GeniUS!'s Posts (16)

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

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GeniUS! Youth Challenge Update

Having focused on meeting the current and future needs of our more mature residents in many of our GeniUS! challenges to date, the latest challenge saw the Innovate York team seek better ways to work with young people in York.

GeniUS! Youth saw us working in partnership with the York Integrated Youth Support Services in City of York Council and the York Youth Sector Partnership.  In many ways this challenge felt like a passing of the baton for the Innovate York team. Over the past 18 months and especially through challenges 5, 6 and 7 we have honed the three P’s of the GeniUS! process – Post, Participate, and Pilot.  We now have a process in place for each challenge where there is 4-6 weeks of discussions and posting of comments on the GeniUS! platform. This is followed by one of our Synergy Surgery events made up of facilitated group work participation where attendees pitch their ideas to a Dragon’s Den panel of experts at the end of the day. The third step in the process is to put together a solid business plan with the winning Dragon’s Den groups to put them in an advanced position to receive City of York Council Delivery and Innovation Funding (DIF). Ultimately this then leads to viable pilots being run in the city that benefit the citizens of York.  

Having heard of the success of previous Synergy Surgery events, the Integreted Youth Support Services team in the Council got in touch with us to see if they could host their challenge (which was already running on their York Youth platform) on our GeniUS! site and to run a Synergy Surgery style event in partnership with them. It was pleasing to see that the GeniUS! process has gained positive attention and that Council Services are now approaching us to make use of the open innovation process we have developed in York over the last two years.

The Integrated Youth Support Services team were seeking answers to the question ‘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?  The ‘Positive for Youth’ government agenda recently encouraged a re-consideration of provision for young people, focussing strongly on the importance of cross-sector partnerships.  The GeniUS! approach and Synergy Surgery event is one of the Council’s ways to enable this.

So on February 6th over 60 people gathered at Clements Hall in York for Synergy Surgery: New Solutions for Working with Young People. There was a refreshing mix of attendees ranging from young actors from a theatre company based in York, police officers, council workers, and representatives from various charities such as York CVS, York Mind and the York Carers Centre.  It was a challenge to include many young people as it was during school term time, although the ones who were able to attend played a significant part in the day’s activities. And it was good to see that all the participants were focussed on the need to ensure the young people of York benefit from the outcomes of the day.

Hannah from the Youth Services team kicked off the day by gave us a stark reminder of our challenge here in York, by outlining some key stats such as how 9% of young people in York live in poverty.

Fired up by this and the inspirational presentation from Marcus Romer of Pilot Theatre which followed, all attendees were enthused to look for solutions.  Attendees broke into 6 groups to explore and address the main challenge areas as defined through discussions on the GeniUS! and York Youth platforms. Some of the topics up for discussion were: what kind of safe inclusive places exist that could support and engage young people?; how do we share training, resources and support better for all services working with young people?; and how can we better use communications tools and techniques to build better two-way relationships with young people and youth services?

While working on these challenges throughout the workshops all attendees were asked to keep in mind the York Youth Sector Partnership vision, which is to ensure a range of opportunities that engage, inspire and support young people enabling them to develop new skills, make new connections and take their place as active members of the community.

Following a day of animated group work, 6 groups pitched to what was probably the most memorable Dragon’s Den Panel on record. Alongside Innovate York’s Ian Graham, Owen Turner from United by Design and Simon Page, Head of Youth Services in CYC, were two local school children from Manor School. Honestly, they were the straightest talking, toughest, most ‘frightening’ judges we have had to date - they asked some challenging and insightful questions and really put the teams through their paces!

The 6 Groups who pitched to the panel came up with various innovative ideas to engage with young people including a Synergy Surgery run by young people for young people and a time-bank resource swapping idea for young people involving the whole community. The winning group which included young people from Pilot Theatre came up with an idea to create an award that would recognise excellence in arts and creativity for York’s Youth. The Integrated Youth Services team will now work alongside the winning group to develop this idea.

