Cultivating innovative thinking at the RNLI
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) saves hundreds of lives around the coasts of the UK and Ireland every year.
The charity has saved more than 142,000 lives since its foundation, but they are much more than a rescue service. Alongside the charity’s lifeboat, beach lifeguard and flood rescue services, the RNLI works with communities to influence and educate those at risk, while international teams work with partners to deliver drowning prevention at a global level. With such a diverse workforce and volunteers spread over a wide geographical area, connecting them around innovation is a challenge.
Keen to encourage a culture of innovation and collaboration, the RNLI Innovation team knew they had to find a method to surface a wealth of untapped ideas.
“We wanted to engage staff and volunteers from across our organisation, but our intranet did not have the functionality to support this type of activity,” Innovation Executive, Alison Denmark told us. “We were keen to get deeper engagement in our innovation work, both to try to encourage innovative thinking and to generate useful solutions to some of our challenges.”
Crowdsourcing life-saving ideas
The solution, an internal Crowdicity platform called OPEN_RNLI, was launched to all staff and volunteers, who were invited to engage in a number of challenges. In the ‘Launchpad’ challenge, via a process of idea posting, peer voting and committee review, successful participants can achieve support for and funding of new projects and solutions.
The rules to the Launchpad are simple. People are asked to post something innovative that delivers benefits aligned to the RNLI’s vision of reducing drowning.
“At least six ideas from the last year are being investigated to be implemented,” Alison told us. “The platform has helped us to unearth new projects and has become a normalised activity for some staff and volunteers.”
Giving a home to the innovation process
Alison, who manages the idea community, explained that before they launched OPEN_RNLI, the innovation process was for staff to send their ideas to an email inbox.
The process worked for ad-hoc ideas but was unstructured and didn’t allow them to crowdsource solutions to a specific problem. It also lacked any functionality to share and build the ideas collaboratively or visibility of an idea’s progress.
The OPEN_RNLI platform enables the RNLI to frame specific challenges and to build a network around innovation, regardless of where ideas come from. The RNLI is proud to have given all their employees and volunteers a voice.
A common goal – crowdsourcing institution priorities
Alison Denmark explained that the goal of the OPEN_RNLI community in 2018 is to establish a clear, measurable ongoing benefit of the system and to set up challenges linked to new strategic goals