All Posts (9)

From Can’t Get Started to Can’t be Stopped: How can we support York citizens and businesses to become an irresistible force for innovation?

View the Original Challenge Definition

View the original question and conversation for How can we support York citizens and businesses to become an irresistible force?

View the Right to Solve Themes


Every day we hear about amazing new inventions, innovations, gadgets and all sorts coming onto the market.  Things that would improve the lives of us all if only ‘the powers that be’ knew about them and could move faster to help us get them into our city homes, schools, hospitals, streets and into our lives generally.

Often these new technologies and innovations can save money and lives, can increase the length of time we remain in our homes when we are older, can make ‘living well’ an easy and hassle free thing to do.  Often as individuals, we find out about better ways of doing things through the work we do, the interests we have and the expertise and experience we gain through life.  Sometimes we come up with solutions ourselves through being close to the problems, knowing about something which works somewhere else and could be adapted or generally have a creative approach to fixing things.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to share the insights we hear about as well as to have our own ideas supported if we want to try them in the city.  To be able to use everyone’s skills and passions to expand the richness and quality of the city through actively working together.

So… the idea is to figure out a way to make it possible for anyone at any time who wants to proactively improve York, to be able to communicate ideas and innovations, to identify where there are better ways to do things and to suggest and be part of implementing improvements to current products, places and systems. The overall concept is to ‘short circuit’ the way a city traditionally slowly progresses, by ‘fast-tracking’ great ideas and new innovations here in York.

Mayors Challenge 

On behalf of the city, the council’s innovation team recently pitched this idea into a competition funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, called the ‘Mayors Challenge’ which is looking for ambitious ‘game changing’ ideas to revolutionise how cities do things.  The competition was open to cities from all over Europe and 155 cities applied in total to win the grand prize of 5 million Euros, or be one of the four runners up winning prizes of 1 million Euros to make their ideas happen.

They liked the idea and York was one of the 21 finalists!

To see the final proposal we submitted based on your input and expertise, please see link below.

 York Mayors Challenge Final Submission

We want your help to take the existing GeniUS! process to a new level, to:

  • Improve our connection and engagement with residents and businesses;
  • Allow everyone to identify challenges, opportunities and ideas and take them forward together;
  • Expand our options for finding solutions or building them together if they don’t exist already;
  • Bring the ideas to life as quickly as possible.

Right to Solve

We want to give everyone a ‘Right to Solve’, where anyone can:

  • Communicate any new ideas/opportunities that have just emerged which could make the city better;
  • Identify where there is room for improvement and suggest how to improve it;
  • Collaborate with others on solutions and how these could be tried and tested

This is all to enable everyone to highlight new thinking and then quickly act on it where development is possible. Within this, we will also be looking to re-shape our procurement processes and how we buy things as a city to enable us to take advantage of new ideas and opportunities more effectively.

But in order for all this to work, this needs to be a process made by the city for the city. We need input on how to help everyone to communicate, share ideas and discover what is on the horizon in terms of new technologies and better ways to do things than are currently in place.  We need ideas around how best to support new improvements and innovations to make them into a reality – think about what would empower you to make a difference.

Ideas often come at times when we aren’t expecting  them, so what would be the best way to share? We are also going to have to work out ways to pick the best solutions, to respond and implement good ideas quickly, and manage the whole process well. It needs to be open to any York resident who wants to take part, as well as any others who have an interest in making the city a better place to live and work.

To join the discussion, just click here

Read more…

This challenge sees the GeniUS! York team working with the York Youth Support Services to run a challenge on meeting the needs of young people in York.

View the Challenge Background

View the original question and conversation for What could it look like if we worked together to use all our existing resources differently to create services that meet the needs of young people in York?

Over the next four weeks we are inviting you to take part in this collective process by adding your thoughts and ideas to the discussion below.

What We Need from You!

Your Experiences: How have you seen communities engage young people in York and elsewhere? What have you seen that you like and don’t like? Are there missed opportunities or things you think we could take advantage of?

