Tag Archives: innovation

Disability History Month 2017

To mark Disability History Month this year we’re looking at famous disabled artists who used their art to express What I Need To Say


“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Five years before his death Michelangelo was diagnosed with kidney stones. As a result, art historians have often focused on that and the possible repetition of kidney shaped designs in his work.

However, more recently, the debate has been around whether he also had gout or arthritis and if his work as a painter and sculptor exacerbated or eased his condition.  Portraits of the artist especially those showing his hands have been pored over to determine which condition he had. Michelangelo also included himself as an old man in several of his later works which has provided additional evidence for this debate.

Pietà bandini by Michaelangelo
Pietà bandini by Michaelangelo

Francisco Goya

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters.”

Goya is often referred to as the last of the old masters and the first of the moderns. In 1793 he developed a severe but unidentified illness which left him deaf. After this, his work  – which had been characterised by portraits of society figures and tapestry designs – began to reflect a darker more pessimistic outlook. His portraits  came close to caricatures reflecting what Goya really saw rather than how his subjects might want to see themselves.

For a period towards the end of his life he lived an almost hermit-like existence in a farmhouse outside Madrid where he produced the famous Black Paintings – dark, sometimes gruesome murals painted in oils directly on the walls.

Francisco de Goya - Tio Paquete (oil on canvas, c.1820)
Francisco de Goya – Tio Paquete (oil on canvas, c.1820)

Frida Kahlo

“Feet, what do I need them for
If I have wings to fly.”

Frida Kahlo is probably best known as a feminist icon, but did you know she was also a disabled person? Kahlo was born with spina bifida, and after contracting Polio as a child was left with her right leg being thinner than her left. Following a severe car accident, Kahlo began painting self-portraits which depicted her impairments in a fearless way.

Frida Kahlo's 1939 oil painting “The Two Fridas.”
Frida Kahlo’s 1939 oil painting “The Two Fridas.”

Paul Klee

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.”

Klee was a German artist active during the first half of the twentieth century. As a child he had been a musical prodigy but as an adult his focused on his art. His theories and writing on the theory of colour were very influential and he taught with Kandinsky at the Bauhaus School of art.  His own work reflected a dry sense of humour as well as a sometimes childlike perspective.

One of his most productive periods was during the early 1930s but at the same time he was persecuted by the Nazis and forced to leave German. It was also during this time that he started to show the symptoms of scleroderma. It limited his output for a time until he modified his painting style to create more bold designs with his alternating moods making the paintings lighter or darker.

Klee’s scleroderma was only diagnosed ten years after his death in 1940 but World Scleroderma day is now on June 29, the date of his death.

Paul Klee Halme 1938
Paul Klee Halme 1938

Henri Matisse

“I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime, which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me….”

Henri Matisse was one of the most innovative painters of the twentieth century. In 1941 he almost died from cancer, and after three months in recovery he became a wheelchair user. Matisse credits this period of his life with reenergizing him, even referring to the last 14 years of his life as “une seconde vie,” or his second life.

He adapted his artistic methods to suit life in a wheelchair, making artwork out of coloured paper shapes. You may have seen this work in the exhibition The Cut-Outs which was featured in the Tate Modern in 2014.

La Perruche et la Sirene by Henri Matisse 1952
La Perruche et la Sirene by Henri Matisse 1952

Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“Your head goes crazy if you pursue what ifs.”

Yinka Shonibare is a British conceptual artist with Transverse Myelitis, which paralyses one side of his body. Shonibare uses assistants to make work under his direction, and is famed for exploring cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation.

In 2004 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his Double Dutch exhibition, and was awarded an MBE in the same year.

Nelson's Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare

Stephen Wiltshire

“Do the best you can and never stop.”

Wiltshire is an autistic savant and world renowned architectural artist. He learned to speak at nine, and by the age of ten began drawing detailed sketches of London landmarks. Recently, Wilshire created an eighteen foot wide panoramic landscape of the skyline of New York City, after only viewing it once during a twenty minute helicopter ride. The Stephen Wiltshire gallery can be found in Pall Mall, London.

Venice by Stephen Wiltshire MBE
Venice by Stephen Wiltshire MBE

Learn more about our What I need to Say campaign 

Disability Innovation: Citizen-led design that’s giving people more independence

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

In 2015, a new design challenge called Design Together, Live Better launched in the West of England. The challenge was run by the West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN), who asked designers at National charity Designability to deliver their human-centred design approach in order to engage people and work with them to develop new product ideas.

Gaining insights and generating new ideas

Over 100 people took part in the challenge, sharing their personal accounts of living with a disability or health problem, or caring for someone who needed regular help. Many of these people came to public workshops held across the West of England to participate in the challenge.

The workshops were a hive of activity and the result was a number of great ideas covering areas such as; mobility, personal hygiene, food preparation, travel and medication management.

