Blog Archives

Tapping into Brum’s talent and innovation

Last Friday I had a pig in muck moment.

Hosted by that hotbed of forward thinking grooviness, the ImpactHub, a small number of fellow travellers sat down for a couple of hours to make my brain hurt on the subject of an ‘open innovation system’.

Pretentious? Hopefully not.

Under discussion was actually something very straight-forward; how we might further encourage and accelerate a progressive, welcoming and applied approach to convening interested parties from civil and civic society to tackle the city’s wicked – and not-so-wicked – issues.

Those of you who have been following my ramblings for the last couple of years will know that I am (very) interested in working out, among a number of things, how the council can itself become more innovative, whilst also being more enabling of others across the city to do the same.

Within the city and the city council there is such incredible talent to tap into and part of my role is to understand how this might be better released and nurtured to the benefit of Birmingham and beyond. Between us, it seems to me, we can invent and reinvent pretty much anything.

So, whether it’s government policies, local issues, technology or – best of all – pure, joyful curiosity that stimulates us and concentrates the mind, there is no better time than now to be thinking about how to forge an even stronger and more powerful coalition of those who would seek to innovate and experiment to make the lives of the people of the city better – and, in doing so, be fulfilled themselves (albeit without losing that essential sense of restlessness that drives creativity).

So, we discussed “multi-actor models” (ie where everyone has a role), a “system balance sheet” (ie where you look at all the benefits and resources, not just one institution’s), ‘brownfield innovation’ (nope, no idea on that one!), ‘innovation thinkers and innovation doers’ (self-explanatory) and loads more besides.

And by the end of the session I had come away with three (more) questions:

  1. How does an organisation create its own appetite and momentum for innovation (as opposed to the chief executive simply mandating “go forth and innovate”)?
  2. How does innovating become part of the day job and not something you need time out of your already busy schedule to go and do?
  3. How do we innovate by default with others?

These, and no doubt other questions, will be returned to in the coming weeks and months and we will find the answers and act on them.

For now, let’s just do some thinking together in public. And to get you started, follow the links below.

Right here, right now –

31 May to 2 June –

11 June –

Best wishes,


Partnerships: Happy to take a back-seat if we get the right outcome

With partnership working growing in importance, Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton, looks at a new project that sees Birmingham City Council working with two charities to feed Birmingham’s homeless.

You’ve probably seen and heard a lot from Birmingham City Council in recent months about the growing importance of partnerships.

Leader of the council, Cllr John Clancy has made clear his determination to ‘do things with the city’ not ‘to the city’ and a major part of our Future Council work stresses the importance of working with organisations, communities, charities, businesses and individuals across Birmingham.

Cllr Clancy has made it very clear that it’s not enough to just talk about partnerships – we have to deliver them. And I think there are plenty of examples popping-up across the city. Some projects are in the early planning stages while others are starting to bear fruit.

Take for example a new initiative I recently visited which sees Birmingham City Council joining forces with two city charities to help improve the lives of hundreds of homeless people. Three nights every week, Sikh charity Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS) is now offering a hot meal service for homeless people from the Digbeth headquarters of SIFA Fireside.

The new service has been launched because MLSS were offering an evening meal service on the streets of Birmingham at a time when SIFA’s premises were not in use. Now the two have come together and the early signs are that the service will be a big success.

And the city council role? We’ve funded the pilot project, helped to bring the two organisations together and played a part in the planning. Basically we’ve been in the background – not the usual role for the city council but one I’m sure we will be playing for more often in future.

But what’s the problem? I feel it’s more important than ever that we enable others. In the past the council would have tried to deliver this project themselves but we’re now working far better with our partners. Of course this is partly out of necessity – we have a lot less money than we did in the past – but it’s not just that. We’re now enabling others but we’re also in the middle as the gel to ensure it happens.

What matters is the outcome. The people enjoying a hot meal in the warmth of SIFA Fireside do not really care whose name is attached to the service, their only concern is that the new service offers much-needed help.

When I visited SIFA I was really impressed by the welcoming atmosphere, by the organisation and by the way MLSS and SIFA were working together to help people in real need.

This is a partnership that works and one that I hope we can build on. Once demand is assessed we hope to bring in more partners. City Council services like Reach Out Recovery, which offers treatment and recovery services to support anyone experiencing difficulties with drugs and/or alcohol. Housing and crisis support, mental health support and more.

So good partnerships can lead onto more good partnerships and I have no doubt that many future projects will see the city council taking a back-seat.

That’s fine by me.

Let’s stay focussed on outcomes – not the role we play.


Tell us your story

If you would like to suggest a guest blog for this site, please let us know via the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.