Your Expertise: What solutions (both technology and non-technology) do you know of that might be applicable in helping to create the new solutions for youth work?  Also, what ideas do you have that HAVEN’T been done before?

Your Enthusiasm: We need your input as to how to create new routes forward, so solution-focussed ideas and positive ways that we can develop these is exactly what we need from you!

Further Information

More background information on the challenge can be found here and more information and discussion can also be found at

Read more…

GeniUS! Challenge #7 is here! Once again we would love to hear your ideas, comments and suggestions!

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 7

View the original question and conversation for Libraries of the Future: How do you imagine the role of libraries in years to come?


York libraries are embarking on a journey. On 1st April next year, York Libraries and Archives will transfer from the council to form a new social enterprise – Explore York Libraries and Archives. This is a staff-led “spin out” supported by the Cabinet Office and will be the first libraries and archives service in the country to take this bold step.

With the recent opening of the new Liverpool and Birmingham libraries, there has been much discussion around the future role libraries should play in our communities.  Every week we hear about more libraries closing as councils struggle to make savings.  Digital technology makes information more accessible than ever and this challenges the traditional role of libraries as impartial information providers within quality research spaces. This means libraries need to innovate in order to survive.

Our library staff believe that this new type of organisation offers us the best possible opportunity to improve and develop the services we offer, keeping them current, sustainable and relevant to the city and its communities.

Explore York Libraries and Archives has a vision to enable people to live fuller, more connected and engaged lives. We plan to do this by:

  • Working with our communities to promote active citizenship and enable people to participate in society
  • Supporting and delivering lifelong learning
  • Promoting the joy of reading
  • Being the key provider of impartial information in York
  • Promoting and enhancing the health and wellbeing of the people of  York
  • Supporting and promoting people’s engagement with digital information and resources
  • Being the trusted custodian of the City of York’s archive and local history collections

 However, we believe that there could be a much bigger and more creative role to play!

This new model that we are adopting gives us a unique opportunity to explore new ideas and consider what additional value we can provide by using our libraries in new and different ways.

We are beginning to reimagine both the spaces and focus for libraries and archives by looking towards 2030 and beyond to how services of the future may be delivered. From this, we have identified the following themes as broad areas which we would like to explore with you:

  • Collaboration – having the environment for cooperation and sharing with others
  • Creativity – Encouraging everyone to create their own content,  sharing knowledge and ideas, and provoking debate
  • Community connection – building trusted relationships, common identity and interest
  • Flexibility – every space to be reconfigured easily
  • Learning – helping people to unlearn, relearn and reflect

We want to look at what new opportunities there are for our future libraries to achieve an environment which is safe and enjoyable in which to be. We want to explore how such an environment can enable a culture conducive to creative expression and play, collaboration and learning in new ways. We want to get the most out of our libraries by developing them so they can connect communities, try new things and be truly enterprising.

What We Need from You!

Your Experiences: How have you seen libraries in York and elsewhere? What have you seen that you like and don’t like? Are there missed opportunities or things you think we could take advantage of?

Your Expertise: What solutions (both technology and non-technology) do you know of that might be applicable in helping to create the libraries of the future?  Also, what ideas do you have that HAVEN’T been done before?

Your Enthusiasm: We need your input as to how to make the library experience better, so solution-focussed ideas and positive ways that we can develop those solutions is exactly what we need from you!

The Process

The first part of the process for this Challenge is for you to post your comments, ideas and solutions and discuss them with others on the GeniUS! site. The challenge will be live on the site for discussion for the next 4 weeks. At the end of this period the best ideas will be taken to a day-long event where we will work together to develop ways of testing them out in practice. The event is taking place on November 11th in Acomb Explore Library and will bring together library users, designers, technology experts and others, linking them up with local and national experts in the libraries field. These diverse groups will work together intensively to produce tangible ideas that can be piloted in our libraries.

Read more…

GeniUS! Challenge 6 is here and once again we need your suggestions, ideas and input!