Selecting ideas with potential to make an impact

Unfortunately only a few ideas could be developed within the challenge time frame and Designability along with WEAHSN had a tough job deciding which ideas showed the potential to have the greatest impact on independence.

When shortlisting product ideas, the following criteria was used:

  • Are there any products that already exist to solve this problem?
  • Does the idea have the potential to impact a number of people’s lives?
  • How much impact will the idea have on somebody’s independence?
  • Is the idea a potential, workable solution?

Taking three ideas further

The Design Together, Live Better team took on board all of the feedback and chose three ideas to be developed further and made into prototypes over the course of only two months. The people the products could help had regular input into the design and testing to provide insight into how they should look, function and fit into their lifestyle.

One of the three ideas was Pura; a convenient, portable bidet to promote dignity and independence

The team heard from a gentleman living with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. He spoke of how he requires help from a friend or carer to clean himself after toileting whilst out and about. The need for this kind of support can be uncomfortable and undignified for both parties.

From this insight, Designability came up with the idea for a portable bidet that can be used with ease in public toilets without the need for assistance in cleaning.

Key features include:

  • Ease of transportation – Pura is a sleek, compact product that can be carried with you wherever you go
  • Contemporary – the designers ensured that Pura looks good with a simple, smooth appearance that is easy to clean
  • Simple to use – Pura has been created with easy-to-use clamps to secure it to the toilet, and a large button to activate the wash facility without difficulty
  • Safe and secure – Pura’s size means that it fits the majority of standard toilets and sits securely in place when used

The two other ideas developed to a prototype stage during this challenge were a companion walker trolley for use at home and a child seat harness, which can be fastened with just one hand.

What next?

We are hopeful that these three products will move further towards being available on the open market, and we are working hard with the people that would use them and commercial partners and manufacturers to ensure this.

Designability are always happy to hear about your ideas for a product or solution that may help to transform someone’s life. If you have something in mind which may enable you or someone you know to gain more independence, please get in touch:

Web: www.designability.org.uk

Email: info@designability.org.uk

Tel: 01225 824103

To find out more about the prototypes and the design challenge, please visit the Design Together, Live Better website: http://designtogetherlivebetter.org/

Designability invited people to share their daily living experiences and ideas for potential new products that could improve their quality of life and enhance their independence.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

Disability Innovations: App enables people with hearing impairments to use the phone

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is RogerVoice?

RogerVoice is an App that enables people with hearing impairments to have conversations on the phone, by converting speech to subtitles in real time. This innovative use of existing technology has already allowed deaf people to make their first ever phone calls, and has the potential to include millions of people in an activity which most of us take for granted. It has already received much positive media attention, so last week I excitedly tested it out with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder Olivier Jeannel to understand how it works and what the potential for it is.

What’s the story behind it?

Olivier grew up in the US where he experienced the phone relay service that was available for free. He moved to France in his early 20s to work for telecom company Orange, while also helping friends on a communication project for deaf people in France. He became aware that the relay system which was so important to deaf people in the US was not available in France or worldwide. What was on offer relied on expensive human translators. His experience and perspective of both the telecom system and working for the deaf came together, and inspired him to want to work towards a system that allowed people with hearing impairments to communicate on the phone.

After seeing technology like voice recognition and Siri being introduced in the mainstream, Olivier felt it had huge potential beyond being a fun (but often useless) gadget for people.  Being young and impatient, and himself hearing impaired, he explains that all he wanted was for technology to do amazing things for people, so he started working on RogerVoice.

How does it work?

The App uses existing technology, including a standard telecoms system and a voice recognition system. If you are hearing impaired, you download the app and make a phone call. When the recipient of the call speaks to you, their voice is intercepted, transcribed, and can be read on your phone’s screen in real time. When you respond, your voice can be heard on the other end just like a standard phone call. The recipient doesn’t need to download the App, making it more seamless to make a phone call.

Currently people with hearing impairments either use message based systems to communicate, or the expensive relay system which uses human transcribers. The App works for people who can speak orally, but Olivier is also working on a function for people who can’t communicate orally so that messages they write can be read out over the phone via text-to-speech recognition.

What is the potential for the App?

Olivier describes two main possibilities that can be achieved through RogerVoice. The first is a practical aspect; using the phone for booking doctor’s appointments to organising taxis and meetings. But he has been most excited by the emotional aspect, where deaf people can now use the phone to talk to family and friends and can be included in an activity that is so important and so ingrained in day to day life.

Olivier expresses that even if he doesn’t need to use the phone a lot, the most important thing is that he can. He has been excited by the feedback so far from users and families testing the App who have had their first ever phone conversations. It’s this feedback which inspires him to keep working so hard on the technology, to make it available as fast as possible.

Is it available now?

