What do we mean by Collaborative Innovation?

As an organisation, we are led by a simple belief:

We believe that when given the opportunity, people can and want to work together to shape the world we live in.

Led by this belief, we see our role as equipping organisations of all kinds to involve people as Citizens, not just treat them as Consumers. Consumers, by default, have only one role — to buy stuff from you. By contrast, when we think of people as Citizens, we begin to ask what it is we can all participate and contribute to — indeed, how we can all shape the world we live in.

At the moment, we see our biggest contribution to this way of thinking as our Collaborative Innovation projects.

So what exactly do we mean when we talk about Collaborative Innovation?

Collaborative Innovation is a process which brings organisations together over a shared question, creating the space to explore how thinking of people differently and involving them fully, can strengthen organisations and indeed sectors as a whole.

How does it work in practice?

Each Collaborative Innovation process begins with a question starting with “How can we…?” This framing is important because it immediately implies that whatever we are doing is possible, and invites people to be part of shaping all the possible outcomes (not just consuming the end solution).

Over 9 months we bring together 4–6 organisations to experiment with and articulate new ways of working that encourage learning by doing, testing ideas in an iterative/fail fast way and working with them to think of people as Citizens, and not just Consumers. Whilst the overall process is guided by one shared question, organisations also generate their own questions based on their contexts and what they’re looking to achieve in the world, working on ways of involving people that is mutually beneficial to both the organisation and the individual.

Whilst building and encouraging a learn by doing approach, as New Citizenship Project we also offer inspiration, thinking and case studies to the group, and pair organisations up encouraging them to share their learnings and use one another to test out and build ideas. We see this unique network opportunity as a key part of our offer — connecting with organisations sharing similar challenges (but often not existing in the same sphere of work).

The end of every process only ever marks the beginning of the journey organisations are on to achieving more with people. Shifting mindsets is no simple feat, but by encouraging peer-to-peer learning with participants, and building the tools to involve people together, we see Collaborative Innovation as a key offering in inspiring and equipping organisations to think of, and involve people differently.

But we don’t just want the journey to stop there…

From publishing a report on our work on Food Citizenship to the development of a practical toolkit to help organisations harness Everyday Participation derived from our work in the co-operative sector, these processes are about helping organisations to drive the thinking in their respective sectors through trying new approaches, and through their shared experiences in the process. By publishing or releasing these to the wider world, our approaches are available for anyone to access — and this is key to the way we work.

Collaborative Innovation reflects what we are all about — collaborating with people over a shared question, creating the space for cross-collaboration and building tools with people to do stuff (not just doing stuff for people, and definitely not just creating talking shops).

You can read more about our latest Collaborative Innovation project in the cultural heritage sector here. And if this has sparked an appetite in our wider work, our latest impact report might offer further insight into the work we do, and how we might work together in future.

New Citizenship Project are an innovation consultancy company, working to increase greater participation in society by shifting the way we think about people. If you’d like to find out more about our current project in the cultural heritage sector, or our work more broadly, you can get in touch with us at info@newcitizenship.org.uk.