This challenge focuses on finding ways to redesign primary, secondary and community healthcare services to improve the experience for staff, patients and other end users.

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 6

View the original question and conversation for How do we develop Healthcare Services to Better Fit all of our Needs?

View an Update on the Pilot Projects which came out of Challenge 6


Specific areas for discussion include exploring alternatives to ‘traditional consultations’ to make health services more time- effective; harnessing technology to improve information sharing; and testing the concept of a design-led approach to health care.

The aim is to employ a variety of tools and techniques to drastically reduce time spent by patients and health care staff on potentially unnecessary visits. Through these interventions, the York community may be able to design a more fit-for-purpose, responsive and effective front line service for doctors, nurses and patients.

The dynamics in local health care are changing, through a shift in power to Clinical Commissioning Groups rather than central government, and so this is the ideal time to collectively focus on improving both the patient and staff experience of engaging with primary, secondary and community health services. The GeniUS! York approach will bring health care professionals together with technically and creatively minded businesses and end users to ensure the best fit for all.

What We Need from You!

Your Experiences: How have you seen in hospitals and GP surgeries in York and elsewhere? What have you seen that you like and don’t like? Are there missed opportunities or things you think we could take advantage of?

Your Expertise: What solutions (both technology and non-technology) do you know of that might be applicable in helping to be more responsive in healthcare?  Also, what ideas do you have that HAVEN’T been done before?

Your Enthusiasm: We need your input as to how to make the healthcare experience better, so solution-focussed ideas and positive ways that we can develop those solutions is exactly what we need from you!

The Process

Over the next five weeks the GeniUS! York team is inviting you to take part in this collective process by adding your thoughts and ideas to the discussion below. At the end of this ‘shaping’ phase, your ideas and knowledge will be taken into a workshop environment in order to develop practical solutions to the challenges above. The best solutions will be piloted in York over the next year and if successful, will ultimately be scaled out to other primary care centres.

This challenge is being supported by our external partners the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network. The ideas will be discussed in a weekend long event entitled Creative Health: Synergy Surgery, held 8-9 June in the Ron Cooke Hub.

Read more…

This challenge is to generate ideas and discuss practical ways we could make York more dementia friendly, to harness our shared experiences and thinking to develop the best initiatives to try here in the city.  We need your help to join forces to tackle the challenge of making our city Dementia friendly for all.  Our open call to collectively generate ideas will be live on the GeniUS site for the next 6 weeks and then we will work with you, ‘the idea generator’ and the most promising ideas to help make them happen in York.

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 5

View the original question and conversation for How do we make York a more dementia friendly place?

However we know that for many people with dementia, the battle is not just about getting a diagnosis and support from the health and social care system, but about  the everyday things we all take for granted - having control over daily life, spending time with friends and family, socialising and enjoying hobbies. These are made difficult by a lack of understanding of dementia in our communities. Communities which are dementia-friendly have more opportunity to support people in the early stages of dementia, maintaining and boosting their confidence and their ability to manage everyday living. By working with and listening to people, the York Dementia Without Walls project is showing how many of the resources and services in a place can be harnessed for the benefit of people with dementia, provided there is sufficient awareness of what dementia means for them, their carers and families, and provided that professional and community networks help people to access the support they need.

One of the desired outcomes is that - building on preliminary work undertaken in 2011/12 - York is recognised as a dementia-friendly city, with tangible improvements in the actions of local agencies, businesses and community groups.  One of the recommendations of the project report (forthcoming end September) is that York should grasp current opportunities to prepare for the future needs of people with dementia including exploiting the potential of technology to improve the lives of people with dementia Current barriers include: 

  • Remembering passwords, pin numbers and registration codes for managing money, paying bills and buying goods and services
  • Equipping people to be safe
  • Understanding  signage, bus routes, timetables and bus stops
  • Accessing information - simple technology such as visual and electronic reminders, or a Dementia ‘App’ specific to the needs of people in York, might help
  • Other people understanding and recognising the needs of those with Dementia and their carers, to make socialising, shopping, eating out and using public transport and other amenities a more enjoyable experience for all involved. 

