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Application Toolkit: Innovate to Save

We’ve recently launched a second version of Innovate to Save and will be accepting applications to the R&D phase in July this year. Grants of up to £30k along with a tailored programme of support are available for projects to improve public services and generate savings. To help put together a strong application, we’ve listed the top five tools to help your organisation prepare.

1. Y Lab Problem Cards

The idea behind Y Lab Problem Cards is to ensure that project teams fully understand the problem they are trying to solve by asking the difficult questions at the very start. You’ll know most of the answers to these, but having it written down at the end in a clear problem statement is a great starting point for any problem solving challenge!

How to use this tool:

  1. Get the whole team together and give yourself a minimum of an hour to complete this task.
  2. Go through every card and answer each question. Don’t dwell too much on your answers, write down your immediate thoughts, you can refine it later.
  3. If you don’t know the answer to any of the questions, don’t try and guess, just leave it blank. These ‘blanks’ can help form some of your initial research questions and R&D plan.
  4. Collate all of the answers into a paragraph, and as easy as that, you have a problem statement- something you can use to monitor progress, make sure your ideas are actually solving the problem and keep your R&D project on track.

2. People and Connections Map

If you’re a third/private sector organisation and applying to Innovate to Save, you need a public sector partner. These conversations should be happening now! The People and Connections Map will help you understand which stakeholders should be involved in the project to help make it a success.

How to use this tool:

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to complete this one, this is a tool that you might need time to reflect on over a few days.
  2. As a starting point, get the team together and start brainstorming the organisations/people etc who should be involved.
  3. Put your target audience/user in the center of the diagram.
  4. Map these on the diagram by thinking about how close they are to the user, the closer to the center the more influential they may be.
  5. It’s important to consider having a range of stakeholders involved from day one and not just ones that are close to the user.

3. Jobs to be Done

We strongly believe that having the right team in place and support from senior management can really drive a project forward. The Jobs to be Done tool clearly identifies the activities/tasks that each role within the team needs to do to make sure the project progresses.

How to use this tool

  1. Begin by writing out what the ‘job to be done’ is (i.e. in a pizza shop it is to serve good quality pizza efficiently)
  2. Identify the tasks that are required to achieve this (i.e. in a pizza shop it would include taking orders, clearing tables, preparing food, making pizza, rota staff in, pay wages etc.)
  3. Add in the roles required (i.e. waitress, kitchen porter, chef, supervisor, manager etc.). Identify which roles do what tasks (draw line connecting the roles to the activities).
  4. Add in the ideal superpower for each role to possess, in order for them to do their job well (i.e. waitress ‘super positive’)

4. Theory of Change

Completing a Theory of Change will help you layout the steps you need to take to achieve the project's goal. It’s a good way of planning your R&D project and identifying any assumptions you are making that may be risky.

To get the most out of completing a Theory of Change get someone who isn’t in your team to join the session and ask the difficult questions that you normally might avoid. You should constantly review your plan throughout R&D and update it according to any major changes that might affect the project.

5. 12 Economies

Innovate to Save hopes to draw in ambitious projects that will not only improve services but also generate cashable savings. The 12 Economies Method can be used in 2 ways to help build a stronger application.

You can use these definitions to help generate new ideas. Get your team together and adjust your solution/idea to fit each of the 12 economies.

You can also use these definitions to help identify various ways in which the project could generate cashable savings.

We’ve created a matrix with examples of each type of saving here.


Amy Richards

Amy Richards

Amy Richards

Assistant Programme Manager, Y Lab

Amy is an Assistant Programme Manager at Y Lab.

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