Andy Lowndes – Playlist For Life

I’m all about the creative use of technology and I get particularly excited when creativity and technology together translate to real and meaningful value in someone’s life and Playlist for Life fits into that category.

Playlist For Life is based on the very simple truth that people respond to sound – even when almost every other memory or sense has left them – and Playlist for Life has built on this idea to promote personal playlists as a therapy for connecting with people living with dementia. The effect is extremely moving – people who were previously unresponsive to loved ones seem to awaken, stimulated by music and songs that revive lost memories.

I had the opportunity to hear about Playlist For Life in May at an NHS event at the SECC where Andy Lowndes and founder Sally Magnusson had 500+ people near to tears as they witnessed, through video, the impact of the work; and then, in tears of laughter as the same audience shared stories of songs personal to them.

To learn more visit

The videos on the website speak for themselves – in particular look out for Harry and Margaret.

Andy visited the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in Dundee this week – I recorded the audio below for their SSSCfm channel.

Listen to what Andy has to say, think about what would be on your personal playlist and consider donating any old iPods or mp3 players you might have doing nothing.

Social Innovation is… in The Melting Pot

On Thursday of last week, representing SSSC, I joined a group of people from the world of Scottish Government, NHS, Social Work, Social Enterprise and private social organisations, at The Melting Pot, for a day of conversation and activity around the question:

How can we put social innovation to work for the people of Scotland?

The Melting Pot Question

The pitch I received was: “Join a conversation to explore this question, make new connections, and be a part of creating the conditions for social innovation to flourish in Scotland!

What is Social Innovation…?
Funded by Scottish Government, The Melting PotScotland’s Centre for Social Innovation – are “…opening up a national conversation on how to meet the challenges and opportunities surrounding social innovation in Scotland; how to enable and support social innovation so that it fuels positive change across all aspects of Scottish society and economy. The results of these events will help inform policy thinking across Scotland ahead of preparations for a new wave of European Structural funding.

It was a busy day of workshopping and conversation – with welcome, strategically placed, breaks to chat to the other attendees and make new connections. The Melting Pot facilitate using the ‘Art of Hosting’. I haven’t had chance to Google or investigate further but I understand it to be about creating the appropriate environment for the task at hand – just as you would if hosting a party. anyone familiar with ‘good’ collaborative and visualisation techniques would have been as comfortable with the approach and activities as I was.

The aims of the conversation were:

  1. To share learning about what might be meant by social innovation and what is already going on across Scotland
  2. To build a vision collectively about how social innovation can be put to work for the people of Scotland, and to begin to address the conditions that need to be put in place for this vision to be realised
  3. To build and extend connections and networks between social innovators and influencers
  4. In these ways, to build a stronger basis for moving forward and maximising ability to ‘grow’ social innovation across the country, and for that growth to make a difference to the people of Scotland

The Melting Pot Dear Granny

Social Innovation is… in need of definition?
The first session of the morning was spent in small groups (of 5/6) attempting to answer the question, “Social Innovation is…”. The challenge is that both of those words can be very, very broad by definition. I’m of the opinion that ’Social Innovation’ is about understanding and agreeing on the outcomes, benefits and successes within a specific context – within an organisation; within the confines of a project; or as part of the values and vision of a team of people. If we know what we mean by it – in our context – then maybe we’ll be clear on what we expect from it, and (most importantly) we’ll recognise successful social innovation when we see it.

Social Innovation is… in the small things.
The potential of social innovation is huge, and so it rings true that the ‘cover-all’ term be huge too. But while the impact has the potential to be huge, insight and understanding is to be found in the small things. People not organisations; increments and not broad strokes.

The Melting Pot PledgeSocial Innovation is… going to take a while..?!
The day at The Melting Pot was a positive start at what, potentially, could be a very long process. It would be great if the next step was to synthesise the ideas from the day to create themes under which participants, and perhaps a wider online community, could submit practical project/initiative ideas to prototype and pilot.
A common denominator of people interested in this kind of work is a desire to get-our-hands-dirty. Let’s dig in with the people we aim to serve through this process and find out what are they looking for; what needs to change; and how do we make an impact?

Social Innovation is… wrong..!?
Of course listening is important. It’s essential. But sooner or later there needs to be action; inclusive, collaborative participation to gather as open and honest a conversation as possible, upon which to act and make a difference. But. Reserve the right to be wrong. Innovation brings a certain amount of risk and no one ever created anything radical knowing ‘beyond certainty’ that it was going to succeed. So learn to recover from risk, not avoid it.

The Melting Pot quotes

Social Innovation is… on Twitter
But then what isn’t?
You can follow @TheMeltingPotEd, and for your convenience clicking on #NationalConv will take you directly to the feed of the soundbites from the day and help you catch up with the conversation.

Images from top to bottom: 1. The Question, 2. Reading our letter from 2050, 3. Pledges from the end of the day, 4. Reflections no stories of social innovation.

Right place at the Right time.

Four days old and this video already has over two million hits on YouTube – all for being in the right place in the right time.

On face value there’s the drunkenness…

But it’s also a visualisation of serendipity in the design process. Eh!?
Stick with me… but first watch the film, it’s just two minutes.

First there’s the story…

Let’s pretend the film is about services. Servicesparticularly health and social services, can be tough for people to navigate – at times they may even appear to be inaccessible – ‘fenced off’.
In the film we see one service user struggling with a fence. Then another user comes along (an expert user) – this one is more savvy. He’s familiar with the system and skilled at identifying a way though. He also did his bit by showing the person struggling a new way through.

