open data smart city social isolation

How to achieve real impact in social care using digital

On October 8, the Urban Sustainable Development Lab collaborated with Apolitical to host a workshop on digital innovation in social care. This session marks the completion of the ongoing trial of Care View co-funded by the UK and European Space Agencies. Care View is our award-winning digital platform to help local governments re-engage socially isolated older residents.

Our guest speakers were Amalia Zepou, former Vice-Mayor for Civil Society in Athens (Greece) and Jonathan Hindley, Public Health Officer for Leeds City Council (UK). Both Amalia and Jon have pioneered digitally-enabled impact in their cities. They discussed the conditions necessary to achieve real impact using digital.

The context for digital innovation in social care

Both Amalia and Jon stressed that in order to kick-start innovation, we must take into account the prevailing sentiment on the ground, as it defines the context that the solution has to operate in.

Amalia pointed out that anger was at the forefront of people’s consciousness during the 2008–2009 economic crisis. She founded synAthina in 2013, as a common space to bring together and support citizens’ groups to improve the quality of life in the city.

Now there is more fear, but Jon mentioned that there is still reason to be optimistic. The massive strains that the pandemic has put on local government has created permission to reset and do things in a different way. And that is the value he sees in a platform like Care View — to simplify the process by which multi-agency collaboration can tackle a hugely complex issue like social isolation.

In order to succeed, a digital platform has to connect people back to their communities without bureaucracy. It should not replicate hierarchical relationships with and within local government. It must be an asset-based community development effort.

The value of numbers

It can be challenging to sustain a digital platform, especially past the initial prototypes, as all the stakeholders are impatient for impact. Numbers are vital. But it’s not a black and white situation of success or failure.

Jon mentioned that that independent academic evaluation helped him tell the story of Care View with ‘forensic’ clarity.This evidence, coupled with case studies, which he refers to as ‘the human component’, is what helped raise the consciousness of social isolation across the city.

But that’s just one side of the story.

Care View has been in operation for four years. One of the reasons for its longevity is that we iteratively developed a business model. This model clarifies how the platform is sustainable from a solutions perspective, for the local government and also for the service provider (our Lab). Once again, this is an interplay of different numbers such as efficiency savings, connections created between different agencies and thenumber of people engaged, to name a few.

The value of digital, beyond the words

Amalia reminded us that it is easy to get lost in the ever growing digital jargon, such as ‘innovation platforms and co-design. Beyond the snappy words, we need to take a step back and explore if these platforms are creating better models of governance to address the challenges we are facing today. And this is where Jon sees the value in digital — to circumvent hierarchy and put the power back in the hands of the citizen, because sometimes local governments do not have the capacity to absorb change at the necessary pace.

An invitation

At the Urban Sustainable Development Lab, we believe that technology should be a part of the solution, not the core of the solution. This is the basis of our digital platform Care View. As our current trial co-funded by the UK and European Space Agencies comes to a close, we are starting to plan our next round of Care View pilots in 2021.

We have heard from cities, national charities and researchers in the UK, Europe, South Korea and New Zealand. The team and I are amazed and inspired by the use cases for Care View that we are being asked to explore. There are many innovative approaches to address social isolation. Are you interested in using and improving Care View in your city? We can run fully-funded and part-funded pilots. To start a conversation, please visit or use this feedback form to get in touch with us. We are accepting responses till December 10.

Thanks to Eddy Adams who expertly facilitated the workshop. To our speakers Amalia Zepou and Jon Hindely. And my colleagues Natalie Nellisen and Giulia Rancati for their contribution. And finally, a huge thanks to Helen at Apolitical. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

You can listen to the post-workshop discussion on Soundcloud
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