A call for ideas: How can collaborative technology solve social challenges?

The challenges facing today’s public service providers are stark and well documented. Spiraling demand and diminishing budgets have left councils and public sector bodies wondering how to maintain high quality local services for all.

According to PWC, "almost a third of councils now feel that the ‘cliff edge’ is imminent and are not confident of their ability to deliver in the year ahead" - with that confidence halving and halving again when thinking about the next five years.

These are services that are critical to the quality of life for all across the UK. They make a difference to the communities we live in, how we work, how our children grow and learn, how we age, the spaces we relax in, the quality of the air we breathe.

Different approaches are needed and new models are starting to emerge. But we believe there’s more that can be achieved - through creative thinking, an openness to new forms of operating and ownership that distribute benefits locally, and through the harnessing of connective technology.

Digital technology makes it easy to match those who need something with those who can meet that need

We’ve seen collaborative digital platforms disrupt and reinvent the way we order takeaways, how we hail a cab, how we find a place to stay. There have been adverse and unintended consequences to many of those services but partly that’s because of their huge and rapid growth - growth fed by users who love this new access to cheaper, more efficient, quicker services.

So why not explore how similar platforms can be used to address social needs - how they can help those who are less well off, or who face more fundamental life challenges than catching a cab, finding a hotel or raising cash for their startup? 

This is what Nesta’s ShareLab Fund aims to do. Launched in November 2016, we have so far funded eight pioneers to address needs ranging from the provision of donated breast milk to premature babies, to helping the elderly access the carers they need to live independently for longer.

We’re now happy to launch the second round of the fund and invite ideas that consider how collaborative digital platforms can help relieve pressure on existing local public services.

These ideas would ideally be focused on preventing social problems from starting, from growing worse, or from creating follow-on needs.

For example, could we find ways to address social isolation by promoting independence and wellbeing for those with learning disabilities, mental health problems or long term conditions?

Perhaps there are ways to connect and coordinate local people to build stronger, more resilient communities? Maybe we can support people to become more informed and make better choices about their locality, their wellbeing and their lives? What if we could connect care-leavers with what they need to move successfully into adulthood? The opportunities are boundless.

We’re interested in funding and supporting ideas that have the best potential to exploit collaborative digital platforms to make a real social impact. If you have an idea, even if it is early stage; or if you work for a public service, charity or social enterprise that could be interested in this area; or if you’re a tech entrepreneur who wants to use tech for good then we want to hear from you.

ShareLab Fund will support and fund ideas that use collaborative digital platforms and innovative business models to make a real social impact. Find out more and apply here

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Jenni Lloyd

Jenni Lloyd

Jenni Lloyd

Programme Manager, Innovation Programmes

Jenni was a Senior Programme Manager, responsible for the development, management and delivery of government innovation programmes.

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