Currently the app is undergoing beta-testing on Android so that the team behind RogerVoice can ensure that the tech is working smoothly and is bug-free. The App is compatible in many languages, and works particularly well with those that already have a lot of data around voice recognition. It is due to be available for the iPhone in August and the public launch will be in September this year.

Olivier wants to ensure that the tech is ready, but crucially that people are ready to use it and understand what it’s meant for. The technology is not meant to exclude any groups, but to make sure as many people as possible are included in everyday technology. He stresses that RogerVoice is not out there to compete with existing systems such as the relay system, but to be a complementary offer. Human transcribers offer a superior level of quality and accuracy which should still be relied upon for business or conference calls.

What we like about it

This seems like such an exciting development which uses widely available technology to make a real and dramatic difference to a huge number of lives. We often hear feedback from disabled people around how they don’t want niche services or websites that cater solely to their needs. They just want mainstream services to be accessible.

RogerVoice could offer a way for existing and accepted technologies to be inclusive for a new audience, and we will be watching their progress over the next few months with great anticipation.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation you’ve seen, please email innovation@scope.org.uk.

Disability Innovations: Connecting isolated groups with Mifinder

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is Mifinder?

Mifinder is all about connecting people and building communities, targeting isolation and encouraging networks of support. It is a free app where you sign up, register your profile and are then able to ‘find’ and connect with others around you based on their location. Sound familiar? The unique thing about Mifinder is that it is aimed particularly at groups in society with often higher rates of isolation, and people connect with each other based on a shared ‘life experience’. This could be a visual, hearing or other specific impairment, or an experience such as being new to an area or learning a language. The app enables people to find like-minded others around them wherever they go based on their exact location.

How do I use it?

Mifinder app on iPhoneAfter downloading the free app (currently only available on the iPhone) you create a profile, involving selecting the communities that you belong to and uploading your profile text and photo. You can then select the communities that you are looking to engage with, and you will be shown the profiles of the closest 120 users who fit that criteria, in order of how far away they are from you at that time. You can see other people’s profiles, and if you would like to connect and chat with them you use the app’s instant messenger. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of Mifinder Gabriel Saclain hopes that the initial online conversation will prompt real offline social experiences, such as going for a coffee. Security is a high priority, and no specific locations are given out until people have decided that they want to meet.

How did the idea come about?

The idea came from Mifinder CEO and founder Gabriel Saclain, who had been working with isolated communities in Brighton. He was struck by some of the challenges faced by groups he worked with, acknowledging the effect of isolation on some communities and the importance of social support for mental well-being. He wanted to create a way for disabled and diverse communities to engage more easily, and while it initially focused on diverse ethnic groups, the app has evolved to focus on specific life experiences. So far over 300,000 users with disabilities have downloaded the app, and over 2 million connections have been made.

Why focus on life experiences?

The life experience groups include people who have visual or hearing impairments, those who have experiences of cancer, those who use a wheelchair, and many others. Mifinder is driven by the principle that people who have gone through similar experiences can have greater mutual understanding, and therefore can offer more support to one another. Support could also come in the form of advice and information. For example if someone with a hearing impairment moved to a new place, they could connect with others with similar experiences and seek advice about accessible venues, local support and information about the area. Mifinder is keen to emphasise that the focus is on community and friendships as opposed to dating, and previous features around dating have been removed from the app.

What is next for Mifinder?

Mifinder is continuously evolving based on what users want and what the creators think would be helpful and exciting to provide. They hope to expand from connecting people to each other, to connecting people to events, groups and organisations around them that relate specifically to their experience. One way of doing this will be to partner with charities and existing support groups. Following from this they hope that people will start to create their own meet ups and groups for people around them. They have loads of exciting plans, so make sure to keep checking out the Mifinder website.

Why we like it

Without assuming that people are only willing or able to connect with those who share similar experiences to them. Mifinder recognises that there can be increased understanding and support when there is a shared significant experience. It provides a way for people to meet in a social environment and share stories and advice, and is driven by the desire to build communities. We like how it recognises the very real issue of isolation, but the potential for what people can gain from it is so wide-ranging.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation, please email innovation@scope.org.uk.

Retail Innovation Project: What happened next?

A few weeks ago we wrote a blog introducing a retail project we are running, to which we have given the catchy name ‘Retail Innovation Project’! This is the project that the Foresight and Innovation and Retail departments are running together, with the aim of trying new ideas and increasing profitability of Scope shops. Eight shops are involved in the project, trialling eight different new ideas. Each participant has up to £1000 to spend over the duration of the three month project.

We heard in the last blog from participant Hannah Croft about her experience of the initial group workshop. She and the others were thrown into a world of post-it notes and brainstorms, encouraged to identify an area to work on in their individual shops, and to generate loads of ideas that they could test.

The project has now been running for a while, and we thought it was time to give an update. What ideas are being trialled? Have there been any successes so far? Has innovation been demystified?