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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

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Challenge 5 Update

2013 has been a busy year for GeniUS! York. Challenge 6 around Innovation in Healthcare and Challenge 7 around the Future of Libraries which culminated in our two Synergy Surgery Events have both resulted in some brilliant pilots with work continuing on these over the coming months.

And now tomorrow night, November 26th 2013, sees the culmination of months of hard work on one of our 2012 Challenges - Challenge 5 around making York Dementia Friendly.

The aim of Challenge 5 was to generate ideas and discuss practical ways York could be more Dementia friendly, to harness shared experiences and thinking to develop the best initiatives to try in the city.  With well over 2000 people with dementia in York and with this number set to grow to nearly 4000 by 2030, the need to educate people in dementia has never been more important.

Our independent panel of judges selected the winning idea to be taken forward and developed in conjunction with our partners, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The winning proposal, submitted by Jayne Gledhill from Haxby, was to record a Dementia awareness film with dementia sufferers and secondary school students in York. This will give an opportunity for students to try and understand the problems that people with Dementia and their partners/carers live with on a daily basis and has the potential to make a significant social impact.

The social enterprise and film company, Inspired Youth, made the short film in July this year with students from the Joseph Rowntree School and dementia sufferers from Hartrigg Oaks residence. Guidance for the students was also provided by Dementia Forward. Tuning Into Dementia will be launched tomorrow evening in Joseph Rowntree School alongside a Dementia Awareness Lesson Plan for SPHE classes and the plan is for it to be rolled out in schools across York.

We will keep you posted on the outcomes of the Launch on the website here and on Twitter @geniusyork and #dementiafilm.


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Challenge 7 Update

How do you imagine the role of libraries in years to come?


Following the Synergy Surgery: Future Libraries event which took place at Acomb Explore Library on Monday November 11th and all of the comments, ideas and suggestions we have had on the website here, we’re confident we’ve found a number of ways to improve library services for generations to come.

So what happened in Acomb Explore Library?

What Happened

Following two development workshops and feedback sessions, six teams pitched their ideas in the Dragons’ Den.

Group Four was named the grand winner and their project to create a pop up café for isolated or vulnerable people by reconfiguring library spaces and establishing a referral process with GP surgeries, and charities such as Age UK and Age concern, will now be developed into a pilot.

The remaining projects below have all been invited to work with York Library and Archive Services to develop and implement their ideas. 

Group One

This idea seeks to engage non-readers through surrounding reading with a wider package of activity e.g. a homework club, a reading group, a choir. The aim here is to engage schools and standardise library services so there is greater integration between school and external library services, aiding continuity in a young person’s reading development.

Group Two

This initiative proposes giving over a space to young people for them to shape and curate. The young people involved will learn essential project management skills and in turn make the space more appealing to their demographic.

Group Three

This project imagines alternative uses for library cafes so that they become community hubs. Proposed activities include a pop up technology help centre, where older people struggling with their phone or tablet can pop in to receive help and advice from tech-savvy younger people, and weekly cinema screenings.  

Group Five

Group five’s proposal focused on the creation of a social cataloguing system to help library users discover new books based on their interests and past lending activity. The system would operate via a large, friendly, touch-screen device which would feature reviews and recommendations from other users who have read the same book.

Group Six

This proposal aimed to integrate technology into the library experience in an unobtrusive way. An initial means of doing this would be to create a single point of access library card which helps library staff to make connections between users based on shared interests.


We also have the video summary of the Future Libraries event which can now be viewed by clicking here.


We've also pulled together an infographic of the day's activities which can be viewed here.

We’d like to say a big thank you once again to everybody who gave of their time and ideas. We look forward to working with you to make these ideas a reality.

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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.

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Challenge 6 Update

Hi all GeniUS York Community,

A quick update on the latest challenge following the Synergy Surgery: Creative Health event on June 8th – June 9th. The weekend long event took participants through inspirational talks and facilitated small group working before culminating in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style session where groups pitched for funding to take their idea to pilot stage. The GeniUS team are very pleased with the outcomes of the event and the potential for the projects moving forward.

