Last month, sixty first year undergraduates from the Business (Team Entrepreneurship) course at the University of Western England were given a 2-day challenge – to think innovatively and bravely about how to help people to stay independent at home for as long as possible and to come up with three winning ideas.
Our Bristol Community Health team was the selected ‘client’ for the challenge and the students were split into three teams. For the students, it was an opportunity to learn how to generate, refine and then develop ideas for a real, Bristol-based organisation. For us, it was a chance to inject some fresh thinking into the development of our self-care strategy.
After an initial briefing on the task (the work of Bristol Community Health and the pressures faced by the NHS) they set to work coming up with solutions. Although none of the students had any healthcare background, they quickly identified people in their own lives who the task was relevant to. The discussion turned to their neighbours, friends and grandparents. The challenge was to think radical, unencumbered by prior knowledge of funding cycles, service design processes or operational challenges.
Forty-eight hours later, the teams presented their findings to a panel of judges. The ideas were diverse and ambitious. The tone felt distinctly different to the way we might have approached it, had we had a discussion on the same topic with a room-full of managers and clinicians.
Unexpectedly, all the teams incorporated an idea on the theme of better intergenerational support. One group designed a shared training space where young people and older people came together to share skills and develop friendships. Older people would teach younger people about budgeting and cooking, whilst their younger counterparts would focus on sharing skills around technology and digital communication. Another group considered linking older people and troubled youngsters together in mentoring programmes and the third team looked at introducing an intergenerational work experience programme into schools, where young people spent a week getting to know an older person they were ‘buddied’ with. All the ideas aimed to address issues of social isolation, but with that as a by-product of their initiative rather than the main purpose.
The use of technology was also a common topic, particularly as a way of supporting people to stay healthy. Ideas included apps which let you track how you were actively working to improve your health and well being across a variety of physical and mental health domains, linking you to services and opportunities in your local area along the way. Teams also considered using the retired medical workforce to provide online medical advice for people who were reluctant to see someone in person via a chat function, signposting to local services if required. The winning team combined all of their ideas into a community hub, based out of a regenerated community centre.
Thank you to who got involved and for inspiring us as we build our self-care strategy.