I'm really pleased to hear that John Craig has been appointed to head up the Government-funded Innovation Exchange that "will find new ways to connect innovators in the third sector with public service commissioners and other investors and help them to work together to develop their work".
Until recently John was head of innovation at the Cabinet Office, and handled the tendering procedure for the Innovation Exchange ... where he's now got the job. I was part of a group that made a fairly innovative bid, produced by writing everything except the budgets on an open web site, inviting anyone interested to join in. We were short listed, but didn't win. Instead it went to a consortium centred around the Government-funded Innovation Unit. We thought that was a bit inward-looking, and I wrote at the time:
I don't want to sound a note of sour grapes here. This is clearly a very strong and competent consortium. However, I feel that innovation among nonprofit organisations (and elsewhere, as I wrote here) is most likely to come from open, collaborative processes, not just from inside. Of course, the innovation unit may well be planning something really innovative here. Maybe they could now post their winning bid.
Public sector Forums reported the story as Whitehall innovation: Proving the oxymoron.
It would be easy to see John's appointment as another inward-facing step. However ... one of the best things about dealing with Cabinet Office during the tendering process was the great encouragement we got from John. He wasn't a career civil servant, having previously worked at the think tank Demos. While being scrupulously fair he gave us every encouragement and help in what must have seemed a pretty whacky bid to his colleagues. We felt he really saw us having a chance, and I guess the short-listing reflected that.
So my overwhelming feeling is delight that someone with real sympathy for innovative processes has got the job. Parent, midwife and now a good start in life thanks to the initial work on the exchange that's been guided by interim executive director Jonathan Robinson.
Here's the standard stuff from the press release:
The Chair of the Innovation Exchange, Baroness Thornton, said that John Craig’s appointment was “excellent news. John’s blend of skills will ensure that the Innovation Exchange gets the best possible start.”
Valerie Hannon, Director of Strategy at The Innovation Unit, said the role was a challenging one. She went on to say: “The Exchange is in uncharted territory. It is seeking to create new forms of collaboration across the sector. John Craig is returning to his roots in the third sector, but his experience in policy and government will be invaluable in ensuring that the lessons from the Exchange reach the widest possible audience.
John starts on January 1, and says:
I am delighted to be leading the Innovation Exchange and relish the chance to help the collective wisdom of the third sector to tackle social injustice in England. Between us I believe we can make a real difference for excluded young people and for those struggling to live independent lives – charities and social enterprises have the insight and the commitment to help make radical improvements in the services they receive.
The second-phase Innovation Exchange web site is being developed by Headshift, who won an award for their development of the Demos web site as a very conversational blog-based affair ... so we can hope that Innovation Exchange language will become a bit more, well, innovative. Here's John's posts on the Demos site.
There's already some discussion on the Innovation Exchange temporary site around the key themes of Supporting independent living, and Young people: the excluded, marginalised and the at-risk.
Previously: Innovation Exchange and the RSA develop networks for social change