Illustration : Pau Gasol Valls

Illustration : Pau Gasol Valls


In 2019 the British Red Cross launched The Power of Ideas. It is an online platform where staff, volunteers (and in the future supporters) can share their ideas around how they can future proof the British Red Cross and even better serve staff, volunteers, service users and supporters.


The Innovative Hub of the British Red Cross launched the challenge for two key reasons:

  • Unearthing good ideas. When thinking about the journey ahead, who better to think of what’s next, than the people who work day in, day out with our supporters and service users?
  • Culture change. The idea is to empower everyone, no matter their role or level to come up with ideas and make change happen ; and to give a voice to those who traditionally may have felt their ideas would not be listened to and so did not speak up. We wanted to foster a culture of creativity, one where we are all looking for ways to make things better.

Technical details & Operations

In the Summer of 2019, the Innovation Hub launched a pilot idea challenge for staff (to grow this to volunteers and even the general public in the future). What the pilot let them do was test the technology, the appetite for the project and the way they work to make sure it’s a success in the future. 

For the first challenge, they asked staff to submit ideas around how we could make the British Red Cross more financially sustainable – in other words how could it generate more funds or save more money? No matter how big or small the idea was, they wanted to hear it. And not only were they looking for new ideas, but they were also looking for good ideas that had already happened in one area that we could scale to others.

Staff submitted their ideas through an online workbook, the questions were specifically designed to support user-centric, impact-driven ideas. The platform also had case studies of great ideas that had already been made happen to inspire and videos from leaders to drive engagement.

Alongside the platform, the Innovation Hub travelled up and down the length of the UK from Plymouth on the south coast of England to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. 

They visited 20+ offices where we advertised the challenge and ran mini-ideation sessions to help people come up with new ideas. For areas we could not reach, we recruited and trained Idea Champions to help spread our message through events and poster campaigns. They also offered consultations over the phone to either help with the submissions or develop an idea further.

The Innovation Hub shortlisted 12 ideas to go through to a Pitch Event. At the pitch event idea owners had 15 minutes to present their idea to a panel of judges from all departments and levels of the organisation. They were blown away by the enthusiasm, effort and passion that went into every presentation. Two winning ideas were selected to be prototyped and tested with the support of the Innovation Hub – a social enterprise to support refugees into work and a breakthrough mass fundraising event targetted a schools.

Every submitted idea was explored by the Innovation Hub, received detailed feedback and suggested next steps. They were also passed on to the relevant team in the organisation to be explored further and be actioned. This made sure every idea was listened to and actioned – no matter how big or small.

Deployment & Impact

The challenge was a great success and in two months the Innovation Hub received over 100 fantastic ideas from colleagues across all departments and regions. Ideas covered a variety of innovative ways to save money and raise funds from postage saving processes to new social enterprises to be launched.

The two winning ideas have been developed by the Innovation Hub and are currently being tested – they look forward to sharing the results of these soon. Also, many of the other ideas have already been taken on board by other teams and are already making a positive difference.

The Power of Idea’s impact on positive culture change cannot be underestimated and took strides to help us achieve an even more user-centric, agile and innovative organisation.

The pilot approach also meant they learnt many ways in which the further idea challenges could be improved – from how to make ideas easier to submit to the challenges more engaging.

Due to the success, in February 2020 the Innovation Hub launched our second idea challenge, this time targeting both staff and volunteers. The challenge aimed to encourage everyone to submit ideas around how the British Red Cross can reach its goals of becoming a net carbon zero organisation by 2030.

This time the ideas were made visible to everyone, as they wanted participants to be able to get inspired by other ideas, comment on them and help each other grow and develop them further. The form was also a lot simpler to encourage everyone that has an idea to participate, even if they can’t dedicate too much time on their submission.

Unfortunately, due to the growing impact of COVID-19, we had to put the challenge on pause but will re-launch as soon as we can.