Gary from the New Milton shop and Sheelagh from the shop in Hexham are both trialling quite different ideas, so we asked them to share their thoughts with us about the process and experience so far.

So, what’s the idea(s) you’re testing and why?

Gary beads sitting at deskGary: Have you ever found yourselves with your head down doing lots of jobs in your shops, distracting you from Customer Magic? I know I have! This is why I was thrilled to get involved with the Retail Innovation Project. It was a chance to push forward and trial two ideas to be more customer-focused and less task-driven. My two initial ideas were a new stock take-off system and a customer service window.

‘Take offs’ (stock that needs to be moved off the shop floor) in my shop take ages and really limits me engaging with my customers, so I wanted to simplify it. I am trialling a way of identifying what to take off by having coloured cubes on the hangers, each colour denoting a different day. It’s going well and I have reduced my take off time to 10 minutes a day, a massive time saver!

I am also trialling an 11 ‘til 3 Customer Service Window. This means we don’t do any jobs during that time and only focus on our customers. This is work in progress and we plan to launch it on 6th May with a Flash Sale and lots of in store activity to make our customers feel special. My team and I are really excited to be doing new things and hopefully hearing the till ring.

Hexham shelvingSheelagh: I’m trialling a ‘Collector’s Corner’ in my shop in Hexham, on every second Tuesday of the month. Hexham is a small market town with a big interest in antiques. It has a large monthly Antiques fare and I thought it would be a good idea to create some interest in our higher priced collectable items by designating a special area in the shop for collectables whilst the town had dealers and visitors attending the fare.

Did you have any fears about the project?

Gary: Having the chance to try anything to help increase sales is exciting and a bit daunting at the same time. It’s quite difficult not to limit yourself, and I have had to really try to stretch my ideas around activities for our customers during the service window. Once I opened my mind to innovation lots of ideas have flowed, resulting in me waking me up one night soon after the meeting scribbling down ideas!

Sheelagh: I worried that our regular customers may be put off by seeing so many higher priced items in one go in the shop, but because of the special display until we made it created a good talking point, and our regulars have also purchased items from it.

What’s been the best part of the process so far?

Gary: Throughout the first meeting it was great to meet other Managers who have new ideas but not always a way forward for them. The room was a brilliant melting pot of ideas that we already do in our shops and new ones which we would trial. Also the new system seems to be working! The time taken to do take-offs has decreased from a couple of hours to just 5 to 10 minutes, meaning more time to interact with customers. It is also simpler and more visual, so all my volunteers can do it and I have total inclusion in this task.

Sheelagh: The best part has been seeing the team in the shop’s reaction to my idea and watching them work as a team to promote it and chat to customers about the idea. So far we have raised nearly £400 just from these sales, and with more advertising and interest we hope to be even more successful.

What have you learned about innovation and what it means from this project?

Gary: One thing I have learnt about being innovative is that your ideas change. Sometimes things get bigger and better and others become too complicated and you need to let them go. It’s been a long process that is still ongoing and I am waiting to see if my innovations really work and put more money in the till.

Sheelagh: I thought at the beginning of the project that the decisions about the idea would have to come from the retail management team. However having the freedom to run with my idea and test it in store has been a very  positive experience and made me realise that ideas can come from anyone, and that testing these ideas is the best way to find out whether or not they will work!

I have also learned that you need to be open to your ideas changing and not worry that the working plan you begin with might not necessarily be what you end up with.

What one piece of advice would you give someone look to try out new ideas?

Gary: The one piece of advice I would give anyone trying out new ideas is be bold and stick to your guns if you believe in your ideas. You never know you could be on to a winner that everyone at Scope could benefit from.

Sheelagh: Have faith in your ideas and learn from your mistakes. I didn’t know that making a small area in the shop into a special interest area would generate so much income for our shop!

Investing in Innovation

Retail is a really important to Scope. It’s how many people recognise us as a charity and it raises vital funds for our work, so it’s important to continue to invest in new ideas and practices. It’s also a competitive environment, so we have to occasionally embrace risk and step outside our comfort zones to ensure that we are continually striving to improve our performance. As Gary and Sheelagh found, everyone has the opportunity to try to operate a bit more innovatively. An important part is trusting that you have the insight and experience to have great ideas, and to really believe in them.

There are three more weeks to go before the project ends, at which point we will review the whole experience and see what we have learned. Maybe there will be ideas which can be rolled out to our other shops, or maybe participants will be inspired and will inspire others to keep thinking creatively and innovatively in their shops. Either way, it’s been great to create room for the chance to try out new ideas.

Have you seen any charity shop innovations in action, or visited one of Scope’s shops recently? Leave us a comment or email us your thoughts at foresightandinnovation@scope.org.uk

Our Creative Future: Thoughts from FutureFest 2015

We attended this year’s FutureFest along with another CharityWorks trainee, Poppy Dillon, Communications Assistant at NSPCC. She kindly agreed to write a guest blog for us, to share her thoughts on the event as someone who doesn’t work directly in innovation.

