Speaking to 2015 Charityworks graduate trainee Jennifer Lake, Lou Arnold, the Director of Income Generation at Acorns Children’s Hospice discusses her thoughts on innovation in practice at the charity.
Do you think innovation has a place at Acorns?
I think it does but I don’t think it has necessarily been given enough priority. To give it that priority we would need to work out a way of how to do it within the culture of our organisation and team. It needs to come from everyone – there needs be a desire and an appetite for it. It definitely does happen, but I don’t know if we celebrate it when it does, or even notice. You kind of think “oh brilliant” and then that’s it and you get on with the day job.
How would you prioritise innovative practice?
For me, I don’t think it would cost money to be able to breed a more innovative culture. At one charity I worked for we used to have a “coffee and share morning”. Different people would host it every quarter and people would just get together and chat – it was nothing formal at all but that’s where ideas came from. We tended to talk about the problems we were having at that time in our job, and then people naturally tended to provide you with solutions because that’s what people like to do, they like to help you. We kind of do this already, at our desks or in the kitchen making cups of tea. We need to make it an OK thing to do from above. It’s simply about opening up communication, opening up channels and building confidence in people.
I have opened up channels within my team. My management style is that I am very open to people coming up to me and talking to me, or popping me an email. I’ve just said that if you have an idea, send it through to me on an email or give me a call, and I’ll bring it back out when it’s appropriate to talk it through. And I make sure it does happen. By doing that people have sent through some brilliant ideas and I’ve actually started this little folder! And that’s just managing people – it’s not hard.
If money was no object, would there be a project you would tackle and why?
I will always find a way of doing what I want to do, one way or another, but if I had all the money in the world to throw at it the only difference would be that I would just do it quicker. Because we don’t have that money I will just look at small ways we can do it, and that is about innovation. One particular challenge we face is events fundraising. That’s where it gets competitive and we just have fallen behind time after time. We would try to directly compete with these event companies and just couldn’t keep up. That’s where I’ve changed things – we now work with event companies so we can use their ideas and hop on and off of the next big thing. I’ve prioritised collaboration over competition. We’re not Macmillan or Cancer Research who have innovation teams and to be honest, I don’t want to be one of them. We are what we are – let’s work with what we’ve got and be realistic. We may not reach quite the ambition that I have but I will always get us on our way there.