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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Collaborative competition: reflections on the Giving Challenge finalists residential

The recent Giving Challenge Finalists Residential was an opportunity to bring the Ageing Well and Waste Reduction challenge prize finalists together for the first time.

Eleven groups tackling two very different social challenges with a shared goal of galvanising communities to give time, skills and resources to effect positive change and achieve measurable impact.

Five Ageing Well & six Waste Reduction Finalists have reached an important milestone in their journey. They have been awarded up to £10,000 to test their ideas over the next 6 months to prove their concepts of reducing isolation among older people and reducing waste. One from each prize will go on to win £50,000.

The event was an opportunity to celebrate their finalist status and do so with intent and purpose. We wanted to inspire them on the next stage of their journey, where their ideas become reality, providing practical guidance to help them be as effective as possible.

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, kicked off the line-up of inspirational speakers, providing a context for the commitment that the Cabinet Office has made to encouraging innovation at a community level to address social issues

Other speakers included Dominic Vallely (The Giving Lab), Alex Fox (Shared Lives Plus), and Michelle Dawson (East London Business Alliance). All have experience of setting up community based projects and have learned many lessons along the way. Some of the key messages that the speakers imparted were that it's important to have critical friends to provide a reality check for your ideas; measuring impact and being able to articulate the difference you've made is imperative; and in order to truly address the needs of a particular audience, co-design should definitely be a part of the development process.

We also facilitated a host of activities which included sessions on prototyping, pitching and measures. One-to-one sessions also provided the opportunity for each group to focus specifically on their own ideas. Each was able to take away something pertinent to the issues they would face and appreciated the fact that they would continue to receive support throughout the prize.

The session that the finalists reported learning the most from was pitching to different audiences. It was an opportunity to challenge each other on the clarity of the idea and targeted messaging. The finalists were very good at being open to the process of sharing, interrogating and supporting each other, even though they are competitors.

An exciting experiment also took place, based on the premise of six degrees of separation. We asked the finalists to share the names of aspirational contacts and wanted to find out whether they could find a way of making connections around the room. What a resounding success. Whether they wanted to reach an organisation, policy makers or potential patron, connections were made for everyone. So it really does work!

Fields of expertise

Jenny Dawson's experience of setting up Rubies in the Rubble and the legalities of food waste was well balanced with Tom Lawrence's (London Borough of Redbridge) perspective of how community groups engage with Local Authorities for the Waste Reduction cohort.

The inimitable Heinz Wolff (Care4Care) and Matt Skinner (FutureGov) spoke frankly to the Ageing Well cohort about their experience of piloting programmes with huge ambition and the lessons learned.

I'd like to take a moment here to thank all the speakers for their contribution and insights at the event. The Finalists definitely would have liked more time with them. Hearing directly from the experience of others is a great learning tool.

It's also a rare occasion that competitors get to converse directly with judging panels and find out about their aspirations for the Challenge Prizes, so the Meet the Panel sessions were extremely well received and conversations continued well into the evening networking session.

I'm really excited about what the next few months has in store for our eleven Finalists during the testing of their ideas. It was great to spend quality time with all of them and be able to demonstrate Nesta's commitment to helping them succeed.


Constance Agyeman

Constance Agyeman

Constance Agyeman

Director of International Development, Challenge Works

At Challenges Works, Constance brought over 20 years experience in the voluntary sector to develop national and international programs which engage communities.

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