The What If…? Innovation Project

We’re working really hard behind the scenes to pull together a variety of inter-linked projects into a coherent and cohesive narrative that we hope attracts the support of Government to help places like ours, “Level Up”.

We’re calling those efforts “The What If…? Innovation Project”, and this is our pitch for how we would invest £500k of the Government’s money between August this year and the end of March next year.

Give us your feedback please, in the comments below (we value transparency)….

The overarching objective of The What If…? Innovation Project is that within a timescale of only six months we will have produced a community-led action orientated report that combines community, new technology, and place-making objectives to unify community groups, responsible businesses and the local authority across the 7 towns of Stoke & North Staffordshire (we include Newcastle under Lyme).

A report that sets out a unique regeneration model and a new platform for moving forward with a collaborative approach, which will be able to demonstrate how the Stoke City Region can become nationally and globally recognised, as innovative and entrepreneurial and first mover in this new approach to creating a platform delivering the 3 goals of sustainable development and urban renewal: social, economic and environmental, with an emphasis on community participation and civic pride in the planning process.

With actions and objectives set against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal objectives, the 6 project strands below, will build on the work that has already been engaged by a number of community groups and advanced and supported to date by commercial expertise and organisations who have volunteered their services giving back some social value to the community and in recognition of the exciting ground breaking opportunity that exists in Stoke.

1. “The CounterCoin Digital Community Currency project” — Counter coin is an established community driven digital and social currency piloted and operational in North Staffs. We are a membership network and digital platform that enables local commercial and non-profit organisations and individuals to work together for social change and to boost the local economy. Funding is sought for further software development that builds on the platform and work already funded by The National Lottery to embed a branded digital community currency into the social and economic fabric of the city region as a ‘strand’ linking the 7 towns to help support and maintain a sustainable and collaborative city regeneration model.

Outputs: project scoping, definition, and business case; marketplace development; payment and banking infrastructure development; API’s & Integration; server architecture & systems testing; project management and user-testing.

2. “The-15 minute-Seven-Towns-One-City Region project’’ — The 15-minute neighbourhood concept is all about ‘living locally’ — giving people the ability to meet most of their daily needs within a 15-minute return walk from home, increasing green spaces, cycling and local transport options, and encouragement of more social connections and open access to cultural and social events. An overarching study that sets out to articulate the principles of this fresh approach to improving the liveability of our towns and to provide articulation to all town community groups seeking to create more inclusive, vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods. Additional study work will be extended to demonstrate how localised urban and circular food economy projects can work as a driver for innovation, entrepreneurialism, training, partnership with education, and also bring forward employment opportunities.

Outputs: Using Burslem as a pilot town, a forensic approach will be adopted to evolve a series of individual ‘business case’ led projects, strategic ideas, and community environmental place-making that will enable the 15 min neighbourhood concept to be considered in further detail, bring improvement and renovation to a number of heritage buildings and empty/void buildings owned by the City Council, and evolve a strategic plan to engage with a number of key stakeholders and business owners for inward and external investment in the town. The key findings and opportunities will be presented in a format with methodology for all community groups within each of the towns to potentially discuss and potentially adopt as a unified community driven agenda to create 15 minute neighbourhood projects in each of their respective towns.

3. “Project Pilot Burslem” — the second stage output from the previously mentioned project is for two initial pilot feasibility and viability studies including outline business case plans, with main focus here is on hospitality and destination management -customer service skills and training and engagement with local education providers; establish a locally grown urban food economy; electronic point of sale -turnover rents/marketing/promotions — getting Burslem the town and Our Burslem the community-group, ready for business.


Pilot 1 — Indoor Market Hall and adjoining properties 24–32 Queen Street, Burslem (City Council owned) building condition, structural, and all necessary survey information leading to a detailed budget costed schedule and specification of works to maintain, repair, and reinstate the fabric of the building into a safe and weather tight condition. A full business plan and costed schedule of works and designs to convert the market and adjoining buildings into an international street food and dining-hall experience where the food is cooked by refugees from around the world and by other local food producers and suppliers who can be encouraged, on which then a further strategy of funds can be sought to deliver a viable project to bring this redundant public building back into use.

Pilot 2 — Wedgwood Institute, Queen Street, Burslem (city Council owned) same process as pilot 1 above, leading to a costed schedule of repair works to maintain this listed building and a fully costed business plan to into an impact innovation hub/bank/community-currency/mint for the CounterCoin project on which an additional funding strategy can then be sought to bring this high profile but currently redundant building back into use.

4. “Project Pilot Hanley”

Pilot 3 —

Exploring the business feasibility of the part conversion of one of empty stores into an urban farm using technical advancements in food growing technology (hydroponics, agroponics etc) to create a commercially viable fresh food business that is owned and operated by the Growers of Stoke.

- And a green food hall hall with green food supplied restaurant into a #bekind branded retail emporium that gathers together independent creators, designers and artisans offering new, unique and bespoke beautifully-crafted items, with the opportunity to meet, learn and collaborate with a collection of talented makers, artists and crafters. Taking retail to a whole new level and positioning the town of Hanley and the people behind this retail renaissance, as leaders in the world of retail.

5. “The Quest Gaming Project” — how feasible is it to gamify citizenship and collective action activities through the use of CounterCoin as a digital in-game currency with virtual rewards? This project will evaluate the feasibility of creating a mission-based role playing game.

Outputs: a strategic document that reports on the “Mission to FIND new ways to INSPIRE people of all ages to PARTICIPATE in the Quest to ELIMINATE waste, and ENCOURAGE the community to SUPPORT them”. Community engagement, sustainable behaviour change and game mechanic / organisational development.

6. “The Counting Kindness Project”: Outputs: a strategic document that reports on how all of the above projects can be measured in terms of social value, building on the “Kindness-Counter” that thanks to the Lottery is already in place, this project will take accounting for shared value to a whole new level. By establishing a shared measure of kindness that all the beneficiaries involved in these six projects can sign up to, endorse and therefore legitimise as a simple but new measure of success, we will as a collective have created the world’s first commonly understood measure of shared value. This shared measure of value will underpin the value of our digital community currency and provide impact investors with a simple-to-understand tool for measuring their sustainable return on investment. It also might help us transparently measure ‘Levelling Up’.

So there you have it. Our ambitious What if…? Innovation Project. In honour of Wedgwood, and the Mothers of Stoke.

Feel free to comment please, Mike x