Creative Tech: Patchworks, citizen led innovation




One of the most rewarding projects that I was ever involved in was called #Patchworks,  part of the Lancaster University Catalyst programme. Catalyst brought together a team of academics from a range of disciplines including social science, computing, design, environmental and management science and includes myself in biomedical sciences. It united  community organisations – large and small – based in Lancaster, Manchester, Derry-Londonderry, and further afield by working with high-profile partners such as the Manchester Digital Development Agency, FutureEverything, the RSA, and Community Matters.

The Patchworks project was a fusion of 2 community groups with Lancaster Uni academics; madlab in Manchester and Signposts in Morecambe.  The idea was to carry out  transformative research on the theme of citizen-led social innovation.  This actually means people with needs coming up with a question and going through a creative process to develop cheap open source products that help them in their lives; improving overall health and well being. In this case the question was ‘how can technology be used to improve the lives of homeless people?’.  You might ask what is this guy doing working on this type of project? Well I think that the most creative areas are around the edges of what we know and experience. Everyone involved in this project has had to step out of their comfort zone and inhabit what I call the ‘discomfort zone‘. Where we sometimes need to admit our ignorance and make mistakes because of our lack of knowledge and experience.   It has been a fantastic learning process for all involved. We were able to publish a papers about working with vulnerable groups.

I am trying to develop this further in my work in tropical medicine; the experts are people living with the disease and living with sandflies. How do we learn from them?

Meantime here is a short film intro about the project.


Here is a diagram of the alternative tech project that we didn’t pursue, it was an exciting idea about a victorian style air sampler/mould detector for substandard housing.  Microbial SWAT teams swooping on substandard housing and gathering evidence against errant landlords…


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