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Innovation platform launched to help alleviate loneliness

PUBLISHED: 15:02 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:02 13 August 2020

Hethel Innovation and Better Together Norfolk have teamed up to help Norfolk and Suffolk tackle loneliness and isolation. Picture: Hethel Innovation

Hethel Innovation and Better Together Norfolk have teamed up to help Norfolk and Suffolk tackle loneliness and isolation. Picture: Hethel Innovation

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Hethel Innovation and Better Together Norfolk recently teamed up to create an innovation platform to help tackle loneliness.

Innovation platforms aim to facilitate the creation of new products, services and ideas by bringing together people to help tackle local or national problems.

Laura Bloomfield, service manager at Better Together, part of Voluntary Norfolk, had the idea after seeing it work in other sectors such as manufacturing,

“The idea was conceived even before lockdown,” she says, “but the situation has enabled us to have some really good conversations around loneliness and mental health.

“Since lockdown, people have started to acknowledge that mental health can really fluctuate and in many ways we’re using social distancing 
as a catalyst – before this, not everyone had experienced isolation.

“Social care has changed significantly and we really want to look at what we can do to innovate and disrupt the market. We really are better together, 
and in Norfolk we’ve got real opportunity to make changes.”

The first meeting was held in April – albeit virtually – with a good collection of businesses attending and contributing ideas.

“Some of the concepts that I think have potential would involve some aspect of virtual reality,” says Sam Currall, innovation adviser at Hethel Innovation.

“Virtual experiences of live events or places, perhaps to just give those suffering from loneliness an experience of something. VR can also be a good educational tool, providing scenarios for people to experience situations as others practice supporting them through particular events.”

Other ideas have also included looking at geofencing and proximity scanning to help identify certain events or groups closest to individuals suffering from loneliness – but Sam believes there is plenty of opportunity for new ideas.

“If there’s any businesses, academic, or public sector bodies that are in a position to offer an innovative solution to tackling loneliness in Norfolk and Suffolk, they can get in touch with me.

“Even if you don’t have a concrete idea, but are interested in contributing your thoughts to the platform, feel free to email me and I’ll be more than happy to have a chat. We’re hoping to run our next session for the innovation platform in the next couple of months – if you’d like to be kept in the loop then just get in touch.”

You can contact Sam Currall at scurrall@hethelinnovation.com and Laura Bloomfield at laura.bloomfield@bettertogether.norfolk.org.uk for more details.

Norwich Together Alliance

Better Together is a member of the Norwich Together Alliance.

In a time of isolation, helping communities to connect has never been more important. It’s vital for our health and wellbeing.

With an ambition to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Norwich, Aviva established the Norwich Together Alliance last year.

The alliance is a network of local businesses, charities and the council that have joined forces to explore how we can shape our city to help us all feel more connected.

The aim is to create a more connected and cohesive city for everyone.

Now more than ever, alliance members want to be there for you and offer the support and guidance you need to get through this challenging time.

For more information and stories on what the Norwich Together Alliance members are doing to bring Norwich Together, click here.


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