October 31, 2023

Innovative Opportunities for SMEs to reduce Reoffending

PUBLIC launches Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge.

PUBLIC has been working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice to kick off the exciting new Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge (PLIC). As one of three strands making up the wider Prison Leaver Project, PLIC is testing innovative ways to reduce reoffending, specifically using technological and digital interventions.

From our extensive experience of supporting startups’ working with public sector clients, PUBLIC is excited to see a project with successive stages of co-design and piloting being explored in a government department. It offers a valuable opportunity for startups and SMEs to develop novel solutions to challenges. Through working with stakeholders along different stages of the prison leaver journey, suppliers will build their understanding of the issues that drive reoffending and work with them to develop innovative and practical solutions.

The core principles of PLIC are a sign that digital innovation is being taken seriously by Government. At PUBLIC, we see that stand-out digital solutions are often developed by those who have first-hand understanding of a problem, from working in the space or having experienced it themselves. Drawing on user-centred design principles, co-design is built into the PLIC programme to ensure solutions are developed closely with people who have experience of prison and the prison system. Potential Suppliers can receive up to 25K in funding for the shortlisting phase and up to 350k in funding for the piloting phase.

As Minister Chalk illustrated in his address at the PLIC Pre-Launch webinar, the prison leaver space is complex, in part because so many different government departments engage with prison leavers. PLIC’s system-led approach, working with individuals across a range of government departments, third sector organisations and service users, is a ground-breaking example of government pursuing a collaborative approach to problem solving that reflects the complexity of the sector, and mirrors the on-the-ground collaboration that occurs between teams delivering services to prison leavers, including probation, accommodation and employment.

PUBLIC’s research team was privileged to draw on the expertise of over 80 people from across the prison leaver space to identify problem areas and define them in challenge statements. The chance to work with people across the prison system is available to successful suppliers too, who will receive support to develop their solution through teach-ins and open office hours, as well as receiving bespoke business and product development mentorship. We are looking forward to seeing how solutions are adapted to the needs of prison leavers over the course of the programme. At the end of the shortlisting period there will be an exciting Demo Day which will be open across Goverment where the suppliers can present their solution to a panel of judges and network with other suppliers and interested parties.

Another aspect that makes PLIC stand out from other initiatives is the emphasis placed on evaluation. As covered in Evaluation webinar held last week, PLIC is an unusual and valuable opportunity for suppliers to gather a strong evidence base of quantitative and qualitative data, supported by the Ministry of Justice’s evaluation team. The final pilot is a chance for selected suppliers to truly show  the impact of their solution by demonstrating  reduced reoffending rates or other measurable outcomes where possible to evaluate.

So often PUBLIC sees the government adopting a pro-innovation narrative, yet smaller suppliers are often adversely affected by the challenging procurement processes that can make it difficult for them to bring their novel solutions to the table. PUBLIC believes the PLIC programme is a rare chance for startups and SMEs to genuinely engage with the Ministry of Justice and work together to design solutions that can bring true novelty to a complex and digitally-challenged space.

To find out more about the Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge, please see the website here, or start an application here.


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UK Ministry of Justice


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