Innovation - but not for innovation's sake

Featured article - 05 March 2020
By Clenton Farquharson, Chair of Think Local Act Personal

Head-shot of the author, Clenton Farquharson, Chair of Think Local Act Personal

I support innovation, but not for innovation’s sake. What do I mean by that? Well, to start with, talk of innovation in social care is all around us. It’s become a buzz word. Why is that I wonder?

I think it reflects that all is not well in the house of social care. Personalisation has been our guide for the last ten years, and the Care Act since 2014. But despite the huge effort, good intentions and progress in some places, the ‘rhetoric-reality’ gap exists, and there are still too many people unable to exercise genuine choice and control.

So the focus has now changed and we have been heading in a new direction; it’s about developing innovations but what do we actually mean by innovation in the social care context?

I believe, at its core, an innovation must be about moving people closer to what they say they want, which is having a life and not a service – about thriving and not just surviving.

These are my four points that I believe the sector need to respond to if we are to see innovation make that kind of progress.

We are not in a social care laboratory

Since the central purpose of an innovation must be that more people benefit, include them in the design – always use co-production.

Reach all the parts

We live in an unequal society. We must be alert to the risk that innovation might benefit some more than others and risk widening existing inequalities.

Relationships matter

Social care is a people business. Besides promoting positive and respectful relationships, be willing to share your expertise & power.

Grounded research

As innovations takes off we need to develop a proper understanding of how it works. Research has an important role to play here and I am pleased that the Supporting Adult Social Care Innovation programme that is now starting will help with this. The research must be grounded in the lived experience of people.

To sum up, we are in the exciting process of reimagining social care. Innovations are part of this where we see people as citizens with strengths and assets and not as expensive social casualties.

The Social Care Innovation Network of which I am a member is offering the sector a great opportunity to generate more clarity around innovation, so that we scratch beneath the surface of a buzz word and apply a theory with big feet right from the start.

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