Ask not what is, but what if?


What most businesses need is to understand their customer – to have confidence that their product or service is needed and get trusted advice on everything from early ideas to product design to marketing messages. VOICE is our national network of innovation-active citizens who support hundreds of businesses, big and small, to give just that.

Always frank and always honest (sometimes brutally!), VOICE members are here to challenge entrepreneurs and founders, not just to endorse ideas or to give superficial feedback – but to actively help shape their ideas, and encourage them to think differently, to be aspirational –  so their offer is the best it can be. “Ask not what is but what if” is the mantra. If they love something, they are quick to say, and if they don’t – well, they have positive and constructive suggestions about how to change and improve!

This is true knowledge exchange – VOICE members represent the enormous human capital of people, especially older people. VOICE is fundamentally about valuing people’s skills and both lived ad professional experience. Our match-making service has helped retired designers give a wealth of experience to new housing developments, or people who are carers to shape services to support independent living – based on a deep understanding of unmet needs, and matching what is needed with what is possible. Businesses have expertise in their sector, product, or service but VOICE members also bring complementary views – offering nuggets of insight about what would be meaningful and helpful – and, of course, what they would buy – which businesses find invaluable.

VOICE members have recently worked to support start-up businesses, contributing to the London-based ZINC VC founders programme (and welcoming founders at the Catalyst Building in Newcastle) and supporting the Northern Accelerator, meeting with over 30 new businesses addressing healthy ageing.

Don Pinchbeck, a VOICE early-adopter and experienced businessman, spoke about what he saw was needed from business with characteristic boundless energy and enthusiasm

VOICE members were also delighted to help launch the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Healthy Ageing Trailblazers competition in 2020 and contributed to the panel interviews for successful applications.

VOICE is a rewarding experience for those involved, giving a channel to their significant expertise, values their experience and gives it renewed meaning and purpose. And, of course, this mental capital is found all over the UK and the world – the next stage in our decade-long journey is establishing VOICE chapters in other countries – the responses needed may differ but so many needs and wants of people through life are universal.