Innovation In Giving

Common Challenges and Shared Opportunities

Nicolle Wilkinson

Many definitions of Open Innovation have been put forward since Henry Chesbrough first coined the term. However, 100% Open provide a succinct version, describing Open Innovation as ‘Innovating with partners by sharing risks and rewards.’

The Open Innovation model recognises that innovation can be expensive and risky – commercially, typically fewer than 1 in 100 ideas that are invested in ever make money back – meaning that sharing risks reduces any one organisations liability, whilst sharing rewards, so the logic goes, provides incentives for new types of partnership and collaboration. This type of innovation has become commonplace in many sectors of the commercial world, where there are countless examples of Open Innovation partnerships producing game-changing ideas and multi-million pound products in everything from toys to toothbrushes.

From a giving perspective, last week I was working with some of the 28 well-known charities that are participating in the Open Innovation Programme as part of the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund managed by Nesta. Frequently, the Open Innovation process starts with an unmet need or challenge. In exploring the giving challenges that charities face as part of phase one of the programme, I have been struck by two things. Firstly, the level of commonality of challenges and opportunities identified by charities and secondly the level of commitment and (no pun intended) openness to new types of collaboration.

Whilst the usual issues of innovation – risk, expense and the fact that innovation is, by definition, unproven – have been understandably prominent and much-discussed. Other challenges that have been articulated have been more nuanced  – challenges surrounding intellectual property, organisational capacity and engrained methodologies across the sector have come to the fore.

Indeed, one of the most common challenges has not been, (as the charity sector can be accused of) a lack of commitment to innovation and working outside of the sector, rather it has been a more practical issue of needing support to navigate the landscape effectively and make connections with people and organisations that charities normally do not work with. This is tailored support that Nesta is providing for this specific programme but it provides interesting food for thought for funders, businesses and umbrella bodies regarding their role in facilitating these connections.

So, whilst it’s early in the overall process, recent workshops have served as a strong and timely reminder of the value and potential that can be unlocked in bringing together diverse audiences to collaborate around shared giving challenges. However, common challenges have been juxtaposed against genuine excitement about opportunities to work together and with innovators outside of the sector to cross-fertilise ideas, target new audiences, share existing tools and collaborate in new ways with new partners.

*Charities selected to participate in the first phase of the Open Innovation Programme:


One comment on “Common Challenges and Shared Opportunities

  1. Friday, September 14, 2012

    Welker comments:

    Some truly quality discussions on this web site.

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