Social innovation camp – day one

I’ve been at the Young Foundation in London all day today (barring the disaster that is South West Trains this weekend) participating in the Social Innovation Camp.

Social innovation camp is an unconference (and competition) exploring how technology can assist in solving societal problems or making life easier in sometimes small, but significant, ways. The participants are a mix of geeks, designers, coders, and thinkers (and then me – who is none of these things, but wishes he was). A real gathering of minds, ideas and energy.

I’m part of a team looking at how we can improve the experience of prison visits for all concerned – the prisoners, their visitors (relatives, friends, supporters etc), the authorities, support groups etc.

I should point out that, though I am employed by the government department responsible for the Prison Service, I have neither no operational relationship with that agency, nor am I attending the camp in any official capacity. I just sounded interesting.

So what have we been up to so far? Well, we’ve tried to unpick and map the process of visiting a prison from start (incarceration) through to the actual visit and beyond.

Then, we’ve looked at how technology might make the experiences gathered through that journey better. Could an internet enabled booking system, accessible via the web, handsets, kiosks etc help? (probably).
How can visitors feedback their experiences of the event – both to help other users of the system and to enable the prisons to improve the processes. Is there a way of harnessing the collective knowledge of prison visitors for the benefit of others?

The pot is still melting on this and other ideas and we have until 2pm tomorrow to try and make something of all the good ideas.

Its not often that I get a chance to spend time with people who possess such a wide variety of backgrounds, skills and experience in one place to work on problem solving. The team I worked with today includes freelance designers, web coders, the publisher / editor of an ethical magazine, the production director of a digital agency, and two members of PACT (a charity that helps families of prisoners) amongst others.


Equally, the mind boggles at all the variables involved in prison visits – different visiting times, methods of requesting visits etc etc (some times for good reasons – like levels of security).

Its a seriously daunting challenge. We have a short period of time to try and come up with a solution to ease these problems in some way. We are competing with the other five teams (you can find out more about the other projects here) for modest cash prizes to take the ideas to the next stage.

If you’re interested in finding out how we get on, why not come along to Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood tomorrow afternoon at 2.30pm where each team will be presenting their idea to a panel of judges.

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  1. April 14th, 2008

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