The following impact case study is an extract from ‘The Lens: A Qualitative Programme Review 2015-2019’, an independent evaluation completed by The Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. The study provides insights into the impact that The Lens programme has with regards to the workforce, organisation and social innovation.

Alzheimer Scotland participated in Lens Programmes in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. This case study reflects their experiences and the impact that the programme had on their employees, service delivery, organisation restructuring and enhancing their innovation culture.

Alzheimer Scotland: Transition to an innovative organisation

Alzheimer Scotland is Scotland’s national dementia charity who are heralded for being at the forefront of innovation and transformation for people living with dementia. Over the last decade they have transformed policy and services aimed at supporting people with dementia through community-based social innovations, policy innovation and workplace innovation approaches and practices.

By transitioning to an innovation-purpose driven organisation they have transformed their organisational culture. They are now a connecting and collaborative organisation that celebrates innovation through encouraging new ideas for service delivery and creative workplace practices. The Lens played a large part in this transformation.

Very clearly what I wanted to do was to give people something that looked beyond the horizon of where they were... The models that we had been working on, that approach to home care, which was getting really delivered by contracts as opposed to creativity. The void that that was going to leave, for me, had to be filled by generating this creativity. And starting to think about... Not think about a contractual basis for things, but think about a need basis, an innovation basis, using all our resources and skills in a much more effective way.

Senior Leader, Alzheimer Scotland

Working with The Lens: Motivations and expectations

Alzheimer Scotland engaged with The Lens to help cement their vision of becoming an innovation-driven organisation. The Lens was a means to stimulate and embed innovation practices within.

A major motivation was also to continue to invest in the professional development of their staff. They believed the formal structure of the Lens programme was an opportunity to bring their staff engagement to the next level and develop future leaders in the organisation.

The expectations of the senior leadership team for the programme were twofold. First, they wanted a stimulus to unlock employee talents and have a platform for their creativity and

innovation to come to the forefront of the organisation. Second, they wanted a vehicle to help the organisations transformation that was appealing and engaging for staff and could bind organisation units together, in a time of disruption.

We wanted something that would be a vehicle for transformation but also that having had this major structural change, we could come in with something that was appealing, engaging, warm, inviting, a bonus for people. So not just you have an idea, you would actually get some real money to support your idea. We needed something that would help us get over the disruption but also be a nice positive thing going on over there. So, The Lens has had a dual purpose for us. It’s positive, engaging in and of itself, but it’s also part of our transformation programme to really modernise Alzheimer Scotland.

Senior Leader, Alzheimer Scotland

Impact of the Lens: Developing professional leaders and engaging staff

The Lens’ structured programme of workshops, support and engagement, designed to develop and refine ideas, directly resulted in improving staff motivation and commitment, including:

  • Increases staff engagement and excitement to be at work                 
  • Increases in staff feeling valued by the organisation
  • Increases in passion for jobs
  • Increases in confidence and self-belief

The structured programme of workshops and training, and the cross-organisational networking opportunities that this programme provided, directly increased several specific skills for staff, including:

  • Presentation skills
  • Idea generation and development skills
  • Critical analysis skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Communication skills 

Several additional skills were also developed which helped proactivity and productivity within the organisation, these included:

  • Learning about and engaging with other organisation units, processes and operations
  • Learning to be flexible and adaptable to help deal with organisational change
  • Awareness of wider strategic priorities
  • Breaking down siloed thinking and creating cross-collaborative practices
  • Learning about other people’s roles and challenges

This skills development facilitated the development of future organisation leaders and has provided continuous professional development opportunities for participants. The skills that they have developed transferred outwit the Lens into participants job roles. The Lens programme has facilitated:

  • Leadership and management skills
  • Application of storytelling and presentation skills in everyday jobs and promotion opportunities
  • Application of skills and knowledge
  • Making professional connections             
  • Increasing employees’ opportunities for development
If I hadn’t have pushed myself outside my comfort zone back then, I really don’t believe that I would be where I am now in my career. I have progressed quite a lot in a short space of time from the encouragement initially from Lens, in terms of my own development. So, I’ve gained a lot from personal development as well.

Intrapreneur, Alzheimer Scotland

Impact of the Lens: Improving workplace innovation

The Lens programme directly produced several benefits to the innovation culture of Alzheimer Scotland. This included:

  • Connecting organisational units together to create a collaborative and cohesive organisation
  • Increasing communication and improving workplace practices and processes
  • Increasing flexibility in workplace practices and processes
  • Embedding creative and innovative thinking in the workplace
  • Staff understanding the organisations needs and strategies better
  • Identifying gaps and opportunities in localised service delivery

The Lens programme also generated a positive atmosphere in the organisation with previous Lens finalists acting as role models to encourage creative and innovative ideas of wider staff.

Additionally, the continued engagement with the Lens programme led to the embeddedness of innovative practices into the organisation. Through participation in the Lens programme there was an abundance of skilled innovative workers and a catalogue of innovative social innovations. This formed the crux for an innovation development team, working across the organisation in a matrix structure to embed innovation in services and workplace practices.

In the Lens, when we did the Beer with Buddies, and the Lens project came in, it brought a full kind of spark to the team. It brought a whole positive vibe within our locality, and within our office space that brought on a few changes within itself... For instance, staff are now thinking well we could do this, or we could do this. Not big giant projects like we need to apply for funding for, but just little changes. Little positive things in shaping the way that we do, shaping the creativity in us, and giving people a wee bit more confidence to step forward with that idea a wee bit.

Intrapreneur, Alzheimer Scotland

Impact of the Lens: Developing and scaling social innovations

The structured programme of workshops, support and engagement led to the development and refinement of social innovations that improved the service delivery of Alzheimer Scotland. These innovative ideas created significant health and social benefits to people living with dementia.

Through the idea generation and refinement workshops, participants developed a deep understanding of their customer needs that turned into several social innovations, with the potential to scale and impact the lives of people living with dementia.

One idea, aimed at reducing social stigma and increasing mental wellbeing, saw a finalist team transform an area in a resource development centre into a bar. This attracting a lot people living with dementia, and their loved ones, into a fun and stigma free environment which combatted social isolation. This idea is currently being rolled out across Scotland.

Our project only started off in Paisley, but now we are working on rolling it out across the organisation. With the aim of having a Beer with Buddies within every locality within Alzheimer Scotland, so that it becomes part of the offer that Alzheimer Scotland has. We are in the very early stages of securing funding to start rolling that out.

Intrapreneurs, Alzheimer Scotland

Another idea aimed at stimulating cognitive ability through an outdoor tipi project. This idea was grounded on evidence that people with dementia benefit from being outside in nature as it carries multiple health benefits. The idea sees people with dementia doing different activities, learning new skills and taking walks in the surrounding woodlands, whilst being nearby to the comfort and safety of the shelter of the Tipi and log fire.

This idea is now being celebrated as a great practice. Being recognised by wider audiences outwit Scotland at the 2019 Alzheimer Europe conference and being a feature on BBC Two Springwatch programme.

She was at the Alzheimer Europe conference, month before last, in October. And she was making a presentation on The Tipi Project. And she won second prize for the best poster presentation on the actual project in Europe. That type of thing, which got its funding through The Lens, is being recognised as a great development.

Intrapreneur, Alzheimer Scotland

This is an extract from: Dr Knox, S & Marin-Cadavid, C. 2019. ‘The Lens: A Qualitative Programme Review 2015-2019’. The Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde.

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