What is FutureFest?

FutureFest is an event run by the innovation charity Nesta, and is a weekend of radical ideas, talks and immersive experiences aimed to inspire, excite and challenge perceptions of the future. The annual festival took place this March in London and covered seven different strands of the future. These were future democracy, future global, future machines, future money, future music and future thrills.

For those of us who didn’t attend, what was it like?

FutureFest was a circus for the senses, filled with bright lights, whirring technology, claustrophobic corridors and interactive installations. Neurosis was the first thing you saw as you entered FutureFest. It was like every glitzy backstage party that I’d ever imagined as a teenager: walking through a heavy black curtain into windowless cavern in a mist of dry ice, and then this huge machine before you. Balls of lights sticking out of it in all directions. A chair at the top for you to sit in, and immediately be swept away in a kind of neurological adventure.

Neurosis was just the first of a whole collection of scintillating machines and experiences. These included a blind robot, a kissing machine you can attach to your phone and an orchestra which combined sound, taste, touch and smell in an effort to imitate synesthesia. I took part in one of their performances, and it really was as bizarre as you’d imagine.

Chocolates dangling from a frame
Furturistic sweet shop at FutureFest

There was even a futuristic sweet shop with a wealth of exciting new sweets, with textures and ingredients that are potentially soon to become popular (apparently insects and vegetables will be involved). Willy Wonka would have been right at home.

What was the best bit?

What really made FutureFest for me were the speakers. From Baroness Helena Kennedy’s impassioned talk on the future of democracy on an international playing field, to Matthew Herbert’s vision of Country X, the first virtual country, and of course the unforgettable live link up with Edward Snowden in Moscow. All the speakers came from different angles and walks of life but what brought them together was their shared belief that the future could be bright.

So we will really all be replaced by robots in the future?

Nesta has developed a quiz which works out the probability of your job being automated in the future (thankfully my job seems pretty safe, and unlikely to be taken over by robots!) According to Nesta, the good news is that creative jobs are hard to automate, and they say the UK’s creative economy could be its secret weapon, generating a million extra jobs by 2030.

Ije Nwokorie, CEO of brand consultancy company Wolff Olins, was charged with answering the weighty question of the future of creativity in an age of automation. He began his talk with the old folk legend of John Henry, who beat a steam powered hammer in a race to drill a tunnel. After this remarkable feat, John Henry died of the stress and exhaustion; proving that the extraordinary capability of humans is still no match for a machine.

The whole premise of his talk was how, rather than living in fear of some kind of hostile, alienating robotic future, which should rather focus on one of the key aspects that differentiated us from machines: our creativity. And far from sounding like cute PR chat- he was a creative consultant after all- this man’s words had a truth to them. He painted an aspirational image of the future, where in his words, the man who came to check your meter would also be the guy who could advise you on how to sell your spare energy, and the shop assistant at Marks & Spencer’s would also be your style consultant. In this world the number one skill sought after by employers would be your own unique creativity.

What could this mean for charities like Scope?

Ije’s idea of a world in which people’s working time isn’t filled by swathes of torturous admin is a compelling one for all of us working in business environments; especially so in charities, where leaner business mechanisms could lead to more money and time to spend directly serving customers.  Understandably, he was challenged in his vision by an audience member, who asked whether this wouldn’t increase unemployment by reducing the number of staff needed to run an effective business, and leaving people who just weren’t creative thinkers to live on the dole. Something that was on my mind.

However, Ije’s response was simple. Creativity breeds creativity. The more you are challenged in your thinking the more creative and adaptable your ideas will become. And the greater the range and diversity of creative thinking, the more agile and responsive a business can become. Without the day-to-day admin and bureaucratic processes that we know, we can only speculate about how job descriptions would look, how organizations would be structured and how many people would be needed to staff them. Would it spell a re-evaluation of top-down hierarchical models of business? After all, a creative solution could come from anyone.

As for the idea that some people just aren’t creative, Ije’s response was, well, we’ll teach them! With an education system that equips everyone with the tools to harness their own creative strengths, rather than just catering for students who can succeed academically, he believes that this would be possible.

Automation has been redefining the way we work for centuries, but rather than shrinking the job market it creates the space for new work. Just think about the unused creative potential in businesses which is caught up with self-perpetuating admin. And hell, what about the chance to take pride and enjoyment from your work? That alone is worth it.

What was your overall impression – and does the future look bright?

Although the technological display was fascinating, little of it was explained satisfactorily, so it left us hapless onlookers nodding, saying “oh hey, that’s cool”- drifting from invention to invention, wondering why we’d never really paid attention in our physics lessons at school, or whether it would have helped if we had. This gimmicky feeling pervaded the whole event, and jarred perceptibly for me with Nesta’s more serious aims as a funder of public services and digital social innovation. More futuristic than future.