In the run up to the event we envisaged that Synergy Surgery would facilitate cross collaboration between those involved in healthcare industries and creative digital innovators. Through creating an ‘Innovation Overlap’ between the creative and healthcare industries, the aim of the event was to explore and develop solutions to some local healthcare challenges. So, after two days of cross collaboration two group projects from the weekend were given the green light from City of York Council for funding from the Delivery and Innovation Fund (DIF).

Your comments, ideas and suggestions over the last 6 weeks on here for improving healthcare services in York were collated before the event and used as the starting point for the over fifty delegates to work on in their groups over the weekend. The groups worked on these challenges, developed their ideas and presented their mini-pitches for all delegates on Saturday evening.

By the Sunday of the event there were five groups in the running. The first group was called Performance and was all about connecting with mental health sufferers. The next group came up with a plan for a new pharmacy model bringing together digital info as well as prescriptions. Group 3 came up a plan for improving healthcare services with the emphasis on self-management and a digital solution. Group 4 was called 'Health Spark' and they came up with an idea for a digital platform to respond to challenges to local healthcare. Talking Head was the final group and their idea was an online interactive consultant to improve the NHS Direct Service.

With their pitches refined the five groups presented their projects for the judging panel of Kersten England, CEO of City of York Council, Gordon Cooney, Performance Director with York NHS Teaching Hospital and Dr. Paul Edmondson Jones, Director of Public Health with City of York Council. After some fantastic presentations, Health Spark and Talking Head were the groups given the green light for funding! The 3 other projects still have huge potential and with some tweaks they could be in a place to secure DIF funding also. Further discussions will happen as a means to moving them forward.

Already the work has begun on the projects given the green light for funding. The team have met members of the Health Spark group since the event and they are already in the feasibility stage. We will be updating as to latest on the projects moving forward so keep an eye on here.


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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.

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Help highlight great customer service at the council!

From now until 4 November, the Council are accepting nominations from the Public to identify individuals or teams you think have gone the extra mile to make sure you've got the information, advice or help you needed or who you think display exceptional care and commitment in their work, whatever it might be.

You can place a nomination here.

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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.

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Challenge 1-4 updates @ 7th September 2012

Challenge 1: What ways can underutilised CYC assets i.e. equipment, property, buildings and land, be exploited to benefit businesses, the community and the Council?

A business case was produced by members of the innovation team and a technological solution provider. This was to outline the costs associated with the production of an asset management system which would enable City of York Council to leverage best value from its assets, the management of such a system and the ongoing development costs.

The solution is based on the development of a location based film/television information platform. This would work by placing assets (land and property) of certain historic or aesthetic value on a web accessible GIS system and providing all the information and images that a film production company would require in order to select an appropriate venue for filming with supplementary information on logistics with a simple contact/booking element.

Funding avenues have been explored for the progression on the business plan, including use of the Council’s Delivery & Innovation Fund. An application for funding was made which turned down.

As a direct result of this challenge however, a potential partnership project has emerged between one of the businesses sharing ideas on the platform and City of York Council.  An innovative new way of linking together local information and providing seamless individualised access to that through a 'tagging' system.  This opportunity is currently being explored.  More info soon!

Challenge 2: How can we intelligently use non-intrusive tools and methods to aid older and vulnerable people in their homes?

The ‘Idea’
- To provide a ‘space’ which showcases existing provision for the elderly and vulnerable in terms of assisted living products both technological and social based.
- To incorporate a use of this space to demonstrate innovative products relating to the ideas proposed within the GeniUS! project as possible ways of aiding the city’s elderly and vulnerable.

The Challenge team are currently well underway with making this happen. A location for this facility has been found at Alex Lyon House , Tang Hall, using a Ground Floor Flat with suitable access for the elderly and vulnerable. Residents of the sheltered housing scheme have been consulted and use of this space will be tailored to suit their requirements.

