Charity sector innovation specialist Lucy Gower has written ‘The Innovation Workout: The 10 Tried-and-Tested Steps That Will Build Your Creativity and Innovation Skills. Although applicable to many types of business, the new book, published by Pearson Education Limited, is designed to help charities develop alternative and innovative ways to raise money.
The book starts with a quick diagnostic test that can completed as an individual, a team or for a whole organisation. It should help the reader to identify their strong and weak points for innovation. For example, they might struggle to generate ideas, or perhaps have too many ideas and find it hard to prioritise. Alternatively, taking action to make the ideas happen could be the biggest challenge.
The book’s short chapters, practical examples and tests then guide the reader through making those improvements. With a background in both design and fundraising, Lucy Gower led the first innovation team at the NSPCC in 2007. It was here that she realised that you can have the best ideas, processes and technology, but if you don’t have the right mix of people lined up and committed to ideas and the impact they can have then even the best ideas will fail.
Since leaving the NSPCC in 2012 she has worked with over 50 organisations including Amnesty, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Nesta, The Children’s Society and Greenpeace.
Three common innovation challenges for charities
Gower is well aware of the challenges that charity staff face in embracing and implementing innovation. In particular, charities now are under huge pressure: demand for services is increasing, for some by as much as 70% and isn’t expected to ease off any time soon. Meanwhile raising the funds to provide services is becoming more difficult. The revised regulations set out in September in the Etherington Review will probably mean that the public can soon opt out of all fundraising communications from any charity.
This will significantly reduce the number of people that charities can ask for support: the potential impact is the loss hundreds of millions of pounds in income a year, perhaps more. Charities can not ignore this.
In her view, the three most common innovation challenges for charities are:
1. Ability to focus
Many organisations try to do everything and end up doing nothing. Learning tactics to focus on the important problems and stop the ‘nice’ but not important activity will help you to more quickly take action.
2. Managing risk
Charities are risk adverse, they fear failure and criticism for a failed idea to have wasted donors money. An innovation approach involves testing on a small scale, evaluating and adapting – which minimises risk.
3. Creating a culture of innovation
You can have the best process or framework for innovation but if your people are not focused, motivated and given permission to innovate nothing happens.
The book features case studies from both the charity and corporate sectors that address these common challenges including:
• How a charity focused on the important problem of getting medicines to rural parts of Africa to save the lives of children that die from diarrhoea and other preventable conditions by successfully taking inspiration from another sector.
• How one charity learned from its failure and now puts its beneficiaries at the centre of its work which has led to a complete change in approach to fundraising and service delivery.
• How one charity changed its tick box approach to recruitment based just on experience to employ creative thinkers with attitude and ambition with great success.
Gower commented on why she chose to write the book. She said:
“Innovation is a business survival strategy. If charities continue to put their heads in the sand and hope that everything will be OK they are sadly mistaken. Now more than ever before, charities must focus on how they raise more money in order to provide better, more impactful services for those that need them.”
The 256-page book is available in paperback and Kindle versions.
The Innovation Workout is available on Amazon and selected WH Smiths in the UK.
* Expect a review of The Innovation Workout tomorrow morning.
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