Poppy Dillon

A person using a virtual reality headset
Oculus rift virtual city at FutureFest

Some final thoughts from Scope’s Innovation department.

It’s easy to come away from an event like this questioning how accurate or plausible all these images of the future are and how much of it we could really believe. Will chocolate covered vegetables catch on, and if so, why? What was wrong with the classic chocolate orange?

That aside, FutureFest was a thought provoking event, all about opening up discussions about the future directions it could go in, and directions we might not want to go in! The main message was not just to look at the future as something that only happens to us, but something we can affect and shape more in line with the things we care about. We all have a role in this, charities in particular, and this was a really empowering message. What the future holds, who knows. Guess there’s only one way to find out!

Scope’s work and the Zero Project awards

This week, Scope’s projects are being celebrated in Vienna as examples of international best practice.

The Zero Project awards are held every year and focus on the rights of disabled people around the world.  Each year, the Project identifies the most innovative and effective policies and practices that improve the lives of disabled people around themes of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This year’s themes are independent living and democratic participation. Over 400 delegates from more than 50 countries are attending the awards.

Three of Scope’s projects have been shortlisted for international best practice – Connect to Control, Activities Unlimited and the Access to Elected Office Fund, which we worked with the Government Equalities Office to create.

Connect to Control

“It enables me to communicate and be more independent, which gives me freedom.”

In 2011, Scope launched Connect to Control.  This was aimed at addressing how technological innovations can increase independent living for disabled people. Its key aim was to make equipment cheaper and more accessible for disabled people to allow them more control over their environment.

We commissioned a piece of research with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art called Enabling Technologies to better understand the digital divide between mainstream and assistive technologies and to outline the potential for future inclusive technologies.

The prototype control system was tested by students at Scope’s Beaumont College in Lancaster and 23 students received bespoke systems allowing them to control their environment from their computer for the first time.

The accessible home automation system, based on the Connect to Control prototype, is now available to purchase from Therapy Box.

Learn more about how technology has changed how disabled people live independently.

Activities Unlimited

Activities Unlimited is about making short breaks and activities better for disabled children and young people.  We train and support activity providers.  We help to make sure activities are affordable and that your child can take part with siblings and friends.

Whether it’s sports, arts, dance, drama or a couple of nights away from home, we’ll give you information on what’s available to make sure disabled children can join in and develop their confidence and independence.

In Suffolk, where Activities Unlimited operates, it has transformed the activities available to disabled children and young people.  In 2009 there were 35 short break providers in the county.  There are now around 200 providers of mainstream and specialist leisure activities who offer quality activities to disabled children and young people.  There are 2,700 children and young people registered via the Activities Unlimited website.

Access to Elected Office Fund

As a result of Scope campaigning, the Access to Elected Office Fund became law in 2012.  Disabled people are significantly underrepresented in public life, and the Fund is designed address some of the extra costs they face in standing or applying to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials.

The Fund works by offering individual grants of between £250 and £10,000 to disabled people who want to be selected as candidates for an election, or who are standing for election.

The 2015 Election will be the first General Election where candidates have been supported by the fund.  If you are a disabled person thinking about standing for election, do find out more about the fund and how to apply.

Scope’s retail innovation challenge

Staff members huddled in front of Scope logo

Scope has 237 charity shops across England and Wales. And their recent foray into innovation (remember the Strip for Scope campaign?) has inspired us to undertake a new project – Scope’s Retail Innovation Challenge.

Creativity, enthusiasm and a willingness to go above and beyond to make a successful shop were all part of the selection criteria to identify a group of 10 shop managers and assistant managers to help us find new ways to boost shop profits and generate more income, to help Scope make the world a better place for disabled people. It was also a great chance for us to put the innovation process we’ve been developing through its paces.

Staff members working around conference table
Staff members working around a conference table

We kicked off the challenge with a two day workshop for the 10 participants who travelled from as far away as Skipton, Totnes, Liverpool and Hull to gather at our head office in London.

Their challenge was to identify an idea for increasing profit in their shop that they could take back and test over the next eight to 10 weeks. With less than two days to do this it was a big ask!

But as an excited and expectant new group, we dived straight in to insight gathering, problem shaping, ideation and getting into the shoes of customers and donors. By 3pm on Friday each participant emerged weary but exhilarated with two promising ideas that they could take back to their shops to begin to test with our support.

Participant Hannah Croft (Assistant Manager in Scope’s Liverpool shop) shared her experience of her two day trip to London:

“My day started at 5.53am when my train left New Brighton, set for Liverpool, where I would then travel to Euston. It was a stormy morning and I thought I could have been blown all the way to London. When I finally got to Euston the sun was shining and it was warm enough for me to take off my scarf and mittens! I didn’t know what I was going to be doing or who I would meet over the next two days. I was excited but I was a little nervous too!