There are some great ideas around how to make a community dementia friendly here: and many of these ideas could be tried in York if you think they have merit and you could see them working well in our city.   We also need your ideas, based on your experiences living here as well as your powers of creative thinking.

We are hoping to have many Dementia experts, agencies and support groups contributing to the discussion too and we envisage our conversations to be enlightening, positive and solution focussed.  We hope you can join us!

How you can help – MakeItWork

Are you a business, group or individual who could make a difference to the lives of those with dementia in York?

This is your chance to create an outstanding pilot!

We are offering a unique opportunity for an individual or business to pilot their ideas to make York a Dementia Friendly place.

The brief is: To come up with innovative, fresh and exciting ways to make the city more dementia friendly.

For more information read ‘MakeIt Work’ and the Guidance Notes attached.

Join the discussion

More importantly, we want to hear from anyone who has been affected by dementia or anyone who has any thoughts or ideas relating to our challenge. The aim is to provoke discussion on what problems people with dementia and their families face, what solutions are already out there, and what type of solutions are required to make York a more dementia friendly city. Everyone can help.



Guidance Notes for MakeItWork

York Dementia without Walls (DWW)

To find out more about the work The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are doing with DWW take a look at their September newsletter.

Read more…

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 4

View the original question and conversation for How can footfall and transport be used innovatively to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the City?

This challenge has 4 key elements:

1.Footfall – how bustling and busy a place is with pedestrians;

2.Transport – getting about from A to B by motorised transport modes such as a car, vans or motorcycle or by more sustainable modes such as walking, cycling, buses and trains;

3.Income - attracting, saving or generating money in the city to help the local economy thrive; and

4.Environmental Sustainability – delivering quality of life whilst protecting the environment i.e reducing carbon emissions which contribute towards tackling climate change, improving air quality, recycling, energy and water conservation, renewable energy generation and protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

When we combine these four elements together this challenge is about finding an innovative way to generate money from footfall and / or transport modes in a way that will improve environmental sustainability in the city.

For this challenge we are focussing on the City Centre, inside the Walls, however, we are open to innovate ideas for any part of York.

The Challenge

Traditionally, motorised transport is a major user of polluting sources of energy. For example, many of us use petrol in our cars to run them. Unfortunately burning such fuels to power our cars can have a wide range of negative impacts on the environment creating air pollution from nitrogen oxides and particulates, and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change.

Changing our reliance from polluting to non-polluting modes of transport is challenging enough, which is why the city already has programmes like Intelligent Travel York, and its predecessor Cycling City York. But doing this AND generating income from these changes is even more challenging and we need your innovative thinking!


As a city we are fortunate in having many advantages enabling sustainable travel to be a realistic option for a large proportion of our residents, York also has a particularly high proportion of people who cycle (15% ) and walk (15%) and car trip levels (driver & passenger) are also much lower than the regional and national average (Census 2001).  In the city centre alone footfall in 2011 was just under 12 and a half million on Coney Street and eight and half million on Parliament Street.

Environmental impacts of transport

However, it is expected that there will be a significant growth in jobs and housing over the next 15 - 20 years. Such growth is likely to impact on the environmental sustainability of the city unless we can alter the way we travel and live.

Such growth is likely to increase the pressures on the transport network, which could lead to current levels of delay increasing and contributing to more carbon emissions and climate change and pollutants that affect local air quality and health.

By 2050 York’s carbon emissions are predicted to increase by up to 30%, currently 26% of York’s carbon emissions come from the transport sector and as a City we are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020.

In order to achieve this target the city is also committed to generating more clean energy from renewable energy sources such as solar energy, wind and hydro. However, there are other innovate ways to generate clean energy and we are actively seeking these too, such as generating energy from people as they walk!

York has also declared 2 Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) based on annual average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels that are higher than the government guidelines.

