Organising an innovation camp? 4 things you need to consider

Sep 15, 2016

Last month’s “Healthcare Heroes”  was our fifth innovation camp in five years.

For the uninitiated, social innovation camps are intended as a space for using tech to solve social challenges. These two-day events help to crowdsource ideas, especially from those citizens (young women and men, people with disabilities, minority social groups, etc) who are often lacking access to contribute to issues directly affecting them.

Building on UNDP’s “Toolkit for Troublemakers,” here are 4 tips from us for your next innovation event!

  1. People versus ideas

Ideas always change. Any fantastical creation, be it your favourite sandwich or the fastest growing media website, is a constant cycle of refinement and readjustment. Look at something successful and you’ll see that it started life very differently.

Sure, the importance of a good idea shouldn’t be overlooked.  But particularly in international development circles, too much emphasis is placed on discovering “killer ideas.” In the business world, on the contrary, many investors and venture capitalists invest primarily in teams, not ideas.

Research proves our point: Agency isn’t built didactically but through participation. As such, we’ve begun to see Social Innovation Camp events as more about investing in people over two days.

When fighting for innovation, what matters most is having a strong team.

  1. Balance your teams

A good team will only succeed if it’s gender balanced and made up of people who can bring different ideas to the table.

It may surprise you, but a team with a well-designed idea yet without any business experience is likely to achieve less than a team with a poorly thought-out idea but great business minds.

From time to time, you may get a team which has everything it needs to succeed. More likely, you will need to plug a few gaps with extra expertise: a techie here, maybe an artist there. But in these latter cases, newly-formed teams often need a lot of teambuilding to make sure all members are on the same page.

Two days don’t give us enough time for teambuilding, but try not to skip it. Keep in mind that a strong team is the first step towards disruptive interventions in development.

  1. Get a bad cop

During Kolba’s five-year run, we’ve seen over and over that once the event ends, often so does the energy that comes with such a frenetic and creative platform. The motivation to implement can dissipate, even among your star performers. Encouraging teams to continue working on their idea and to continue to invest their time is not always easy.

Our experience shows that seed funding should only be released on a deliverable-by-deliverable basis, and that somebody is required to consistently check up and make sure that the work is being done.

You need a bad cop to accompany your goodwill and belief. Ideally someone with good business and start-up knowledge. In short, get a stick to go with that carrot of yours!

  1. Use thy network

Among the profit-making world, UNDP is not always known for its business acumen. If you’re searching for that added value at the end of the rainbow, then play to our strength - look towards our networks!

Networks can have a much larger impact than funds, having the potential to open doors in any number of directions.

Both within and outside the organisation, UNDP has access to regional and international expertise in a truly dizzying array of areas. Make sure you’re tapping into that as much as possible. Leave nothing on the bench.