About Nesta

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.

Health Lab: one year on

Health Lab is one year old today which gives a good opportunity to review some of our work to create more people-powered and data-driven approaches to health and wellbeing.

Nesta uses innovative approaches to improve health and wellbeing directly through our practical innovation programmes. We also lead health and ageing challenge prizes including the Longitude Prize and conduct policy and research work such as The NHS in 2030 report. As an investor, Nesta has an ageing theme in our Impact Investments Fund as well as a commercial investment portfolio with health investments such as CellNovo. So there are several ways in which Nesta influences the innovative potential of health, care and ageing.

Our social health work is focused on putting people at the centre of health decision-making and on creating behaviours and social contexts that improve health, such as peer support networks. We currently have five programmes in this area including Helping in Hospitals, Realising the Value and Accelerating Ideas.

The Heart of Health was published in February and sets out the case for person-centred and community-driven approaches to health and wellbeing, including asset-based approaches. Further outputs from Realising the Value will be out in the Autumn and we have a session at NHS Expo in September for those of you there.

Health Lab’s digital health work supports the take-up of digital technologies which are ubiquitous and have the potential to radically improve the use of data and knowledge for health and wellbeing. Nesta’s digital health research has focused on health knowledge commons and emerging technologies.

Our portfolio of digital practical work currently includes GoodSAM, an app to mobilise first aiders to attend cardiac arrests, which you can register to join. Dementia Citizens is a new citizen science platform to help people affected by dementia and researchers to connect digitally. The beta platform will launch shortly so do get in touch if you know of someone affected by Dementia who may like to take part.

People Powered Results is a structured innovation method that helps unlock the expertise and passion of leaders, frontline professionals and service users, to accelerate change and innovation in complex systems. We work in partnership with our partners the Rapid Results Institute. At the moment, we are working with NHS England to use the 100 day method in elective care and the Integrated Personal Commissioning programme. We have also worked extensively across Essex including with Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group. This work was shortlisted for a Health Services Journal award this year for improving outcomes for the frail population.

Earlier this year we brought together nearly four hundred people to reflect on the future of People Powered Health; and today we’re publishing reflections from the day.

The breadth of the contributions serves to demonstrate the ambition of the agenda. Despite the simplicity of the language, People Powered Health requires a complex set of changes. Edwin B. Fisher’s reflections in the last essay capture these changes well:

“A shift to a People Powered Health system requires moving from an old model of ‘illness as micro, discrete and individual’ to ‘health as macro, complex and social’."

That is the challenge before us.

It will take creative and adaptive approaches at scale, combined with the passion and courage of leaders from all parts of the system to bring People Powered Health to life. It is a significant endeavour but, as the contributors here show us, it is already happening - so here’s to the future of People Powered Health.


Halima Khan

Halima Khan

Halima Khan

Executive Director, Health, People and Impact

Halima was the Executive Director of the Health, People and Impact. She led Nesta’s work in health and also oversaw people (human resources) and impact for the organisation.

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