It turns out that the Welsh Housing Sector are a really innovative bunch. In a recent poll we ran on innovation and social housing in Wales, 94.5% of respondents said they have innovation processes – creating, prototyping and experimenting – embedded in their organisations. That is unusual however, what is even more unique is that the same, 94.5% of organisations, have involved their residents in this process at least once and 29% always involve their residents in innovation. Innovation is nothing new – but it is the buzzword ‘du jour’. What we are starting to realise though, is how innovation happens in Wales in a unique way that only a small, highly networked country is able to pull off.

Welsh Networking?

We realised some years ago that one of the most powerful things about our small nation is our communities and our networks. Wales is small and closely networked, and this presents huge possibilities for innovation and social change. As Matthew Gatehouse and Adam Price very eloquently wrote in the State of Innovation report published in May 2013;

“_Wales, as a small country with clear values and a public service cluster at its heart, is well–poised to achieve a quantum shift in public innovation. It has the opportunity to define a new approach at the heart of government and public services with the capability to open up and deliver solutions to the challenges ahead_”.

As Wales faces the challenges ahead, we must harness this wonderful ability we have in Wales to network to be able to understand and hear what it is the communities need, so that people delivering services can ‘lean’ into the community to deliver what they need and even more so empower the community to be able to deliver to themselves what they need. No longer can or should communities sit and wait for what is doled out to them, but rather take control of that and play a part in shaping the future.

Ernesto Sirolli does some fantastic work with this and as a flavour of what that work is all about – especially as it is rooted in Wales, please check out his TED talk “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

One Big Housing Conference and the Peoples Republic

At The Social Change Agency, we are all about networks and movement building to create change. We specialise in harnessing offline networks through online platforms. But the digital platforms are only a route, never the destination. However, the great thing about using the internet, that done properly, it can be uniquely democratic. A uniqueness that replicates that closeness of the Welsh Networks. How many times have you heard people coming up with great ideas for community regeneration or for social improvements, or saying how they would do it if they were in charge- we don’t believe that this is just a conversation for the school gates or the pub, this is something that could be a reality in the community. This is why we have decided to launch our new crowdfunding platforms for civic regeneration at the Community Housing Cymru, One Big Housing Conference in Llandrindod Wells, Powys this week. The People’s Republic is a crowdfunding platform, but it is really about creating on and off line communities around ideas and projects, communities that have a vested emotional and financial interest in seeing the projects succeed. It gives a place where ideas can grow up from within the communities, gain support and financing and actually become a reality for our communities. We believe that it matches the energy, connections and networks that exist in Wales and we are looking forward to getting it going in a way that supports and supplements the great work that is already happening.

If you are there this week, come and join our session on innovation, housing and social change on Friday from 12:45- 1:30. Esther Foreman and Dani Beck, The Social Change Agency