Pretty Simple: web, digital, social

Woman with mobile phone.

Image by amanky

Earlier today I met with some associates to discuss a possible idea for the upcoming Social Innovation Camp in Edinburgh. The idea had come from a colleague’s personal experience of caring for an elderly relative, and the complications in arranging basic tasks and chores ad hoc – things as simple as getting something from the corner shop or replacing a light bulb. For carers, it can be time consuming and frustrating for the individual and their carer to try to find cover or a helping hand at short notice, and so those simple tasks often end up not getting done, or being done riskily or badly.

My colleague’s idea was for a tool that carers, and the people they care for, can use to easily check if someone in their existing personal and local network of relatives, friends and neighbours can offer a bit of their time. The aim would be to reduce some of the social isolation and stress of caring and being cared for whether the people involved live together or not.

The basic concept

The carer or person being cared for creates an account online and invites their family, friends and neighbours to sign up with their contact details, creating a private, trusted network around that person. The carer, or person being cared for, can then post requests for help. They can do this on the website or via email, text message or Twitter via text message or email, a web post or tweet and the message can be distributed via these channels. When someone offers their time, a confirmation message goes to everyone. To make it easier to respond, anyone in the circle of support could contribute to a credit system so the carer, or person being cared for, can pay travel expenses and other costs.

Example 1

John’s elderly father, Ernie, is house-bound with limited mobility but still lives in his own home. John provides a lot of care and support to Ernie, but balances this with a demanding job. One morning, Ernie calls John at work to say he needs help – a local care home is holding a jumble sale that afternoon and Ernie has sorted a pile of books that he wants to donate. It means a lot to Ernie to be able to help the care home, but John has important meetings all day and can’t help him deliver the books.

John sends out a text message to his network and gets a reply shortly afterwards from one of Ernie’s neighbours, Mary, who was planning to go down to the jumble sale anyway. She agrees to pop in to see Ernie and take the books.

Example 2

Paula has a long-term illness and has good and bad days. Her sister Kay, who usually looks out for her, is abroad for the week visiting friends. One morning Kay gets a text message from Paula with some news that has really upset her. Kay desperately wants to pop home to give her sister a hug, but can’t afford to book an earlier flight home.

She posts a private message on the web, explaining that her sister could do with some company. As a result, a number of friends agree to pop in and see her. One even offers to take some flowers round to cheer Paula up, and Kay uses online credit to go halves with them on the purchase.

Update – to accompany our submission, I knocked up the following graphic using

Cartoon graphic giving an example of Lend A Hand being used to help someone who needs a light bulb replaced.

"Lend a Hand" in action

Like the idea?

We’d love to hear what people think of this idea – and more importantly, if anyone has a similar project or initiative, or would like to get involved. Leave a comment below to get in touch. We need to submit this idea to SICamp by Friday 20th May so time is short.

Social Innovation CampGot your own idea?

There’s already been a number of meet-ups for interested people to get together and discuss ideas, with the next Edinburgh event at the Melting Pot on Monday 16th May. Sign up now if you’re planning on popping along.

Also find out more about submitting your own idea.

Image by amanky, used under the Creative Commons license.

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3 Responses to Social Innovation Camp – an idea

  1. This is a brilliant idea. Seriously brilliant. I propose a third scenario where the person who needs care is not adept at using technology. The primary caregiver lives far away, but is aware of certain details. The caregiver can coordinate help with the use of technology: asking a trusted friend to peek in the refrigerator on her next visit to make sure there is no rotting or moldy food, finding someone to check on the electrical outlets making sure all are safe, or coordinating a trip to a concert at the local library one afternoon.
    Personal experience showed me that no one checks personal matters except the closest family. If the closest family is far away, what do you do? Having someone just check on little things around the home would bring peace of mind to the distant caregivers who know what needs to be checked. And it would be ensuring safety in the home of the person being looked after.

    • James says:

      Thanks Karen, your scenario is an equally valid one and really useful to help us build a picture of the different potential uses.

  2. James says:

    PS worth noting that this idea does have similiarities with the Good Gym, which came out of a Social Innovation Camp in 2008, although is more about empowering existing, private and informal networks of support such as neighbours, friends etc.

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