As part of the Creative Councils Programme we are now at a stage to look at scaling our pilot to other places to share our learning and benefit others.  Also by working with other groups in other places we can collectively improve our approach through shared learning to perfect our innovation movement in the public sector.


I would appreciate it if you could look at our offer and give us some feedback on it, based on your experiences of your own town/city.


We would like to know:


  1. Is this something that would help your town or city?
  2. Would you be interested in talking to us about posting a challenge from your city on our platform as a 'guest challenge' to see how the process works?
  3. Would you be interested in running a pilot in your city or town?
  4. Would you see reasons why it might not work where you are from?  
  5. Do you have any other comments - all input welcomed.


Many thanks in advance for your time and if we can give you feedback in return please get in touch!.









Introduction to the Project


The GeniUS! pilot project opens up the process of solving the city's medium to long term strategic and operational challenges through providing a mechanism to have conversations and co-develop solutions with businesses, academics and the community. This is possible through the use of an online platform to communicate the challenges and encourage discussion around possible solutions. This platform is used to post the challenges and encourage discussion around solutions, but also has the functionality to allow users to set up their own profile page, post images, videos and blogs in addition to contributing to the challenges on the forum.


The process is then supported by an innovation team to work with the 'idea generators' from the platform to develop and refine the best solutions. It is then possible to pilot these refined ideas to test their effectiveness in a live setting. The innovation team are comprised of some of the more creative members of the council and help to navigate around potential barriers, using their experience and contacts within the system to smooth the way for the development process.


This method works well on two levels. Through the conversations on the platform and subsequent development workshops, barriers for businesses to pro-actively engage with the council are reduced through online relationships with businesses, the community and academics. This creates an 'innovation ecosystem' of support for the council to draw on when addressing future challenges. This breaks down the barriers between different council departments, between the business community and the council.  It provides a direct route for the community to pro-actively work with the public sector to improve the city and gradually creates a more innovative culture within the council. Added to this, the innovation team are selected from within the council to work with us to facilitate the development of solutions. Therefore, the in-house skills gained can be used by the council for many future challenges.


On another level, better solutions can be found to solve the medium to longer term challenges through a more heterogeneous group of creative thinkers approaching the challenges in a different way to the traditional approach, (which is internally developing solutions and then towards the end of the process, convening a focus group to gain feedback from the group.)


The initial pilot would be comprised of four initial challenges to demonstrate the effectiveness of the platform in your city. These challenges would be identified through communications with the people of your city, council members and other partners in the city, and would address problems your city council don't know the answers to, but they think someone else in the city might.


Relevance to Your City


Your city may face a similar challenge to that facing York. The problem of businesses being able to pro-actively engage with the public sector, especially young or small entrepreneurial businesses. Businesses in York find the traditional procurement exercise cumbersome when tendering for work and this puts off many innovative businesses from engaging with the council at all. The council can be seen as a large faceless organisation, with no clear route to engagement. Everyone loses out with this traditional model; the business doesn't get the chance to provide the best solution, the city doesn't get the best solutions and The City Council receives criticism for not providing the best solutions.


In the 'GeniUS' pilot we have been running in York over the last 7 months, this was one of the issues we tackled head on. Through the overall project by developing better relationships with businesses, and also directly through one of the challenges we posted -"How can City of York Council (CYC) procure work from small businesses easily with less barriers and what way can residents and businesses be more proactive in approaching CYC with beneficial ideas and products?" By using this process it is possible to get a custom, appropriate, geographical and politically relevant solution to the city's specific needs. In the case of York, two pilot ideas have been a fund for piloting innovative new services, and further work exploring new ways to pitch for tenders including alternative means, e.g. You Tube videos.


The pilot in York has already demonstrated its effectiveness at tackling challenges from a different angle and this could also be demonstrated in your city.


What is the Innovation in?


Technology Innovation - The technology exists already as a widely used social media platform, but for this pilot project it is being re-purposed to facilitate an Open Innovation process. The platform 'innovation' is in this re-purposing of social media technology to address and solve city issues.


