Investing in Your Ideas01 May 2019
By Mairi Martin, Leader (Cornerstone Central)
Put down your coffee cup or laptop just for a second. Fold your arms. Now fold them the other way. Feels odd, doesn’t it? Being slightly out of your comfort zone is challenging, and realising that you could do it differently remains a mystery unless you try it. This is the essence of Cornerstone and is at the heart of our Local Cornerstone approach that gives local teams the ability to make decisions and try something new to benefit the people we support. We give our colleagues the authority to make improvement; not only what the leadership team thinks is best, but what the people working most closely with the people we support know will make a positive difference.
That’s why in 2016 we hosted the first intrapreneurship programme with The Lens. Our most recent programme culminated in April when finalists pitched for investment to bring to life ideas that could drive positive change. The programme encourages colleagues to create new ways of thinking and working, and develops the skills, knowledge and confidence of colleagues at all levels to be more creative, helping them turn their ideas into action.
It’s no coincidence that the event was held at Pittodrie Stadium, the home ground of Aberdeen Football Club. In 1934, football coach Donald Colman fitted dugouts to the side of the pitch which allowed him to be close to the action, seeing what improvements could be made to benefit the team. The Lens programme is the embodiment of this approach, giving the stage for seven pitches to be made to a panel of judges from across the organisation.
The first pitch from Andrew Burns from Aberdeen gave examples of the proven healing benefits of working outdoors and sought investment to develop a community garden and gardening club for the people we support who live in flats with limited access to outdoor space. The sustainable project would require participants to take ownership of the site, providing an inclusive and sustainable model. The judges agreed that this inspirational idea was worthy of a £5,000 investment.
Sarah Jones from Wardend in Elgin went on to share her vision of a multi-purpose inflatable experience that provided a peaceful dome of healing sound therapy. Identifying that stress is the plague of modern living, and that for those people we support with sensory overload, it can become almost unbearable. Her transportable sound dome could tour the country offering a calm space in a noisy world. Sarah’s well thought-out pitch saw her receive a whopping £12,000 investment to get her innovative project underway.
The third pitch from Debbie Masson and Kerri Bellingham identified that the simplest approach is often the best when communicating and sharing information with colleagues. Their pitch was to secure investment to integrate an app to the HR platform that would engage colleagues across the organisation easily and effectively. External funding was awarded to support this idea by an investor.
The duo went on to pitch an additional idea to use Talking Mats, a well-recognised tool that enables communication using pictures of feelings, in the recruitment process whereby giving the people we support a say in what person would look after their personal care. These mats could be developed to fit exact criteria and could be branded and sold to caregivers out with the organisation as an additional source of income. The judges loved the idea and awarded them £5,500.
Using existing technology in a creative way specific to the care we provide remained the theme in the next pitch from Gemma Taylor and Colinne Higgins from Elgin. The team highlighted the time-intensive process of report filing for local authorities and highlighted that those hours would be better spent providing care and support to the people we support. The team identified an existing app used by a school with over 70,000 children. The app is approved by local authorities, is secure and GDPR compliant and provides a channel to share videos, photographs and updates in real time as supporting evidence, rather than filing lengthy written reports. The forward-thinking duo was awarded £5,000 to get the app up and running.
Susan Young, Gary Donaldson and Angela Stroud led an emotional pitch for a sensory garden in memorial of Neil Fowler, a man the team supported who sadly passed away in December last year. The garden in West Park in Inverbervie would provide a safe space and an opportunity to get the people they support, with a range of disabilities, outdoors. They were awarded £3,000 to transform their outdoor space.
The afternoon was concluded by Malcolm Gray and Sharon Francis with an ambitious plan to transform premises in Aberdeen’s Union Street into a shop, café and working space for the people we support, primarily driving self-directed support (SDS). The duo was provided trophies and invited to fine-tune their pitch and work with colleagues to develop this initiative.
The Lens event was an inspirational day and really left me proud of not only the passion for the work we do but also of the depth of planning and research that went into the pitches.
Being closest to the people we support, the teams offered a solution to the challenges they face every day. This positive attitude and passion for making a difference embodies everything we are at Cornerstone and reaffirms my commitment to provide a platform to encourage intrapreneurs to share their ideas and the money to bring those ideas to life.
Over the next few months, we will be checking with each of the projects to see how they are getting on. So much time and dedication was put into this event, and I cannot wait to see the impact that the money that has been awarded makes to the people we support and our colleagues as these ideas are brought to fruition.