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03 February 2021

Innovation: a way of truly making a difference to people’s lives?

Innovation: a way of truly making a difference to people’s lives?

Sharon Crockett is Director of Innovation and Culture at Melin, and is part of an Innovation Working Group put together by Community Housing Cymru that will be identifying the challenges facing people and communities in Wales, and looking at the ideas the housing sector has to tackle those challenges.

“When my Chief Executive initially asked me if I would like to apply to be part of the innovation steering group, my initial reaction was, I’m not sure if I am the right person, what can I bring? However, the more I looked into it and discovered what their intentions were, the more I became excited about the possibility of being part of something that could potentially change the future for people within the communities we work in.

“My role within Melin is all about supporting the business and our staff to be the best they can and to drive change and support culture throughout the organisation, so this seemed the perfect project for me to be involved in. I saw it as a way of truly making a difference to people’s lives, which is what drives me the most within my working career.

“Obviously identifying the problem statement was where the hard work started. How on earth do you identify a whole Wales challenge, that we as housing associations, can have an impact in changing. The steering group actually came full circle in terms of identifying the area we wanted to focus on and, as you can imagine, our opinions and decisions changed over and over throughout the process. The more we tried to narrow the focus, the more it presented new challenges and issues that needed to be solved.

“With the help of very skilled innovation specialists, we finally whittled the challenge down to the current focus of ‘How might we prevent worsening mental health among young people aged 14-18?’.

“The mental health issues we see today among our young people are heart breaking and worrying and to some extent, within our normal lives, we feel helpless to improve the situation. Any possible solution will obviously need to be co-ordinated across various sectors, however housing associations continue to have a very close link to both the individuals and communities we work with, which presents us with the opportunity to make a real impact. But of course, we could never do this alone.

“This is now a real opportunity to get a range of ideas from across the sector and to engage with partner organisations and communities to come up with some viable solutions to our challenge. It will be essential that we get as much feedback and generate as many ideas as possible because we, of course, don’t have all the answers, otherwise we’d be doing it all now. This also represents a fantastic opportunity to engage with our young people whom our work will impact on, to help them to identify solutions that will ultimately help them and others around them.

“We can all talk about the challenges that are faced by people within our communities, and we can sit back and carry on talking without taking any decisive action. Even now, whilst the challenge has been identified, it still feels a little daunting. Where on earth do we start in tackling this problem? It feels immense! But on the flip side, it is incredibly exciting and represents a real opportunity to change the lives of our future generations.

“I am privileged to be part of finding and testing a solution to this ever-growing issue and if I can play a small part in making a big difference, I will do everything within my power to help make this a success.”

You can input your ideas and solutions to the mental health challenge identified by the Working Group here.

Find out more about the Innovation Pilot here.