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And the winner is… From 71 applicants to one winner

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approaches to dementia care, dementia awareness, research

It was back in January that I first blogged here about the Challenge Dementia Prize. Launched by Essex County Council, the prize was a national search for products, services and technologies that could help people living with dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them.

I don’t have a professional background in dementia or social care. My knowledge was based purely on personal experience, like so many others having grandparents that have lived with dementia. So like all good projects, we began by listening to the people that know the issues best, listening to people living with dementia, their families and professionals from across the sector to come up with a challenge statement that was easy to understand and would inspire a wide range of people to share their ideas.

And inspire it did. The prize launched in January and saw 71 entrants from organisations, groups and individuals. The 71 became nine through a judging process.

Our nine finalists, supported by a small micro grant and access to a range of experts including Alzheimer’s Society, PA Consulting, techUK and the University of Essex worked to further test and develop their ideas. Our advice to them was to hold their ideas lightly and be willing to adapt and iterate based on the feedback they heard from those living with dementia. And this is exactly what they did. Our finalists were as diverse as the ideas that they brought with them – ranging from large established tech firms and academics to smaller social enterprises and one individual just starting secondary school. However they all shared a determination to make a positive impact and personal experiences  to draw from.

And so to the winner. A panel of expert judges selected a winner to receive a £100,000 prize to further their idea. Innovative, novel and scalable were just some of the words used to describe our winners – The Wayback. – a virtual reality film series that completely surrounds the person in familiar sights and sounds from the past. This means, that rather than relying on one or two triggers, such as a piece of music or a photograph, as most reminiscence work does, they are able to place literally hundreds of potential memory triggers in every scene, enabling people to use the reality of the past to have meaningful conversations in the present. The Waybacks ambition is to share these films with as many people as possible helping them to remain connected to the people around them and maintain their identity.  My hope is that whilst there could only be one winner, all nine finalists will continue with their quest to develop solutions that will work now and for future generations, improving the lives of everyone living with dementia.   

So what have I learnt over the past year of working on Challenge Dementia:

1. People have been so very generous with their time and experiences – wanting to get involved at all stages of the process to make it the best it can be. Thank you to everyone;
2. The finalists projects are as good as they are because they have seized the opportunity to get out and talk to people and they have all held onto their ideas lightly – adapting the idea time and time again to respond to user feedback; and
3. Shining a light on an issue from a different angle can be powerful. For example, The Wayback team are a group of passionate filmmakers, creatives and producers. The Challenge Dementia Prize has created a real opportunity to engage with people we wouldn’t otherwise reach out to as a County Council. Encouraging them to think about how people can live well with dementia and acting as a catalyst to bring ideas to life.  

I’m excited to see how all nine finalists go from strength to strength. 

To find out more about the Challenge Dementia Prize visit: https://challenge-prizes.essex.gov.uk/.

To find out more about The Wayback visit - http://thewaybackvr.com/

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