A presentation with more background information on this challenge and the work currently happening across the city on sustainable transport and climate change is available to view by clicking on the link  under attachments lower down the page.

What may be the benefits to tackling this challenge?

Depending on the solution, the benefits may include:

  • A healthier population that walks and cycles more (and saves money from it too!)
  • Cleaner air and improved health benefits
  • A city reducing carbon emissions and the future impacts of a changing climate
  • Less congestion across the city
  • More people visiting the city and spending their money in the city
  • Generating clean energy and reducing the city’s energy bills

But how do we solve the challenge?

If you think you know how to tackle this challenge tell us.

For this challenge we are focussing on the City Centre, inside the City Walls, however, we are open to innovate ideas for any part of York. All we ask is that you stick to the challenge question and involve footfall / and / or Transport modes, income generation that will improve the local environment.

Here’s some ideas:

One such idea could be for example how we could generate energy from people as they walk. York’s footfall figures in the city centre are potentially a great untapped resource - in 2011 there were 12.5 million on Coney Street and 8.5 million on Parliament Street. Technology exists which can exploit all this movement and convert it into a renewable energy source – and potential income!

Ideas could be based around new technology or simply doing things differently or encouraging people or businesses to behave in a different way. For example, discounts could be offered at attractions for people arriving on push bikes – encouraging more cycling and potentially increasing visitor numbers.

Promising ideas will be investigated by experts, working with the originator and affected groups and, if plans are agreed, the Council has committed to make them reality.

Read more…

How can City of York Council procure work from small businesses easily, with less barriers and what ways can residents and businesses be proactive in approaching the Council with beneficial ideas and products?

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 3

View the original question and conversation for How can City of York Council procure work from small businesses easily, with less barriers and what ways can residents and businesses be proactive in approaching the Council with beneficial ideas and products?

The problem

At the moment, feedback from small businesses and the Federation for Small Businesses suggests that it is difficult for Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to bid for and manage contracts for Council services.

In bidding for contracts, SMEs find the paperwork and process of bidding bureaucratic and sometimes difficult to even know what contracts are being tendered. Another problem is the size of contracts that sometimes make it difficult for small local firms to access such opportunities.

In managing contracts, although the Council has a policy of payment in 10 days for local SMEs, for non-local SMEs, the policy is 28 days. Cash flow with SMEs is often quite tight, so such delays in payment can prove problematic for SMEs.

Ongoing Improvements

The Council has already implemented a number of improvements, but is looking to build on this progress where possible:

  • Transformed the procurement function from a “governance” function to a commercially focussed, team of professional procurement officers from a variety of backgrounds both public and private sector.
  • Revised the procurement strategy (attached below) and commenced consultation with a wide audience (never been done in this way before).
  • Created a Council Wide contract database which is being used to create a 12-18 month forward plan of procurements which will be advertised on the website to allow people sufficient time to prepare for any tenders which may be of interest.
  • Developed a suite of standard documents for tenders, contracts etc which will be launched by Feb 12. It is intended to offer training to potential bidders on each of the documents to “walk through” and explain them in order to remove any barriers to bidding.

At the moment, there is a new web portal being developed by the Council as part of the new York Economic Strategy, as well as a Business Friendly Council initiative, of which this project is a key element. These initiatives are working to simplify the information and support available to businesses to access procurement, and the feedback received from the NESTA process.

What can we do?

We know that these problems affect businesses, particularly SMEs, and the community for and from which these services are procured. Opening procurement up to greater competition from SMEs will have a generally positive impact on smaller firms and in theory, through competition, produce better value for money in the goods and services received by the Council.

Your ideas on how we can tackle these problems and find solutions that aid local businesses are key.

Read more…

With an ever increasing ageing population, the issue of care for the elderly and vulnerable becomes more prevalent not just at a local level but also nationally. The problems faced by this group of people, such as social isolation, quality of care, cost of care and quality of life are problems that all of us will one day face.