Once at head office I met the team and we started to piece together the outline of what was in store. From that moment the room never lost the buzz of conversation, sharing ideas, experiences and inspiration.

In the Scope shop where I work, my manager and I have different ways of working, different personalities and views, and that’s no bad thing! It means we normally get the best of both. But it was nice to spend time with people who seemed to think like I did.

We were told that we had a huge opportunity to generate ideas for our own shops and trial them. We were also told we would have few limitations to what we could trial in our shops, as long as it was realistic and in budget. We spent two days working as a team on areas of potential for our own individual stores. I felt like I was 10 again, stood in Toys ‘R’ Us after winning the lottery! It was just an overwhelming feeling of excitement and playfulness.

I have been given the chance to break away from the rules, the norms and guidelines and potentially achieve something great for our store and for Scope. I left the workshop on day two bouncing off the walls. I rang my area manager as soon as I could to tell her every detail I could remember. I spoke so fast and excitedly that she had to tell me several times to stop and breathe.

On returning to my store, I must be honest, it was a bit like being brought back down to reality. Our store is really busy and I am still to have the chance to discuss properly with my manager and settle on the path I should take. I have done some work in my own time on my areas of interest and am looking forward to progressing through the project and seeing what I can achieve. I like to hope I brought a little of the sunshine from London, back to Liverpool.”

Hannah and the other nine participants will be testing out their ideas over the next eight to 10 weeks, letting us know how they fare along the way, what works and what doesn’t! We look forward to sharing what happens.

Ruth, Zoe & Rosa

Scope’s Innovation Team

Our top 5 technology and innovation trends for 2015

New Year may now be a distant memory, but New Year’s resolutions are (just about) going strong and lots of us are still looking to try something new. As January is generally a bit depressing, we thought we’d share some of the exciting technologies and innovations happening in the disability field to give us all something to look forward to for 2015!

We’ve put together a list of five top trends and technologies that are set to gain momentum over the coming year, and which we hope will have a real impact on the lives of disabled people.

  1. 3D Printing

Although these nifty machines have been around for a while now, it’s taken a long time for them to start printing anything of any real use (who needs another 3D printed moustache anyway?). In November we met Mick Ebeling of ‘Not Impossible labs’, who founded ‘Project Daniel’ in 2013, a 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility for amputees in war-torn Sudan. Since then 3D printed orthotics are being developed everywhere from prosthetic limbs, to exoskeletons and wheelchair seats, and can reduce the wait for custom made equipment from 28 weeks to just 48 hours and for a fraction of the price. Project Daniel is just one of many inspiring examples of how 3D prosthetics are changing lives for disabled people on a global scale. With 3D printing set to grow 98% in 2015, and with 3D printers now available on the high-street, we hope 2015 will be the year when 3D printed orthotics become more affordable, accessible and widespread than ever.

  1. Wearable Technology

Wearables seem to be everywhere now from the Apple Watch and Google glass to health technologies like Kiqplan and Fitbit. With this newfound focus on health and wellbeing in mainstream wearable technology there is huge potential for wearables to be adapted to support disabled people with living more healthily and independently, such as SmartGlasses which help visually impaired people to see.

Another such technology that is still in development stage, but we are equally excited for is the VEST which stands for Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer. This non-invasive, low-cost vibratory vest allows those with hearing impairments to use ‘sound-to-touch mapping’ to interpret auditory information through small vibrations on their torso. VEST is an idea developed by Dr. David Eagleman and works on ‘sensory substitution’, the idea that the brain can gather data using one sense, and then transfer it to another sense. With projects like this already up and running thanks to crowdfunding it seems the possibilities for Wearable technology are endless!

  1. Shared economy

Another trend that’s become almost impossible to ignore is the growing ‘shared economy’. This has seen everything from Crowdfunding and peer to peer lending, to services such as Task Rabbit, Casserole Club, Airbnb, and even BorrowMyDoggy.com (yes, it really is a thing). We think there is huge potential here for disabled people to get extra support and through the collaborative economy, as well as being able to get involved and share their skills.

Spice Time Credits, a social currency, is one way this is happening already. It works on the principle of individuals volunteering an hour of their time, and in exchange receiving one time credit worth an hour, which can be ‘spent’ on events, training and leisure services. It has already proved hugely successful across England and Wales from communities to Schools and social care settings and has seen a huge increase of customer participation and new models of co-production developed. What’s great about Time Credits is that everyone’s time is of equal value, regardless of knowledge, expertise or skills, and offers real life experience where people are rewarded for their contribution.

  1. Connected home

Although being able to control your heating from your smartphone may seem a tad unnecessary and somewhat self-indulgent (maybe that’s just us?!), it does show exciting development in the world of smart machines and the connected home. At Beaumont, Scope’s residential FE College, we’re already using environmental controls within some of our living areas, to allow students the independence to control things such as their curtains, lights and doors, from their smartphone or tablet.

