GeniUS! – Bringing York’s Ideas to Life – York City Council

Posted on 21st May, 2014

Our vision for York is of a city that works together to benefit everyone to ensure prosperity and drive innovation, now and in the future. To do this, we need to give local people choice and control over their services and make the most of the resources we have as a city.

We have the right conditions for success with a vibrant and diverse business community, an active social enterprise sector and a large number of engaged residents who love the city and want to do more to secure its future success.

The city is working together to create innovative new solutions to challenges big and small and is putting these to the test.

GeniUS! York was started in partnership by City of York Council and SCY (Science City York) as part of the NESTA Creative Councils Programme. Since then, GeniUS! York has developed further as part of Innovate York, a wider joint programme between City of York Council and SCY. The GeniUS! model draws on Open Innovation approaches and collaborative city engagement to open up the process of solving the city’s challenges. Challenges are developed and posted on an online platform and people are encouraged to meet new people, explore ideas and discuss possible solutions before we take emerging solutions into our new style Synergy Surgery events. These broke new ground with their format – combining the spirit of a ‘hackathon’ with the structure of a facilitated workshop designed to fast-track ideas into tangible pilot projects.

During 2013 two new challenges were launched: Innovation in Healthcare and Future of Libraries. Both culminated in Synergy Surgery events.


Innovation in Healthcare

By improving our understanding of what both patients and medical staff find ineffective and frustrating we worked at developing new ideas and products to counteract this. Solutions piloted include: a digital platform to respond to challenges to local healthcare; an online interactive consultant to improve the NHS Direct Service; and an online space for supporting those with Mental Health conditions suffering from social isolation.

Future Libraries

Libraries are progressing several ideas including creating a pop up café for isolated or vulnerable people by reconfiguring library spaces and establishing a referral process with GPs and charities.

The Youth Support Service ran a GeniUS! Youth challenge which focused on new ways to co-deliver youth work in the city. The challenge culminated in a variety of better ways for agencies to work together and ideas for new initiatives in the city.

There was also excellent progress with earlier challenge pilots on Assisted Living for Elderly and Vulnerable People in their Homes and making York Dementia Friendly.


At a city level, GeniUS! has opened up the collective intelligence and resources of its many partners and turned them into a powerful problem-solving tool. It has also ignited a renewed sense of collaboration.

GeniUS! is now being shared with three European cities as part of an EU-funded project via the URBACT cities collaboration programme. This supports our ongoing development and improvement of the GeniUS! model.

To discuss the case study please get in touch with York’s cooperative councils’ advocate Sandra Forbes, who can be reached at: [email protected]