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 2

View the original question and conversation for How can we intelligently use non-intrusive tools and methods to aid older and vulnerable people in their homes?

Please watch the video about Frank.

One of the biggest hurdles we currently face is communicating what we already have available to those who may be able to make use of it.

Raising awareness that technology can enhance elderly and vulnerable peoples lives in addition to traditional care packages is important. In some instances technology may prevent the need for formal care for some years as it can provide peace of mind that, even though risk cannot be avoided someone will be alerted and know if there is a problem.

Informing relatives as well as those affected as to how technology could enhance the life of a vulnerable or isolated person is also an important challenge. It is a fact that older people will listen and take more heed of the voice of a grandchild more than any other family member. How could we use that to help support and prompt people who may have short term memory issues?

One area of technology that perhaps is being under-utilised is the use of the internet and mobile phone technology to help with the social isolation aspect of vulnerability.

What is out there to help connect families who are geographically apart?

How can older people be encouraged to use technology? How can it be made simpler? How can they access it more easily? 

It would be nice to be able to provide technology to bring remote families closer together to allow geographical boundaries to be brought down by technological communication that is easy to use and that could perhaps be lead at one end and just received at the other end.

All of these challenges are important and relevant to improving the quality of life and care of those older and vulnerable people within our society.

Existing Solutions

The City of York Council Telecare service is now well established with over 1300 customers currently benefitting from some sort of telecare sensor. Lots more information on this service can be found at:

We routinely now offer some home safety devices to Warden Call customers (smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and bogus caller buttons). Other customers have more complex packages of technology installed in their homes to facilitate and support traditional care packages. 

Care Managers, Occupational Therapists and GPs regularly refer in to the service to provide equipment as part of a commissioned care package or to provide additional support to prevent the need for a move to residential care. We are about to start a project with a local pharmacy to be able to dispense medication into telecare devices which will alert the customer to when they are required to take their medication. 

The Council have worked with Safer at York to follow up any Bogus Caller alerts to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable customers and has invested money in order to provide equipment free of charge to as many customers who require it.

Funding for equipment is already available. City of York Council have already agreed to spend £250k every year for the next 4 years to be able to provide this type of equipment in the knowledge that it will help reduce risks in some cases and reduce the need for care in other cases. 

Although much as this funding is already earmarked for specific use, it is possible that funding could be provided for a small pilot if the right technology was available to help support our desire to reduce social isolation. Or if anyone could suggest a way to promote the service that exists in such a way as to encourage family members and carers to request more information or to give us complicated scenarios to work through so as to enhance the service we already provide. 

City of York Council are committed to continue to provide a quality telecare service to the citizens of York – what we are looking for in this Challenge are new ideas as to how we provide the service, how we can be more effective at telling people about the service and how we can maximise technology to help bring people closer together.

Read more…

GeniUS! Challenge 1 - Hidden Gems

What ways can underutilised CYC assets i.e. equipment, property, buildings and land, be exploited to benefit businesses, the community and the Council?

There are some real challenges when dealing with the council’s property estate and some buildings and plots of land can lay disused for long periods of time. This can be for a variety of reasons and in some cases there may be no obvious solution to the problem.

View the Summary and Update for GeniUS! Challenge 1 - Hidden Gems

View the original question and conversation for What ways can underutilised CYC assets i.e. equipment, property, buildings, and land be exploited to benefit businesses, the community and the Council?

Read more…

What is GeniUS York?

This website is for anyone and everyone to share ideas on how we can tackle the challenges that York and its inhabitants face. We want to encourage and develop new and imaginative ways for the city to meet some of its key challenges.

Activity Feed

Heather Niven replied to Heather Niven's discussion How to improve use of air quality data
" thanks Bobby for sending through this great dashboard link, showing live information on Air Pollution."
Nov 3, 2015
Innotech Concepts ltd updated their profile photo
Oct 15, 2015
Innotech Concepts ltd updated their profile photo
Oct 15, 2015
Innotech Concepts ltd updated their profile photo
Oct 15, 2015