We need more and different perspectives, skills and experience to meet the challenges ahead

blog | Words Sarah Gillinson | 27 Jan 2022

In 2022, we are embarking on the next phase of our evolution to maximise our positive impact in the world. Like everyone else on the planet, the past two years have been tumultuous and challenging for our team and for our work.

I’m writing this blog on a beautiful, crisp winter day and feeling cautiously optimistic.

We are relieved and grateful to have survived and learnt a vast amount as an organisation and in our personal lives too. Now we are looking to grow our team – and to strengthen it further by securing new perspectives, experiences and skills to challenge and bolster our work, and our impact.

Since early 2020 we are proud to have contributed to covid response and learning with our partners, helped to design forward differently for the future, honed our virtual delivery skills, looked after each other and kept our brilliant team together.

We spent the Autumn of 2021 reflecting on what all this adds up to for our future as an organisation. In a world of stark inequalities, big social challenges, and ‘bright spots’ illuminating new possibilities, where are the places, how and with whom should we be working to help grow a world in which ‘all people belong and contribute to thriving societies’?

Our resulting, refreshed strategy for the next two to three years is ‘tentatively bold’ – we understand that as the world continues to change around us, we must be strong in our values, clear in our offer, bold in our investments and flexible in our responses to opportunities and challenges as they arise.

At the heart of this strategy is, of course, our mission, ‘to grow and scale the boldest and best innovations that deliver long term impact for people, address persistent inequalities and transform the systems around them’.

Our big insight is that over the next few years, we must become more embedded in the systems we want to help change if we are going to realise that mission. This means doubling down in the places and markets we are already working in to deepen our understanding, impact and influence, alongside extending our reach, growing some new skill sets and evolving our business model to be able to hang around with our partners for the long term.

There is lots that we are already doing, which we are going to stick at: helping to grow and scale powerful innovations in children’s social care and adult mental health, that have impact in the short to medium term – and are beginning to disrupt and challenge the systems they are embedded in. Living Well and Strengthening Families are powerful examples of this.  We will continue to build long term relationships with local systems committed to deep change, and will strengthen our voice, nationally, to influence public debates with our learning about the future of children’s social care and adult mental health systems.

We will continue our work on innovation programmes that identify, nurture and help to spread innovation, to adopt and adapt innovations that have already been shown to be successful and enable place-based transformation that really sticks.

So far so familiar. In addition we will be stretching our reach into justice and violence reduction, and looking more specifically at health and care inequalities. These changes build directly on our learning and experience to date – our first major programme in justice and violence and reduction is Always Hope, working with care experienced young people given prison sentences to reimagine the experience of leaving prison to enable them to thrive.

We will also be evolving our offer to partners – Learning Partnerships have always been in our DNA, and are now an explicit part of what we offer. You cannot grow and scale innovations, and transform systems without consciously learning your way forward.

Internally, we have been working hard on what it really means to be an organisation focused on tackling inequalities – as a place to work, and in our practice with partners. We have been learning and acting on what it means to become an anti-racist organisation in particular, refreshing our policies, our approach to recruitment, reviewing pay and progression and our research practice in order to live our values. We have made a long-term commitment to cycles of action and learning.

Finally, we are evolving our business model to travel with our partners over the long term – not as consultants who come in and out – but as committed investors and partners in the future of a place. We are currently prototyping a strategic partnership with Greater Manchester to bring to life a social innovation network: ‘GoodLivesGM: elevating everyday innovation to change lives for good’.

This ambition requires a bigger and ever more diverse team. We plan to grow by 25% over the next year, in order to do more of the work we are increasingly proud of. Perhaps even more importantly, as we expand into new areas and types of work, we need more and different perspectives, skills and experience to pull it off. That is why we are recruiting to every level of our organisation – and are explicitly recruiting for diversity, for learning experts to join our team, alongside generalists with professional and lived experience of the places and systems in which we work.

Working at Innovation Unit asks you to bring your whole self to your work – your skills, experiences, opinions, strengths and weaknesses, to contribute in your own way to a powerful mission, with a brilliant team and to learn more about yourself along the way.

If this sounds like an opportunity and challenge that excites you, please get in touch. We look forward to meeting you.