Co-production and innovation

The Care Innovation Challenge, run by the National Care Forum and supported by Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) through the National Co-production Advisory Group, is a creative weekender bringing together entrepreneurs and innovators – university students and care sector colleagues – to develop solutions to key challenges facing the care sector.

Nine teams took part over the weekend to generate innovative ideas, with five being selected to go through to the following stage in October. 

TLAP were happy to support NCF to bake in meaningful co-production in the planning and delivery of the Care Innovation Challenge. The immediate impact of co-production is apparent. It should be of interest to commissioners interested in developing better value from scarce public resources, simply by incorporating lived experience at an early stage of project scoping and development to get more things right, first time. 

Paula and Rich, mentors at this year’s event, describe how co-production was delivered at its best… 

“Wow, wow, wow”, said Paula, “that’s how I started the message I sent when I got home from the Care Innovation Challenge weekend, thanking my colleagues at the National Care Forum (opens new window) (NCF) and Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) for the opportunity to take part. 

“Of all the meetings and events I’ve attended, this is the one that I can say was 200% co-produced. The NCF and TLAP did a phenomenal job. Co-production was present in every way at this event, even throughout the build-up. Leading up to the challenge weekend we prepared with online meetings.  There was lots of talk about what they wanted people to get from the weekend, not just about what we could give as mentors to the participants, but also what we could gain as mentors, as individuals, which I thought was a fantastic way of doing things.   

“It was clear that although there would be business owners and managers mentoring too, all of us had skills and experience that we could share, we were all equal and every second of our time would be valued.” 

Rich’s experience was also positive, “Alongside the mentors, the other people involved in the challenge came from different backgrounds and had different approaches. Some arrived with no real understanding of social care, others came with a bit more knowledge. It was really rewarding to work alongside the teams to help them process and test their innovations. 

“I was able to have conversations with teams and individuals about how I am so dependent on social care that I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed without its support – it really is an enabler, and it allows me to live my life. I think my talking through some of the challenges I face on a daily basis was useful. By talking to the contestants we were able to explore what would help – aligning my experience with their expertise to find solutions.” 

Paula could see their input in the development of the innovations, “For example, one group was designing a banking app for people with learning difficulties, to enable them to maintain their independence by managing their own money.   

“The original idea included the use of an alpha-numeric passcode. I explained to the group that for some people with learning difficulties this could be challenging. I also shared my experience of having memory difficulties after I had my strokes, and told them about the complications I had finding a user-friendly communication app. I suggested the use of pictures, colours or shapes for a passcode. 

“Their design has made it into the Challenge Final at the Care Show in October and they will be working on this for the prototype, giving people the options of what works best for them.  I felt quite chuffed that they’d shown me something and I was able to bring in an idea that was actually functional and that they could use. Something that you could actually see working.  

“From my point of view, I learnt as much as I gave.  I learnt so, so much.  It would be phenomenal if we could have these challenge weekends going on everywhere.”  

Summing up the event, Rich said “It was great to see the TLAP Making It Real framework being used to understand what people want, and to understand the needs of people – the eventual prototypes incorporated the essences of the six Making It Real principles. 

“The highlight of the event for me was witnessing the journey of the contestants – from walking through the door on the Saturday morning to the announcement of the five who would go through to the final in October.   

“Innovators and entrepreneurs are key to how we can find answers to some of the toughest things that people face every day. I know that previous winners of the challenge weekend now have their products on the market and I really look forward to seeing some of the innovations developed at this event become a reality too. “  

Visit NCF (opens new window) to find out more about the National Care Forum and the Care Innovation Hub (opens new window) to learn more about innovation and social care.  

If you’d like to learn more about the work of NCAG, visit


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