The Camden Innovation and Development Fund has finally launched and is open for applications. This is something that we are are quite excited about as we, along with our friends at the RSA, have been supporting Camden Council throughout the year to develop the fund from its inception, as Dominic explained in this blog post published in March.
The current financial climate has presented very real challenges to local authorities who allocate money to voluntary and community sector groups, but we have been impressed with councils, like Camden, who have used this challenge as an opportunity to do something different, to take a few risks and to redesign the dynamics of the relationship between themselves and the organisations that they fund.
The Innovation and Development Fund was launched to the world (okay, well to the residents and groups from Camden who are the people eligible to apply for money and support from it) on 9th September, with an online question and answer session hosted on We are Camden. I joined Natalie Creary and other members of the team from Camden Council in answering questions about the fund posed by potential applicants. These questions ranged from someone wanting to know whether projects to tackle food waste would meet the criteria of “tackling a socially ingrained problem in Camden” to asking about what sort of non-financial support would be available from the council. The team at Camden have also produced a Handy Guide to help answer questions and kickstart ideas.
Then, last Monday, we held our first major event for the fund, Camden Innovates, in the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. Around 50 people, comprising of Camden Council officers, members of the voluntary and community sector and social innovators, came along. Those attending heard speeches from social innovator, Andy Gibson, about his Mindapples idea to promote good mental health by asking people for their five daily “mindapples” and from a group of Camden Council staff who had improved their service through innovative, user focussed methods. The audience then took the lead. People who had ideas that they might submit to the fund pitched these to their table. They then turned away from the table and listened to the others talking about what they had just heard. Not only did people receive some frank and constructive feedback, but also offers of support and use of resources, such as libraries, to help develop their ideas further and put them into practice (all very Simpl). Attendees also filled in a “need” and “offer” sheet, which resulted in the council officers present thinking out of the box about what they could offer those with budding ideas.
The closing date for the first stage of applications is 24th October 2011, but FutureGov and the RSA will be providing further support both to the council and to applicants. The RSA are surveying local people in Camden to map networks for the resources and skills that they can offer and to identify the key influencers and doers in the area. FutureGov will be supporting the council to find further ways to expand the use of the web throughout the application process. We will also be creating a social innovation development programme to improve the skills and confidence of social innovators who (may) apply to the fund. Finally, we will be recommending improved ways for evaluating the outcomes of fund, without placing extra burdens on organisations delivering the projects, and for capturing the learning gained from the whole exercise.
If you live or are based in Camden or and are interested in applying for the fund, do get in touch (lucy [at] wearefuturegov [dot] com). We’d be more than happy to chat to you about your idea. Or you can just fill in this short application form.