Clearly we can learn from these people.

But how do we find them?
Well, there is another person in the film that we should think about. People who design services should be like the person in the film that we don’t actually see – the person holding the camera. They’re far enough away to see the bigger picture but curious enough to zoom in on the detail. Through this film they set out to documented users struggling with a problem – the fence. But in doing this they accidentally captured a solution – or perhaps a more complex problem?!

Either way, they couldn’t have predicted the observation and they now have evidence of an existing work-around in use.

The problem/solution isn’t my concern for now – what we can take from this is that being in the right place at the right time can help us understand problems more clearly. Maybe reframe questions or identify reasonable solutions.

The right place at the right time. Serendipity.

a bear in the right place at the right time

Of course, we can’t possibly know when a serendipitous insight like this will occur. But, like the bear, we often aware of the best place to position ourselves.

Are you optimised for serendipity?

And serendipity is not exclusive to observation. We can simulate some of the conditions of being-in-the-right-place-right-time by looking at problems differently: empathy (putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes); storyboarding; prototyping; body-storming – all of these methods can help us look at a problem from another point of view and think differently.

Have you experience of being in the right place at the right time?
What was the impact?

Did you get over two million hits on YouTube?!




positive wiring tshirt

Positive Wiring – Positive People is a project that has been baking for almost two years. And now it’s ready. Im so pleased to have been a part of it but I also hope that this is just the beginning…

I had the privilege of being present at the launch of Elgin High School’s Positive Wiring – How Are You Wired? website. You can get a taster of the day in the video below and read more about the event and the project itself on the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) news website.

Positive Wiring was one of three projects piloted as a result of the SSSC/IRISS Workforce of the Future (WotF) Challenge (WotF was a collaborative project which crowd-sourced ideas via a website and then, over the course of two days workshopped, prototyped and pitched them with social services staff from across Scotland. Five projects were selected by those who took part and two in particular – Positive Wiring being one of them – have seen significant results.)

However, what I want to write about here is a little more about the process.

positive wiring cake

Recipe for change
If change and innovation has a recipe then, among the many ingredients, buy-in/commitment is the yeast. That teaspoon-and-a-bit may seem insignificant next to a mound of flour an butter, yet it permeates the entire mix and has a significant effect. Without it, their may still be a product, or service, but it’ll be distinctly flat.

And so while there are dozens of factors that contribute to the success, from my perspective, the constant here was the commitment.

All projects require all involved to be 100% invested. And yet it doesn’t always happen. The Elgin Positive Wiring team demonstrated what happens when everyone, at every level and stage of the process, wants the project to succeed; and is prepared to go out of their way to make it happen. In this case, as the young person at the end of the film says, everyone wanted Positive Wiringto thrive.

positive wiring bands

And there’s a lot to shout about: the website ( – for young people, by young people, in the voice of young people; the ten young ambassadors who fully understand and appreciate the research the project is based upon – whose enthusiasm alone may have more impact than the website through word of mouth/one-to-one, with friends and family.

positive wiring team ElginPositive Wiring is a particularly interesting project because its aim is fundamental change,  a cultural change. Changing behaviours in people is no easy task.

But Positive Wiring is not a sticking plaster, it’s not even a solution, it’s a preventative measure. It demands we change our ways to provide better futures for children not yet conceived. Positive Wiring demands teenagers and young adults think differently and more responsibly about becoming parents.

Positive Wiring is an opportunity to significantly change the lives of future generations; not through a poster in a GPs surgery or national advertising, or even through Government legislation – but through 14/15yr olds. And what a group of 15yr olds we had.

Hopefully other Positive Wiring teams across Scotland and the UK will follow in the footsteps of Elgin. They’re big shoes to fill – so are you up to it?

positive wiring shirts

If you or your class/school/club or youth group would be interested in becoming a Positive Wiring Team please get in touch and I’ll pass you on to the right people.


#ScotMKLS - @tripleSSSC Mobile Knowledge & Learning event...IMG_4397IMG_4399IMG_4402IMG_4401IMG_4400
IMG_4403IMG_4404IMG_4405Meta-tweeting @tripleSSSC #ScotMKLS#ScotMKLS Game Based Learning session with Prof Thomas Connolly - Uni of West of Scotland #GBL#openbadge session @tripleSSSC #ScotMKLS with @triches from DigitalMe
Building our #Lego 'liker' #Mozilla badge with #DigitalMe at #ScotMKLSGot an 'actual' #openbadge badge from @triches at #ScotMKLS - can't wait to get the virtual one!IMG_4406#ScotMKLS Support for Badging Scotland @DigitalMe_ @TRiches #openbadge #mozillaIMG_4407#ScotMKLS Keynote: “Modernising Social Services – Government’s Vision for 21st Century Public Services” – Mike Neilson (Director for Digital, Scottish Government)
Kicking off - it's app design on day two if @TripleSSSC @DundeeUniv #ScotMKLSIMG_7386IMG_7387IMG_7388IMG_7393IMG_7392

#ScotMKLS, a set on Flickr.

Photos from last week’s Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) #ScotMKLS event (Mobile Knowledge & Learning Solutions).

Lots learned, the most exciting of which was the Mozilla Open Badge platform. Can’t wait to get stuck into thinking about how I am going to use these..!

Watch this space!