A personal reflection from the UK’s first mental health Innovation Lab.
On December 10th I had the massive privilege of working at an Innovation Lab in central London, with fifty or so of the most innovative people I’ve met in years. The chance to combine innovation, technology, and mental health is never something I can resist. The opportunity to work with a mix of outstanding, articulate, exceptional and gifted young people and a range of tech people, problem solvers, and facilitators was both humbling and exciting.
This story starts back in April, when I facilitated a workshop day on behalf of Comic Relief, Nominet Trust and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to consider ways in which young people and technology people might be brought together to co-produce a set of prototype ideas for mental health and technology assets. That day brought together young people, three of the UK’s leading grant funders, and a range of third sector organisations using technology in relation to mental health and or youth work.
The conclusions of that day were taken forward by a smaller steering group, and, as any good prototype, tested and refined to create a brief for a tender, which Cernis, a collaborative of innovators, mental health and youth work people won, and shaped with the steering group into a two stage innovation labs process.
December 10th was the first of two innovation labs which will take forward first the thinking, and then the development of proto-projects that three of the leading funders in the UK will consider for further support.
Since December 10th the hundreds of ideas generated in the first lab have been streamed into seven broad themes to enable discussion. A Ning forum of lab members and online forum members is discussing the idea ‘seeds’, and the degree of nurturing and ‘watering’ given to these by the community will help shape those which are taken from the incubator and on to the greenhouse of Lab 2 in February.
Already there are some ideas that have changed tack, some that seem to exist already, and some creative thinking, around for example whether the ‘urge for apps’ is always the best way forward. Just like the process of developing the labs, there is dynamic prototyping. What also seems to be happening though is that people are sticking with it, and allowing ideas to be flexed, remodeled or retired. Which is a hard thing to learn when often a small amount of hard won self confidence might be channeled in an idea. Hopefully this means that the self-confidence boost is in the permission to innovate, rather than the product of innovation. Which is a superb mental health boost all round.
Alain de Botton said something on Twitter recently about announcing something to the world before you had done it so as to concentrate the mind on achieving it. Well my New Years Resolution is to do much more of this type of tangible co-production of activities, and much less sitting in meetings thinking of what people might want.