By Dr Siobhan Jordan, director of Interface

Like all good innovations, it started with a question: how can we help better explain climate change issues? The charity Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) has worked with arts and culture organisations for many years to support them adapt to a climate sustainable future. The challenge was to help explain to a wider audience the value and role of artists in achieving society’s net zero changes.  

With an Innovation Voucher funded by the Scottish Funding Council, CCS were matched by Interface with Gray’s School of Art at Robert Gordon University to create the innovative Library of Creative Sustainability. This digital resource showcases the best examples of collaborations between artists and sustainability professionals seeking to make the world a better place. 

Innovation and creativity lie at the heart of all business and this has been especially true of the third sector in its incredible response to the pandemic. Since the world has been turned upside down with Covid-19, so many wonderful people and organisations have shone through highlighting the enormous difference they are making to society, the environment and the economy. The fundamental principles of adaptability, resilience, flexibility, agility and diversification have allowed rapid change to respond to the fast-changing needs of communities from inner cities to remote rural islands.    

The recent results from the Scottish Third Sector Tracker have highlighted just how disruptive the pandemic has been for third sector organisations in Scotland. Nearly all organisations surveyed faced challenges, but adaptability and resilience are also evident with 71% of organisations meeting most or all increases in demand, 90% adapting or increasing some existing services and 37% taking on new staff in the last year. 

Accepting that innovation and creativity are the heartbeat of every organisation may appear quite daunting. It is always hard to take time out to think about new way to deliver services, to be creative in seeing new opportunities to increase the impact of the mission of a charity or social enterprise. And yet innovation can help support voluntary organisations. How can innovation be become part of the everyday and not just for times of crisis?  

According to Nesta, the UK’s innovation agency for social good: “Social innovation is about developing new ideas to tackle social problems or meet social needs. It may be a new product, service, initiative, organisational model or approach to the delivery of public services.” Charities, social entrepreneurs and organisations who exist for a social cause, have great ideas to do more but rarely have the expertise in-house to research possible solutions.  

Collaborating with academics can open the door to fresh-thinking, turning wish-lists into reality, with potentially huge benefits to society. For any small organisation identifying a new partner for good can reap huge benefits from solving an initial problem to the ripple effects of evidencing economic and societal impacts.   

Bringing together the innovative thinking and ethos of Scotland’s incredible charities and social enterprises with the innovation ecosystem in our universities and colleges can help to spark a new wave of third sector services to support a just and fair transition to a more sustainable economy for everyone. 

Interface’s welcomes social businesses and third sector organisations of all sizes and our regional delivery across Scotland means that no one and nowhere is left behind when it comes to accessing funded innovation support. So many third sector organisations can benefit from tapping into the expertise available across Scotland’s higher and further education. Interface can help you realise your ambitions for impact in any area: from new service delivery to exploring new opportunities or challenging the status quo of your current financial and trading structure.    

The third sector has adapted beyond all expectations to meet new challenges during Covid. What’s the next stage to increase your impact? All good innovations start with a question. What’s yours? 

Find out more about Interface.