Business Model Innovation - The business model is a hybrid of open innovation and disruptive innovation and works best sitting alongside the council structure (not within it) but including cross-departmental council staff and other external partners. This links closely with the council culture but is distinct from it, allowing for a more strategic dynamic to catalyse change. Through using a heterogeneous team of people with complimentary competencies and shared values in this way, the shaping of ideas is often much more creative and the team more dynamic and responsive.


Sustainability of Model


The platform technology is a well established social media platform and is globally supported. It is easy to use and the functionality can be customized to suit this individual project easily. The subscription costs to access the platform and support are very low, and down-time so far has been non-existent. They have a support team of engineers on hand to help with any issues you may have with the technology. It is also extremely easy to access the platform on both smart phone and PC, through Facebook, Twitter or Google+ log-in details, or through registering your email address.


The business model is also sustainable. Through the training of the innovation team to be able to facilitate and develop ideas with other parties, the skills are developed 'in house' and contribute to embedding a culture of innovation within the council organisation. Through the growing 'innovation ecosystem' which is created on the platform through conversations and dialogue, a support system of enthusiastic innovators is developed to create even more sustainability for the future success of the new way of working. Through the process of generating better solutions to individual challenges using this way of working, others are also encouraged to adopt this new approach. This helps to gradually embed the culture change into one which is more innovative.


Also, the top ideas are not automatically implemented, but a business case for these solutions are created to ensure feasibility before taking the pilots forward. This minimises the failure rate and de-risks new projects. It also allows better measurement of the true value from the outcomes of the pilot studies, i.e. social, learning, environmental as well as financial.


Duration of Pilot Project – 7-10 Months (This will take the your city team to the point where they can implement the challenge pilots.)


Project Partners:


SCY - SCY provides the specialist capability to lead and manage complex private–public sector innovation projects, through their 13 years of innovation expertise and links with over 2000 technology businesses. SCY also has a proven track record in successfully securing major capital investment in support of a leading knowledge economy. Over the last three years SCY has successfully brought over £23 million investment to York.


CYC - The City of York Council are committed to developing city wide innovation and have been collaborating on the GeniUS! Project here in York in partnership with SCY. They bring invaluable experience to the project team.



Resources Required from Your City to Run the Project.


  • Public support from the civic leaders and senior managers to show top down commitment for the new approach to problem solving (and resulting culture change.)

  • To provide a project manager to coordinate activities with the council/civic body in your city, time resource from a team of 6-10 creatively thinking civil servants-around a half day per week for the duration of the pilot (In order for your city to have their own trained 'in - house' team to manage the project going forward).

  • The cooperation of business agencies in your city e.g. Chamber of Commerce as well as Higher Education Institutes, community groups and social enterprises in the area

  • Some marketing and communications support.

  • Help to locate data around specific challenges chosen in pilot if information is available and not classified.

  • Skype access for the your city project team to contact us weekly when we are in York.

  • Resource to finance time and expenses of the York team in working with your city on pilot.*


*(Costs Estimated around £50-70k including platform set-up and maintenance costs, 2 weeks with members of the York team on site to help you start the process and brief your city team, facilitation of 4 challenges, weekly contact via Skype or face to face to take your city through the process, training and supporting materials for your city team, project leadership and mentoring for team.) There may be funding available to help tbc.



References of Other Implementations of the Solutions or Similar Projects


The GeniUS! York team researched 98 other available Open Innovation platforms as part of the pilot process, to ascertain the best option for this project. The platform which was finally decided upon, is shaped to suit the discussion space required in addition to users posting ideas. This allowed us the functionality we needed. This technological solution is further enhanced with a series of workshops and a refining and developing process to take the ideas to pilot stage.


Our Open Innovation solution is unique in the way that it harnesses localism, using a format that allows for conversation and development, which can be applied to any city.




Benefits to the Local Community


This is where the biggest impact can be found. The community is at the heart of the project and through working on the challenges posted, real relationships can be developed with the motivated individuals and businesses looking to make a difference in the city. Challenges are well understood at grass roots level and solutions fit closely with the problems when they are suggested by the people who live with those problems. There is a sense of shared values from an early stage between the communities and the council, with a deeper understanding of the issues, ownership of the solutions by all and an overall shared pride in better informed processes and solutions. Bringing in hi-tech innovative companies and academic specialisms into the mix also links new technological solutions to the challenges, educating the city to new possibilities and allowing the city to quickly pilot new techniques.


