Social Innovation Camp

Social Innovation Camp

22 July 2014

In partnership with the Building Change Trust, Social Innovation Camp will be running a series of events in Northern Ireland to help people use technology for social good during summer 2014.

Glen Mehn is Managing Director at Social Innovation Camp. He has designed and run innovation programmes for early-stage start-ups in 13 countries. Now he tells us what he has planned for our Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector…

What is your career background?

I worked as a designer in the theatre through the 90s and then worked in IT in Silicon Valley for 10 years during the first dot com boom.

I did a postgraduate programme here in the UK and worked with early stage entrepreneurs in Uganda and Zambia before coming back to the UK in order to work with more social businesses.

Where did you get the idea for Social Innovation Camp?

We wanted to answer the question why technology had had such a major impact on most aspects of our lives - from shopping to publishing to news reporting - but not on the way we deal with our most challenging issues.

A doctor's office looks the same as it did 50 or 100 years ago, as does a school. What is the Amazon or Linux of social? When will technology work on stuff that matters?

How does it operate?

We bring together people who understand social problems - VCSE sector organisations, doctors, teachers and the people that social problems affect - with those who understand technology, such as designers, coders and business people.

We run creative, fun events and get them to work together to come up with ideas and build a proof of concept of those ideas.

Why did you feel it was important to set up this facility?

Technology has tremendous power to make change; we want to see it happen.

Do you have a favourite success story?

It's a bit of an odd one. About four years ago, Sarah Drummond came to us and set up a new venture called - this went on to be a successful pilot project with Tayside Police and had some excellent outcomes.

Some external factors and political changes in Scotland meant that it's been shelved, but they've taken what they've learned and have built a design firm called Snook which has in turn launched dozens of projects with and for the public and voluntary sector.

What has the uptake been like in Northern Ireland?

It's been a challenge thus far. Northern Ireland has great potential, good education and a lot of creative, bright, interested people: all fertile ground for innovation.

What plans do you have for activity in Northern Ireland?

We're going to engage with some VCSE sector organisations in Northern Ireland and run some workshops on articulating problems and laying the ground for innovation and how to think about innovation, as well as setting expectations for what can be achieved in time.

The output of the workshops will be a set of questions that we'll bring to a variety of university and further education students. We'll workshop these through the autumn term and end with a big innovation day to try to get a new start-up off the ground.

Are there any important dates we should have in our diary?

We are currently firming those dates up but keep an eye on the events section of the Building Change Trust website for more information.

To find out more about the Trust's work with SI Camp and in Social Innovation, please click here.

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