Main proposal


full proposal

I have just looked through the full proposal and wish to congratulate all involved on the bid.This includes practical measures to generate innovation through inclusiveness and collaboration, a process which studies of open source software have shown to have significant economic benefit (see 300 pages on this at It also recognises that significant innovation needs investment and directly addresses thisExcellent, and a potential model for other sectors. I am sure many development agencies will be watching this unfold.Best wishes.

Ed Downs

Research Manager, National Computing Centre


Some [x] boxes to tick...

How great to have an opportunity for such Blue Sky thinking. Laudable. Please forgive a moment of levity and pragmatism...

Whilst the primary, crucial part of the process is to crystallise exactly what it is that the InnovationExchange may offer, what the market/audience is perceived to require, and how it might be delivered, there's a pragmatic bottom line required, too that will actually determine if the IE submission gets past the reception desk in Whitehall.

I'm sure it's all hiding in the tender documentation, but I'll risk voicing some of the ticky-boxes that someone with dark suit and a red biro might need to tick, one step before the whole thing ever gets read.

Our proposal may (?) need to show:

  • Evidence of understanding of the problem

  • Impact and wider value to the target community

  • Appropriateness of the methodology and evaluation techniques selected

  • Experience of the proposers

  • Feasibility and detail of the work plan/ timetable

  • Value for money

  • Likely effectiveness of the dissemination plan

Some possible measures of its quality might be

  • Stand out from the others
  • State its objectives clearly and concisely
  • Clarify project outputs and demonstrate wider benefits to the community it serves
  • Demonstrate how it supports the funder's strategy
  • Describe how it meets the criteria set out in the call
  • Provide a sound project plan and demonstrate robust project management arrangements;
  • Demonstrate how it is aligned with the objectives of the proposing institution(s)
  • Document proposed dissemination, embedding and evaluation mechanisms;
  • Provide clear costings, availabilities, grades of staff etc.
  • Comment on sustainability issues when project funding ceases;
  • Give value for money or add significant value to the funding requested.

...and it might deliver some bonuses...

  1. Evaluate and trial potentially interesting new technologies

  2. Establish good practice or promote standards

  3. Assist collaborators, contributors and/or participants to implement new technologies, strategies or processes 

 Whoops! Item 3 is actually part of its raison d'etre.OK. Let's carry on with the Blue Skies stuff now. Undecided But before we lick the stamp on the envelope, we must come back and check this (or a similar) list.

Omissions from the model


I've sptted some things tat I think are missing from the current model. I've put them as a blog entry because they are quite a long ramble.


Please consider them in the constructive spirt in which they are offered.


Have you ever read Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating little book 'The Tipping Point'? It explores a number of occasions when small factors led to massive change, be it the spread of AIDS, the phenomenal success of educational children's TV like Sessame Street or the sudden success of failing brands like Hush Puppy shoes. Tippings points create 'epidemics' of interest as virulent and pervasive as contagious diseases. Part of the dynamic is the impact of certain types of people that he calls 'connectors' 'mavens' and 'salesmen'. Respectively, they are people who create effective networks through trust and respect, accumulate technical knowledge, or can sell igloos to eskimos. The combined effect of these people can cause good ideas, products or activities, to 'tip' into epidemics.

I wonder if we are approaching a 'tipping point' in our culture of public engagement. The missing element for me has always been how you take excellent models and techniques for engagement, and get the people who need to use them - people who don't realise the impact of their 'voices' if they could be heard - to engage themselves. We identify the type of people needed to operate engagement models. I wonder if we also need to consider those people who can create such an interest in the whole potential of engagement that we can generate the new energy and enthusiasm needed to reconnect communities with decision makers.  Like the people in Gladwell's book, they may currently have nothing to do with public engagement. But harnessing their energy and commitment to this agenda may provide the 'tipping point' that moves us from beter and better engagement models, to broader engagement. Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Which one are you?

Have we reached a tipping

Have we reached a tipping point in public engagement? We do seem to be in a 'participation culture' these days, with whole new levels of access to create content and share it online. But will that extend to politics?