The 'idea providers' win in this project as their ideas are supported, resourced and very quickly implemented with them closely involved in the process. We have specifically focused on making sure ideas are responded to quickly, and that business and community see their ideas come to fruition effectively.


Everyone benefits, the community through better solutions to their problems, the council through many more brains helping them to develop solutions which best fit the problems, the local businesses who can develop solutions for their own city and can be rewarded for their efforts through resource and exposure.



Benefits of the Project to the City


Knowledge and experience are two hugely valuable assets to the city and through our platform and process, the city can greatly benefit from harnessing the GeniUS! of it's residents, businesses and academics. This allows the city to make a step change in how it tackles innovation, allowing a programme of radical and strategic innovation to take place alongside the more traditional incremental innovation commonly seen within the council.


This can 'future-proof' the city through introducing a mechanism to collectively evolve and respond to city-wide challenges using small scale pilot schemes to test and de-risk more radical solutions before implementing them on a larger scale. Due to the methods used and the community input, continuous feedback can help steer more radical projects to ensure the solutions best fit the challenges.


Through providing training and a tool-kit to civil servants in the city as part of the pilot process, intelligence and learning can be harnessed within each city to grow the process and share best practice with others. This means each city can use it's unique qualities and assets to solve the challenges faced within that specific city.


This process can be applied to any medium to long term challenge the city might face, and is most useful when, "we don't know the answer but we think others in the city might".



Benefits of the Project to Mitigate Climate Change


Consideration for environmental impact is inherent in the whole project, which emphasises 'smarter' solutions rather than just cost effective ones.


One of the challenges we piloted on the platform tackled environmental sustainability head-on. i.e. 'How can footfall and transport be used innovatively to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the city?'

Proposed solutions included fitting kinetic paving stones in the city centre, real time air monitors, LED cycle counters and energy generating exercise bikes. Using the platform as a conversation space to tackle local issues also means less impact on the environment, as there is no need to travel large distances to contribute.


When selecting the best ideas from the platform, one of the criteria to get to the second stage is to demonstrate a solution which considers its environmental impact. Through embedding the open innovation process in the city we also hope to receive many more environmentally sound solutions as we progress.



Other Comments


This is a low cost sustainable technical solution to link diverse groups together and provide a conversation and ideas development space. It can be scaled and applied anywhere (with internet access) through PC, Mac, tablet and smart-phone. There is additional support to the technological solution (or platform) through follow up contact with the innovation team. This takes the form of workshops and meetings to co-develop pilot projects with the experienced 'idea generators' and the councils working together. The two go hand in hand and our experiences and research show that in addition to the platform, having the supporting team to facilitate the pilot planning and implementation is hugely beneficial to the process.


We have been piloting this project in York over the last 7 months through support from the National Endowment of Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) Creative Councils project. York were short-listed as one of the 17 Creative Councils chosen from 137 applications to pilot this transformational initiative in the UK.  Because we have already been through the process, we can fully support your city throughout their pilot and beyond, fully share our experiences with your city to ensure maximum impact of the project and reduce potential obstacles.


The project involves training staff in the relevant city to be able to manage the process going forward and to share best practice with others. The platform provides a knowledge repository of ideas and feedback, which can be referred back to. Additional feedback and intelligence can also be captured through the site statistics section in the platform dashboard and this can be further enhanced through linking the site to Google Analytics.

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Former Member 7 Years Ago
Hi Heather an excellent summary of your project and I particularly like the offer to other LAs to use the platform for a 'guest challenge'. I look forward to seeing the responses. Good luck Mike
Heather Niven 7 Years Ago
Please let us know what you think! We have had 74 views and only one person feeding back. Any comments would be really appreciated! If you don't want to post publically here please drop me an email to MANY thanks in advance :O) let us know if you wish some feedback on your own projects. Heather