Sustainability Action Blog


Change in a Teacup – The Social Innovation Café

By Julia Kendal |

Guest blog by Josie Francis, University Social Enterprise Managersocial_innovation_challenge_mar15

On Wednesday afternoon, we held our very first Social Innovation Café at the Nuffield Theatre Kitchen. The café began with a single question – why do we find it so difficult to talk about mental health – and for the hour and a half which followed, groups of students, staff and local third sector practitioners worked together to drill down to the core of the issue and then to build back up to find a possible solution.

At the end of the cafe, the groups were invited to share their ideas and inspirations, which revealed a number of common threads involving awareness, education, stigma and the problems around the perceived ‘language’ of mental health. Ideas to address these root causes included a bedtime story for children to share with their parents about mental well being; a petition to increase mental health service provision and a human library to connect young people to mental health sufferers and survivors. Not only were these ideas innovative and imaginative, but they also demonstrated the power of collaboration as the products of three sets of insights and experiences, brought together around the same social issue.

As an introduction to the principles of social innovation and as an opportunity for students and the community to work collaboratively, the café was undoubtedly a success. But, perhaps the real value was something rather more subtle; by encouraging an open dialogue about mental health that organically evolved into deep conversations about individual values and experiences, the café in itself became an opportunity to address and overcome some of the root causes that emerged from it.

We hope that this week’s Social Innovation Cafe will be the first of many that we hold at the university, and we look forward to seeing what other conversations and collaborations result from exploring different social issues in the future.

If you would like more information about the cafe, please contact Josie Francis, Social Innovation Programme Manager.