Social care's capacity to make creative use of digital technology has been tested as never before over the past year.

This spring, ADASS is teaming up with Microsoft for a Digital Innovation Challenge to help accelerate the sector's most imaginative ideas.

There has been no shortage of recent praise for social care organisations' adaptation and willingness to work with partners to find new solutions, in the face of an operational contest few could have imagined as the new decade dawned.

Reports – from the government, charities and elsewhere – have hailed the current moment as an inflexion point that can see social care push forward with further innovation.

But longstanding resourcing challenges – around money, time and in-house expertise – that can put the brakes on such progress have not gone away.

Strengthening capacity

It's with this in mind that ADASS and Microsoft are joining forces to strengthen local authorities' capacity for harnessing new technology to deliver better outcomes for individuals, families, carers and the workforce.

We are now inviting councils, either working alone or with partners involved in delivering social care, to submit project ideas that showcase fresh approaches in this area.

These could be either exciting early-stage ideas offering the potential to address sector challenges, or more advanced initiatives looking to move to the next level – those that are ready to scale up, or where a business case has already been developed.

We're particularly keen to hear about projects that enable frontline staff to work together remotely, help citizens engage or further understanding of their lives, or anticipate people's needs in order to deliver more proactive services.

But the Digital Innovation Challenge is aiming to be as inclusive as possible, so do not be put off applying if you're working on a great idea that does not fit into one of these boxes.

“Here at Microsoft, we're excited to partner with ADASS in driving digital innovation in adult social care.   We welcome the opportunity to work with the sector in making the most of technology to improve care services and empower people.”   

  

Kenya McKenzie-Jones, Digital Strategist (Worldwide Public Sector), Microsoft

Shortlisted applicants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a Dragons' Den-style panel, with a small number then offered the opportunity to work with Microsoft experts. Entrants who make the final group will be able to draw on Microsoft expertise via direct support, coaching sessions and webinars in order to develop, accelerate and refine projects.

Sharing knowledge

As well as giving projects a boost, we are hoping the Digital Innovation Challenge can help local authorities pool knowledge, spread awareness of great ideas and network with like-minded peers.

Shortlisted projects will be showcased in-depth in a report to be published on the ADASS website later in 2021 and circulated to members.

During April 2021, Microsoft will host a series of three webinars highlighting digital transformation approaches as well as technology capabilities that applicant local authorities can put to use in their submissions. These events will be open to all ADASS members as well as those wishing to participate in the Digital Innovation Challenge - on 20/04, 26/04 & 03/05 - save the dates!

Our mission “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more” complements the vision of the Digital Innovation Challenge and we are excited to share a ‘digital first’ mindset from our experience with local & regional authorities across the UK to meet the demands of the moment and the digital imperatives of the future in these tailored webinars.

Terry Room, Managing Architect, Digital, Microsoft Consulting Services UK

Important dates

The deadline for applications to the Digital Innovation Challenge is 21 May. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to present to a panel of sector experts on 11 June, with successful projects announced the following week.

Further information, including detailed criteria for applicants, can be found on the Digital Innovation Challenge promotional materials and application form.