From funders to frontline services we receive feedback from all levels that digital, data and technology initiatives are becoming key focus areas in development and delivery of services. But what does this mean for the organisations we support and how can we make sure innovation is supporting and being utilised by those helping people in need?
What is innovation?
Simply put, innovation is the process of doing things differently to get better results.
Innovation is also about how people (including supporters, service users and beneficiaries) interact with services, with other support offerings and the system as a whole.
Innovation doesn’t immediately need capital investment or sweeping changes to work, it can be delivered doing things many of us are familiar with or are already doing; understanding our users, collaborating, testing our thinking, sharing learnings and (our favourite) repurposing resources that already exist.
Why “innovation” and not technology?
There’s a close relationship between innovation and technology but innovation is a lot wider; it involves insight, process, collaboration, creativity and communication. It can mean cultural shifts or new ways of working. It can be done by one person or a whole organisation.
Data, digital services and technology in general are changing the ways a lot of service and systems are operating and so “innovation” is often applied to these developments.
We use the term innovation because we want to support any kind of approach which delivers a positive change.
Why is innovation important?
We know from member feedback that innovation, particularly around technologies and the use of data, is increasingly an area of interest, concern, confusion and opportunity for organisations working in, or wanting to support, the access to justice community.
Funders increasingly have digital, technology or innovation criteria with several government funding streams dedicated to supporting work in this area. In addition to this, more and more services and systems are becoming digitally driven; with a policy trend towards “digital by default” we want to make sure that we know and understand enough about our user to be able to speak to their needs and push back on this approach where we need to.
Without the necessary culture, skills and understanding there is a danger that we will be left behind.
To make best use of these opportunities and to ensure the sustainability and growth of our services we can use innovation to benefit clients, make things easier for staff inside organisations and, crucially, save our resources.
How is the Network supporting innovation?
Some of the key issues our members have raised with us in this area are:
- a lack of awareness about what is already existing or in development,
- A lack of understanding on how implementing innovation can support service delivery,
- A concern that there is a lack of coordination between frontline and systemic innovation
Through our network we are working with strategic organisations and those delivering services on the frontline in order to ensure we can support systemic positive change. We have developed the Innovation Workstream so that anyone with an interest in finding out about resources and developments in this area can stay up to date.
In addition to this we have also formed an Innovation Working Group which has representatives from across the access to justice community. The role of the working group is to identify and discuss key issues facing the sector in the space and seek to implement a workplan to address collective concerns.
The Working Group has so far identified and set up expert panels to address sector identified issues in three areas;
- Data and Evaluation,
- Design and User Experience, and
- Technology and Tools
These subgroups are task and finish oriented and have a focus on highlighting and sharing resources and tools (including training and capacity building) for the frontline.
The Network will continue to focus on building relationships with external stakeholders that the sector can benefit from.
You can find the outputs from the subgroups via the links below and more information on the Working group as a whole on the Network member area here.