How innovation can help with the big social challenges of today

Rob Wilmot

Rob Wilmot
Founder & CEO

Posted by Rob Wilmot in Ideas and Features on 10 October 2018

This week sees two international days raising awareness of very different issues: World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma; and Ada Lovelace day which is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), to promote role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support the women already working in STEM.

Social media makes it easy to share and propagate the stories about such issues. For instance, this morning I saw an article on my LinkedIn news feed from one of the team in our Sydney office highlighting that there are six male suicides a day in Australia (with many more attempts) and what Mental Health Australia is doing to try and counteract this. Such awareness raising is vitally important (and a counterbalance to the latest Trump or Kardashian Tweet.) If just one life is saved because of something we read or watch as a result of such social sharing, then it’s all more than worth the comparatively small effort it takes to share or retweet.

But at Crowdicity we also feel it’s important to strive, every day, towards helping with these important causes, and all of us are committed to doing so through the service we provide, the work we do, and our actions.

One of the first customers for our idea management platform was Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust. They specialise in mental health and were looking to drive continuous improvement in patient care via the crowdsourcing of ideas; a pioneering initiative spearheaded by Jodie Brown - now Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Manager at Public Health England, and Crystal Dennis, Innovation Catalyst at Dorset CCG where she drives the Digital Transformation programme across health and social care.

And we’ve gone on to help other mental health focussed NHS organisation with their innovation programs, including South and West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust where Salma Yasmeen Director of Strategy has placed open innovation as a one of the key driver for continuous improvement, with Paula Rylatt, Change and Innovation Partner (and Suicide Prevention Strategy Programme manager at WYH), is leading on the program.

And alongside this work, we’re always on the lookout to help others outside of the normal (though highly diverse and often exciting) course of business, to try and help innovators reach a broad and diverse audience - often drawing attention to, and raising awareness of the big social issues that face us in the world today.

I’m visiting Entrepreneur at Digital Creativity Labs at the University of York which is an interdisciplinary unit exploring how artificial intelligence and gaming technology can be used to drive innovation in healthcare, education, entertainment and enterprise. Early last year DC Labs Manager Emma Cowling happened to mention to me something called York Mediale a brand-new UK festival, providing a showcase for leading international digital artists and the best of emerging media art, building on York's status as a UNESCO City of Media Arts. Emma then told me about Deep Lab, a collaborative group of female researchers, software and hardware engineers, artists, writers, and producers who were looking to do a residency in York throughout the year with a focus on producing a final piece to exhibit over the 10 days of the Mediale in October 2018. They needed a sponsor and Crowdicity had no hesitation in providing the necessary financial support.

Fast forward to late September and the York Mediale is in full swing 'Can You Die if You Don’t Exist’, a large-scale computer-generated video projection created using ‘The List’ of 34,361 refugee deaths published by The Guardian, is being projected onto the facade of the York City Art Gallery, the work visualising the anonymity and drawing out the cultural disregard, of the non-white immigrant body.

Early in the Mediale, Tamara Al-Mashouk reads every name, no name, and cause of death from the 52-page list highlighting the suicides, shootings at borders and the ignored emergency calls (it takes her eleven and a half hours!) Her performance implicates passers-by, by creating a provocation that then questions the duration of their engagement; how long will they spend receiving the names, when will they walk away, what the role their indifference plays in the humanitarian crisis is called into question.

On the last hour of the last day Emma Cowling, her husband Peter, and I go to stand in Exhibition Square and experience this piece for ourselves. Needless to say, it is very moving.

Innovation really does comes in all shapes and sizes, and being part of helping to make a positive impact on society, every day, is deeply satisfying.

This post was written in appreciation of the women who make a difference every day in delivering and supporting our services at Crowdicity, and for our colleagues who are living with mental health issues.

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