At the Personal Democracy Forum conference in NYC last week, the enthusiasm to do just that was evident, and people thnk the '08 elections will be take social media to the next level

But I wonder about whether it will be the video sites or something more subtle that will turn our actions into meaningful participation, whether we know it or not. Google mines our behaviour to create our search service, even though we never raised our hands to participate. How can we recognise how our unconscious daily actions contribute to political outcomes, not simply our conscious ones? Not trying to get too theoretical here, only wondering about the limits of this frenzy of participation...

Friends and Trusted Agents

As a starter for 10! Experience and some recent research we have comissioned has shown that adults who are disengaged or "excluded" tend to lead chaotic lives. Their need for contact with public services is often in the form of a "distressed purchase". To initiate this they go first to friends or trusted agents who proxy the call for services.


These unnoficial service brokers can be found in every community and they often form the hub of a social network. It is my belief that by building the capacity within the social network and creating a fomal brokerage service we can do more than the single point of contact, customer first, type approaches because we can not only signpost to services that are needed now, we can move people on to become self serving.

Furthermore, there are efficiencies to be gained by this approach because services delivery does not rely on service push, but the brokers effectively aggregate the need at the local level so that service pull calls down only those services that are required.


Broker networks ensure that people do not fall into the gaps between service strands and a properly constructed network ensures that local brokers are in touch with specialist brokers who provide specialist services.

Friends and Trusted Agents

I like this, a service delivery justification for local social networks.

One way of understanding its potential is to consider the social networks of many older people, who need some form of formal care often on an unpredictable basis, along with lots of informal support. Many have found that neighbourliness is fragmented, in that it tends to come down to one or two special contacts, rather than a predictable generalised support from those who live around. When they were younger, it was different mainly because of greater homogeneity in class, ethnic background, faith, economic status etc.

I happen to think that this is a major social issue waiting to turn nasty on us.

So how do we develop dependable social networks at local level that do not require formalisation or regulation, and that do not recreate hierarchies in the public sphere? I think there's a role for online networks, and for special projects (including intergenerational projects of course); but I would place equal or greater emphasis on developing places and opportunities (walkable local shops, queues at post offices, community cafes, safe parks and benches, street parties etc) in localities where people can encounter one another, establish recognition and discover the practice of living with difference.


Friends and trusted agents

Paul - that sounds like a model with enormous benefits ... while needing a good understanding of how local networks operate. Do you have any ideas on how a model might be developed? Does it need some piloting or or are here good examples already?

Friends and Trusted Agents


Thank you for that. The model is based on thinking that we have done around a learning community, if it works for learning does it work for other services? There is also a bit of theory here which says that if you create a local knowledge base (for knowledge base read capacity building) you can distort the service economy because the relationship between the client and the service provider becomes more locally based and hence cheaper. Instead of the traditional model of pointing a person to a service you move them on so that they can become self serving.


The part we're struggling with is how to formalise the model, give it robustness, without losing the social networking element that gives it its power in the first place. At the moment it's just an arrow on the model, there's nothing to say what the arrow is, just what it does.

I guess we could say that this would be a version of the knowledge economy which we always assume to mean high value add technical knowledge that is positioned at or near the top of the value chain. My argument would be that we can apply the same logic to the service knowledge economy. That's why I'm interested in Simon's model. At the moment I can see how the cycles might work but I can't see the connective tissue that binds the service provider to the service user and leads a service need (especially in distressed circumstances) to a service provision.

No answers I'm afraid just more questions.

Black Box

In some ways this discussion reminds me of discussions about "black boxes". If something works and delivers tangible results, do we have to understand fully its mechanism. I think the issue is whether we can show that "IT" is working whatever "IT" is.

Some of this will evolve organically and some networks will flourish and some won't. Sone will produce tangible innovation and some won't. As long as the final tally shows an increase in the amount of innovation, the exact mechanism by which that happened doesn't neccessarily (IMHO) need to be understood.

Black Box


Many thanks for your comments. You can see how we picture the model above. At the lowest level there are services provided by local providers and citizens that access them via their networks. Brokers are people who match the need to the provision and understand the locations where delivery can take place. All basic stuff.

The difficulty comes when we try to deliver increasingly complex services which need an element of specialist knowledge that may or may not exist within the community. There is a line that connects the broker to the complex service, but what is the line? Since your comment I have seen the new diagram put in place by Jane Berry. It occurred to me that if you take a view pioint that looks down on our model and superimposes Jane's model does this provide the path that more complex service provision might follow?