Samsung has developed its SmartThings home control system, which can be used to monitor and control connected items in the home from locks to light switches and plug sockets. We’re really excited to see the demand for these technologies growing in the mainstream market and we hope that such technology will soon become both affordable and widely available, as it has huge potential to revolutionise the very meaning of independent living for disabled people!

  1. Hacks and ‘making’

The work we have been doing with IKEA has opened up a whole new world of ‘hacks’ and ‘making’ to us. Everyone seems to be having a go at making ‘handmade’ products, and ‘hacking’ mainstream products and furniture to meet the needs of disabled people. The Wheelchair Liberator, developed by Malcom Rhodes, is one such example and a far cry from the traditional homemade jam and knitted jumpers!

With coding now part of the national curriculum for all school children, apps are another thing that (almost) every man and his dog are having a go at making, and there really does seem to be an app for everything! The Apps for Good programme has seen a huge number of apps developed by young people aged 10-18 to address some of the biggest problems facing young people in our society. One such app is Supportive Schedule, an app designed to help people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions and their carers with daily routines. It provides pictorial guides to completing simple tasks such as making a cup of tea, to help aid their independence. It was developed by six young people at a school in Cumbria and won the Apps for Good award “Our World – encouraging sustainable and healthy lifestyles” in 2013.

From care sharing app Jointly, to diabetes management apps like Diabetes UK’s Tracker App, there are a wealth of apps out there designed to make life easier for disabled people.

We love this trend of people finding innovative solutions to their own problems. That’s why we’re working on creating a database of what we like to call ‘disability innovations’, to showcase the best technologies and creations out their making life easier for disabled people.

If you know of any such apps, technologies or innovations that are making a real difference to the lives of disabled people, then we’d love to hear from you!

We’d especially want to know if you have hacked or invented something yourself, so we can include them in our database and help you share them with others.

Get in touch with us at innovation@scope.org.uk or of course leave any comments below. 

Innovation and co–creation at Scope

In Scope’s Innovation department, running projects involves testing early and often, and having the flexibility to change or even abandon ideas. In a guest post from Lindsey Caplan, she talks about how they’re testing a new innovation process:

At the start of October, my colleague Suzi and I had the opportunity to pilot the first stage of Co.Creator, a model for innovation. Zevae Zaheer developed the model and acts as a co-founder on many projects.

We were asked us to explore ways that we could enhance our Face 2 Face parent befriending service to expand its reach to people who don’t live near an existing service. She wanted us to see if we could develop our existing Face 2 Face online service to make use of social media and appeal to more people. The idea was that by combining our existing service with a digital offer, we could reach more parents and reduce costs.

Zevae‘s role as a co-founder was to guide us through various processes, test our hypotheses (guesses!) and help us identify possible solutions. We had an hour-long session with him each week. We all work in different parts of the country, so met online via tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting, which meant that we could all see and hear each other. We both felt a bit apprehensive about meeting in this way but were surprised at how quickly we got used to it. It is possible to build great rapport during virtual meetings and we only all met in person at the end of the eight weeks!

The next challenge we both faced was getting our heads around the bamboozling language of innovation. Here’s a quick run down of some jargon:

Innovation Canvas – business information about a solution, including resources, funding sources and expected change.

Customer Script – customer responses to our hypothesis – is what we think what they think?

Value Proposition – the value that a customer could gain from our solution.

Pretotype – a quick, cheap test to check whether a breakthrough innovation appeals to its market.

Once we had mastered that, we were flying…literally, the pace was fast! Learning consisted of lots of reading, researching, watching various lectures online and ‘getting out of the building’. This means exactly what it says – not just sitting at a desk forming our own conclusions but actually going out and talking to the people who would be using our service.

We used Innovation Canvases to organise our thoughts and tell us who our customers were and then we created Customer Scripts. The scripts were useful in tailoring and framing our questions to ensure we were asking the right questions of the right people about the right things. The Value Propositions evolved from these conversations and helped us to come up with Pretotypes in the form of mocked up web pages that we then tested with customers.

At every stage, Zevae offered us support, guidance, encouragement and most of all, allowed us the freedom to think creatively and to not be afraid to pitch ideas, no matter how outlandish they seemed. We learned not to fall in love with our ideas and that it was OK to kill them off, if our research proved that we were on the wrong track.

This way of learning was a welcome and unique experience. Whilst there were challenging times – juggling this extra work with our day jobs and asking last minute favours of colleagues – the exciting moments we experienced when we stumbled across some fantastic and possible solutions made up for it! It’s great to now look at what we achieved, share learning and think about changes that could smooth the experience within Scope. We are looking forward to the next eight week ‘Solution and Scale’ stage of Co.Creator, where we expand the project team, develop and test one of the ideas we have come up with for real. Watch this space!