The property is currently undergoing a refurbishment to ensure it is suitably decorated for use. The Prevention and Support Service team are arranging the installation of existing Telecare services and equipment which are currently available to the elderly and vulnerable. This will then be complimented by a number of technological aids that are in the market place, designed at further improving a persons quality of life. These solutions will be based on a number of ideas submitted during the challenge stage and are being provided by a local IT professional who shared his ideas with us on the platform. Appointments and viewings will be offered to elderly residents of sheltered housing alongside residents of the City and interested parties to see demonstrations of the equipment and to have a go themselves. It is hoped this facility will be opened in October.

Challenge 3: 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 Open Innovation team has been working with the Commercial Procurement team to look at developing alternative ways of tendering, as directed by Challenge 3. A number of workshops have been held which have focused on determining the challenges and problems that exist within the current procurement processes, highlighting ways and means that these challenges can be met i.e. alternative solutions, and how these can be implemented.

A new range of procurement tools and techniques have been explored and these will be tested against some workable case studies. These tools enable the team to streamline some processes e.g. use online media to produce virtual site visits, rather than individual trips for each interested business. These will then be applied to a small number of imminent procurement exercises undertaken by the City of York Council and feedback will be obtained from those businesses involved.

Challenge 4: How can footfall and transport be used innovatively to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the City?

Energy generating pavements

Work on the first of our ideas for challenge 4 is underway, arranging a pilot of the technology for one of York's largest festivals, Illuminating York.

A location has been agreed for the installation of an electricity generating pavement within the Museum Gardens on a thoroughfare. This will be used to power the lighting of an light installation within the festival and hopefully to measure the amount of electricity that we could generate using this technology. It will also give us an opportunity to get your opinion as to whether this would be something worth doing permanently in York?  Talks are ongoing with Pavegen and the Festival.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Welcome to GeniUS!

Welcome to GeniUS!

City of York Council, alongside Science City York, is aiming to cement York’s position as one of the UK’s five most innovative cities by launching one of the first community innovation schemes. In partnership with residents, businesses, community groups and innovators everywhere, hopes to make a real difference in solving some of the city’s biggest challenges.

The aim is to inspire everyone in York, including residents, visitors and businesses to get involved in meeting today’s and tomorrow’s challenges using ingenuity, fresh thinking – and maybe a touch of GeniUS! One of the world’s leading companies, Proctor & Gamble, is on record suggesting that over 50 per cent of its new innovations come from sources outside the company. The council wants to emulate this way of working – known as open innovation – and use its expertise, contacts and resources to help bring people’s ideas to life – and together make York GeniUS!

This thinking is part of the Council’s joint partnership with NESTA – an organisation that promotes innovation in the UK – to bring those ideas to life and so create better, long-lasting and relevant services for the city.

City of York Council has already been shortlisted as one of the final 17 local authorities chosen from 137 entrants to take part in the NESTA Creative Councils Programme, to work with our partners from innovation experts Science City York to attract ideas and demonstrate their potential. If GeniUS! takes off, York could be in line for £250,000 in funding to help take forward innovations and share our success with other cities.

Ideas can be related to new products and technology or simply changes in the way we do things. The four challenges will be posted one a week for four weeks and will stay open for a three week period. Each will contain background to the challenge faced to aid and inform potentially innovative ideas.

The most workable and productive ideas will be identified by a panel of experts in relevant fields. The originators will be invited to workshops to work with experts, council officers and members of the public who might be affected by it. Once a plan to develop the idea has been agreed by these partners, the council has committed to making it happen.

So, whatever the idea and wherever the inspiration strikes, the council wants to hear it. The simplest ideas can sometimes transform lives.

Cllr James Alexander, Labour leader of City of York Council said: “City of York Council is fully committed to improving its methods to tackle present and future challenges at an operational and strategic level. We wish to improve communication within and outside the organisation to help identify and solve problems as they arise, to make us more responsive and to use contemporary and future technologies in all areas of the council.”

Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council said: “Open innovation has not yet been applied seriously to local authorities in the UK, and we want to demonstrate that we can collaborate with the private sector to increase our innovation capacity to make our city a better place to live, visit and work. We want to explore the potential for this process and to share the learning with other local authorities.”

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