 I do hope that this makes sense.


Mapping models together...

Hallo Paul,

Yes it makes sense. Visualisation is really helpful to understand how things work. To help map your paradigm (I like it!) onto the underlying model for the Open Innovation Exchange, try turning it on its side - or rotate 90 degrees anti clockwise..

This means you do not see your citizens 'at the bottom' (why?). Try putting them over on the right hand. Then map your model onto what you call 'Simon's Model' - ie the key diagram explaining how we think the OIE can work. (Actually we got to it by lookng at the net:gain model for social franchising, and that came from trying to understand what Marie Stopes did in Africa (see Social franchising reproductive health services. Can it work? A review of the experience -PDF), so I guess it's their model really - but that is what Open Source thinking is all about).


Try that and you will hopefully see a path (for those who wish to engage) to escalate their experience through the network - so that it informs service providers, and even encourages citizens to become service providers. There are lots of real life examples of this but usually it takes a trauma or life changing experience to trigger engagement at that level (eg Suzie Lamplugh Trust and many others). But does it need a trauma? Can we create a model to harness experience in other ways? There's the rub.




Alternative delivery models


This is really interesting. In the context of rural service delivery I have argued that you can't expect to be able to deliver all the elements of every service in all communities.

I suggest that it is useful to look at services as having the following elements:

  • information
  • expertise
  • social
  • physical

My paper takes various services and breaks them down according to these elements. But let's consider just one here! Health. Health information can be delivered through pamphlets placed anywhere (you don't need to go to a doctor's surgery to get them) and online. Health expertise can be delivered by phone (see NHS Direct - BUT NHS Direct is less than a decade old yet we've had the telephone for many decades). Again no doctor's surgery is required. There are also several important social elements to health. It has been shown that 80-85% of the beneficial effects of prescribing drugs to a person with depression is due to the act of prescribing (ie taking time to listen to the person's issues) and only 15-20% is attributable to the drugs subscribed. However, most services do have a physical element and in the context of health services this would be the examination and treatment of a patient.

So how does this relate to your model? Well, local citizens, with the appropriate support (which may be minimal) are able to deliver ceratin elements of a service. You don't have to be a doctor to spend time with someone with depression and help them recover.

Disaggregating services, such as a health service (rather than looking at it as a whole that has to be deliverd by doctors) helps us see alternative ways to deliver them (your model) and integrate them with other services.


Re-inventing Services

So much of what we look for in service provision has to be deemed to be absent from the community in order that we can prescribe 'new' services - to my way of thinking. This approach creates large 'fund junkies' as organisations that revolve on time limited grants.

We have given up trying to bid for funding for creating services for our sparsely populated rural community. This has enabled us to measure each day the requests and type of help that people need. 

We create projects, ACOT Services, that bring together all the local skills and resources that can become involved in providing help. Existing duplicated services now add strength as projects become dynamic, long-lasting, and can evolve according to changes in population profiles and individual perception of need. Innovation is constantly sought and donated income has risen in appreciation of support that is not governed by loss of funding or changes in national perceptions of need.

Each project is supported by a low-cost 'virtual organisation' which offers access to all participants, provides a dynamic knowledge base and delivers regular automated reports on pre-determined measurables. Volunteers may give an hour or a lifetime of involvement and do not have to endure a joining process in the hosting organisation if they are already involved elsewhere.

We attempt to put people at the 'top' of any system and administration, management and structuring underneath - in cyberspace. People gain greater respect becoming participants rather than clients who only receive a sometimes spasmodic and thin service delivery. 

The drive to provide services through purchasers, providers and agencies is failing; through a progressive reduction of funding that can give a little to small but essential organisations and, the lack of practical solutions consequently available.





ACOT services


Fascinating commentary on the new approach you are taking. Can you say what part of the country you are in, as there may be many parallels for us in Scotland



ACOT services

Hi Alex

We are Age Concern Okehampton and Torridge.

Area of Benefit:  Dartmoor to the Atlantic Coast in Devon, 800 sq miles - small towns and villages and isolated hamlets, no trains, three main roads and many buses moving fresh air around.

Ring any bells?



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