Collective Intelligence Grants 2.0 - feedback for applicants

In response to the high number of applications to our call for ideas, we have put together some of the most common reasons why applications were not shortlisted, to help you understand our thinking and guide future applications.

In response to our latest call for ideas we received over 250 diverse proposals from all across the world. Thank you very much to everyone who put the time and effort into filling in the applications. We got a lot of requests for feedback, so we've put together some of the most common reasons why proposals were not shortlisted, to help you understand our thinking and as a guide for future applications.

1. Weak experimental design

Through our grants programme we are not able to fund projects, the development of apps or software, or the roll-out or scaling up of existing tech, but are only supporting experiments. This is because we want our funds to enable and encourage practitioners and researchers to test new approaches or interventions which help them and us understand what works best when designing or applying collective intelligence.

We know designing an experiment can be a bit daunting, particularly if you have never done this before, so we have put together some guidance on what we mean by an experiment, including a webinar on experimentation. Nesta will also be publishing a detailed guide on experimentation at the Nesta Sparks event on the 21st of January 2020.

If you’re applying through a charity, local authority or company, it would be worth thinking of teaming up with an academic institution that might have more experience with experiment design.

When you design your experiment, there are some questions you need to be clear about. These include:

  • What is it that you’re testing (hypothesis)?
  • What’s your intervention? What are you doing differently?
  • How do you measure the outcomes to determine whether your experiment has been successful?
  • How many participants do you need for your experiment and how will you recruit them?
  • What will you compare your results too (for example, do you need a control group)?

2. The proposal did not contribute to advancing the field of collective intelligence

The experiments we fund must help generate evidence on the best approaches to designing and applying collective intelligence to solve social challenges.

To help us understand how your experiment contributes to advancing the field of collective intelligence, it is important that you emphasise what we would be able to learn from your experiment in relation to designing collective intelligence well. This means articulating the broader relevance of the experiment, beyond your specific sector or project. It is also crucial that applicants clearly indicate what the collective intelligence element of their experiment is.

Our Collective Intelligence Design Playbook is a useful guide to understand what we mean by collective intelligence and collective intelligence design.

3. The idea was lacking a clear practical application

At Nesta our focus is on solving social problems, so we need to understand what social challenge applicants are addressing with their experiment, and how your results (if your experiment is successful) could be applied in practice.

All applicants, but particularly research institutions, should think about who will take up their experiment results and how they will communicate those results in a non-technical way. This means not just publishing the results as an academic paper, but disseminating them in a way for people to understand what they mean for them and their work. In the Expression of Interest we would like to see that you have thought about those points or are having conversations with practitioners who might want to apply your results later, even if you do not yet have a detailed plan about how you will communicate your results. Even better, we like to see research institutions partnering with practitioners to apply the experiment within a real-world context.

4. The proposed idea was not novel or innovative

In this year’s round, novelty and innovativeness of the ideas was one of our selection criteria. We introduced this because we don’t want applicants to reinvent the wheel and want to make sure we support experiments that are cutting-edge. All applicants should have done some research on what exists already in that area before they apply, and clearly express the novelty and uniqueness of their idea in the application.

5. The proposal did not involve a technology element

The concept of collective intelligence is a far reaching one and we are aware that there are different interpretations of the term. At the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design we focus on combining human and machine intelligence and explore how digital technologies and AI can enhance and scale collective intelligence. This is why the experiments we fund need to make use of digital technologies or methods. We can therefore only consider proposals that involve a technology element or machine intelligence.

6. The added value of Nesta funding was not clear

We are happy to consider applications for projects that have additional funding, but all proposals need to demonstrate the added value of Nesta funds. What would our funding allow you to do that you otherwise could not be doing? This is particularly important to clearly communicate when you are receiving funding from other sources.

Future opportunities

We aim to launch another call for ideas for collective intelligence experiments in 2020. More details on this and other opportunities for funding and for working with the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design will be announced on our website and in the bi-monthly Collective Intelligence Bulletin.


Eva Grobbink

Eva Grobbink

Eva Grobbink

Researcher, Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Eva was a Researcher working in the Explorations team on the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

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