The Patatas – An Education Solutions Consultancy

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Innovation in Social Work

Social work bridges social gaps and enriches the lives of individuals. People often associate social work with building relationships and providing support. However, we believe that there is more to social work. Besides bringing about social change through human relationships, innovation is vital for empowering those in need. Innovating solutions targeted to the needs and goals of people is key to making a difference in society. Social issues have become more complex with time, and new innovations are needed to help those in need. Globalization has also caused many communities to fall behind and face constraints on development. These communities face limitations, but innovations in social work can help generate more niche and specific solutions to meet the needs of people and help them reach their full potential.  

With the advancement of technology, demands for digital services have increased and there is a need for more innovations in the social services sector. Building and providing services that meet the needs of people are our goals at The Patatas. Design thinking methodology is one such innovation that helps improve social services. Through design thinking, the needs of people can be better understood and concept solutions can be crafted to enrich the lives of others.  For The Patatas, we believe that through the use of technology and innovation, lives can be transformed.  In this article, we have put together information about innovation in social work. Here are 5 things you never knew about innovations in social work:

1. Innovations bring about solutions that people need

Various communities require different ideas and solutions that can help improve their livelihood. Through new innovations, change can be brought about. For developing countries, they often lack the resources and materials needed for learning. Through technological development and innovations, children and students can learn more effectively and productively. Seeing the need to introduce e-learning opportunities to disadvantaged communities, The Patatas developed ‘Digi-Eskwela’. We introduced tablets as a platform for educational applications and materials for Tiwala Kids and Communities, and that helped the students improve in their literacy and numeracy skills significantly. As part of ‘CaseStudy’, the tablets run on solar energy and do not require charging, making it convenient for the staff and students. We aim to always be on the lookout for creative and useful solutions to help solve social problems that people face these days.

Students learning with the use of tablets.
Photo by The Patatas
2. Systemic solutions are required

Social challenges require systemic solutions that are based on the client’s needs. Studying the struggles that people face will help innovators come up with systemic solutions that can help them in the long run. Systemic solutions involve a complex interaction of various factors. One example of such systemic change in social sectors is the Grameen Foundation. The Grameen Foundation has seen success in their social innovations, as they do both designing solutions as well as provide training to equip women and families. Through the use of digital technology and studying the needs of people on the ground, they have developed breakthrough solutions. As social workers, we work step-by-step with our clients and find out what is required to help them with their struggles. From there, we come up with systemic solutions for them to achieve lasting and effective change.

Photo of CaseStudy by The Patatas
‘CaseStudy’ is a creation that The Patatas takes pride in. Providing teachers with audio, visual and information support, we helped introduce technology to remote communities. Equipping them with waterproof and shockproof units also helps them to use our equipment with ease, without having to deal with logistical issues. Besides being cost-effective, our ‘CaseStudy’ was also designed to function in unfavourable conditions, knowing that the Tiwala community was lacking infrastructure and were prone to facing natural disasters.
3. Observing environments and trends is important

Many social work innovations are birthed from reading and listening to people. Whether on the ground or even through social media, the key to creating life changing innovations is to find out what people need.  Empathising with others, scrolling through social media trends and monitoring our environments are some examples of how social work innovations come about. When we are able to understand the needs of people and the challenges they face, we can come up with life-changing solutions for them. That is why we constantly talk to people and collaborate with our partners to come up with solutions for various social problems. Being observant to the environments around us can help us to find issues in our communities, and from there we can come up with solutions and help improve the lives of others. For disadvantaged communities, it is crucial for us to understand their lives and struggles they face by being on the ground. Our experiences working with people in remote communities helped us empathize with them, as well as come up with customized solutions to their problems. During our ‘CaseStudy’ project, we noticed the struggles that the Tiwala staff faced. From transportation problems to infrastructure issues, we observed the difficulties that they faced and worked hard to find feasible solutions for them. Our ‘CaseStudy’ and ‘Digi-Eskwela’ projects successfully helped them with their educational quality and improved the lives of the staff and students.

Scrolling through social media can help us become more aware of the needs in society.
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels
4. Innovations help social work continue for a long time

Besides having a heart to serve others and wanting to make a difference in the lives’ of people, structures and processes are important to help support social work and keep it going in the long run. Constant innovations and developments can help create new systems for social workers, and can make an impact for a long period of time. This also helps the social service sectors remain relevant in enhancing the wellbeing of users. Innovations in social work can help create lifelong support for members of the society, as well as aid people towards self-sufficiency. As innovations involve looking both inward and outward, we can reflect on existing practices and structures and improve with time. Finding new ideas and solutions should be an ongoing practice, so that we can continue tailoring relevant solutions to those who need them.  As the needs of people change along with time, it is necessary for social innovations to continue growing and meeting the needs of users. Being able to adapt to changes in society can help social workers bridge the gaps effectively. Pushing ourselves to find new answers and perspectives will benefit our societies.

5. Innovations have to be evaluated over time
While innovations are essential, evaluating them over time is also important. One example of a social work innovation is mental health apps. As mental health has gained more awareness through the years, self-help apps have seen a rise in popularity. Mental health apps such as Youper are developed by doctors, scientists and engineers. Such apps can help users who are facing mental health issues. Though such apps are useful, they have to be evaluated for their effectiveness over time. The progress of users should be monitored by their social workers, so that the innovators can gauge the effectiveness of their innovations and adjust accordingly to ensure that they remain relevant and helpful. Feedback from users can also help innovators improve on their innovations. It is necessary for social workers to observe and monitor their clients, so that they can adapt and adjust according to their needs. Though innovations can help users greatly, social workers also have to make informed decisions for the users to ensure that the innovations produce desired results. Reflecting on old practices and innovations also provides space for improvement, and these new innovations can bring about developments that can cater better to those who need them. We ensure that we continue to follow up on projects that we embark on, and offer our expertise whenever there are issues and challenges.
Social workers need to work together with their clients to ensure the efficacy of the innovations.
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels
At The Patatas, we aim to explore technology based solutions for communities and bring about positive change through innovation. We believe that through understanding community needs and goals, we can come up with solutions that suit the needs of users.  ‘CaseStudy’ was one of our successful inventions, where we created a cost effective digital solution that caters to the needs of people. Seeing the success of our Digi-Eskwela in reaching out to Tiwala Kids and Communities, we plan to expand our e-learning program and continue collaborating with more partners in Asia.  Besides coming up with solutions for users, we also value the exchange of ideas with our partners. The journey of finding the best ideas together with our partners is always a rewarding one, and we are always looking out for potential partnerships and collaborations that can bring about ideas for the greater good. We are motivated to do good and bring about positive change in the different communities, and help communities to reach their potential. With the use of technology and innovation, we believe that we can create social change together.
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