news here too.

In Against the Odds we examine ten health innovations that have scaled. We look at the key reasons why certain innovative products, pathways, and models of care scale, and what this might mean for how we can support other innovations to do so successfully.

This positive and optimistic outlook is borne of Innovation Unit’s longstanding interest in and commitment to scale. We know that scale is possible because our ambitious and determined partners make it so, and we have learned with and from them how to make it happen.

Right now, we are applying our knowledge and experience to ensure that new solutions have impact at scale in the following areas:

  • Asset-based Children’s Social Care – supporting Wigan Council to deliver a system-wide transformation programme that offers the promise of improved outcomes and reduced costs by implementing a range of innovations grown out of the DfE’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.
  • New models of school for disengaged young people – bringing the first Big Picture Learning school from the US to Doncaster in order to radically improve the life chances of young people failed by the current system.

We are also supporting the NHS Innovation Accelerator and its Fellows to learn about and implement approaches to scaling their innovations and selling them into the NHS. And in West London we are supporting the scaling of My Care, My Way to around 20 other GP practices through the development of an Integrated Community Team.

Beyond the UK we are working with UNICEF and the Aga Khan Foundation and their Education Services as they figure out how to scale powerful education technology in some of the most resource constrained and challenging parts of the world. A member of our team has also recently published a report exploring how student-centred approaches to learning can scale and spread beyond their site of origin.

To find out more about Innovation Unit’s work on scale and to download a copy of Against the Odds, please visit our website.

And if you have developed a new solution that you need help to scale, or if you are looking to adopt a new solution from elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Heather Rollinson, our Director of Innovation Consultancy, to hear about our approach to supporting scaling.