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.

How partnerships are helping to build a more inclusive economy

The Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP) is a pioneering partnership between business, civil society and government, whereby influential organisations from across these sectors work together to tackle some big societal challenges that are hard to shift through the effort of one sector alone.

Between August 2017 and September 2018, as part of the IEP, Nesta ran a partnership accelerator as a radical new way to accelerate social innovation. It’s new and innovative because not only did we run a standard acceleration programme for 18 social innovators, we added to this networking, events and curated partnership introductions between the social innovators and hundreds of committed business and civil society leaders, to take on three of society's toughest challenges: financial inclusion and capability; the transition to work for young people, and mental health support.

Graphic showing three challenge areas of the Inclusive Economy Partnership: transition to work for young people; mental health, and financial inclusion

Each social innovator received a grant of £20,000 funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), along with a programme of events and activities delivered by Nesta, to help them design scaling plans and start to implement them. Over the course of six months we made 230 introductions, from which 100 confirmed partnerships have been established – far exceeding the original programme target of nine partnerships.

Graphic outlining the Inclusive Economy Partnership approach and what we did - eg, making 230 introductions for our social innovator participants over six months

At the end of September 2018, our social innovators estimated that they had generated £650,000 in grant support and income over the six-month programme – above and beyond what they would normally generate in that period. Forecast revenue for the social innovators is £3.2m over the next 12 months as a result of their engagement with the IEP.

Graphic showing the results and impact of the Inclusive Economy Partnership accelerator, eg our 18 social innovators formed 100 partnerships and generated £650k in grant support and income.

The accelerator had some key elements that led to its success:

  • Partnership introductions to businesses and civil society organisations who had committed to scaling support
  • One-to-one growth coaching between Nesta’s team and the social innovators
  • Skills sessions and workshops including user-centred design, scaling and pitching sessions
  • Bespoke development support including branding, marketing and sales
  • Networking events and activities with IEP partners
  • Being a short and concerted effort with clear targets and goals.

And there were certainly things we would do differently next time, two things which stood out for us were:

  • Ensuring that all parties were ‘partnership ready’ so that they were able to quickly start actioning partnerships. Some organisations took time to organise their internal structures to be ready for this kind of partnering.
  • Ensuring that the businesses/civil society organisations and the social innovators had more time together. Partnering requires time with the right people to broker and although we organised several activities, we would place more emphasis on this next time.

We have produced a short report which runs through the success and learnings from the partnership accelerator for you to read, share and learn from.

We have also produced an infographic which gives you some of the key highlights from the accelerator and shows the other collaborative projects that were started as the result of the events, activities and networking the IEP curated. This includes a fresh approach to supporting young people into sustainable employment in the West Midlands; a new framework for mental health reporting; and a new challenge prize to find and scale ways to improve financial inclusion and capability using open banking technology.

The best result from this work is that the IEP is no longer a pilot. The champions board of businesses and civil society leaders have committed to continuing to take action in three ways:

  • Amplifying current good activity to ensure more organisations adopt great practice to solve these big challenges.
  • Scaling what works through the power of partnership, and the resources of organisations.
  • Innovating by developing brand new activity in collaboration with other business and civil society organisations to develop new ways of tackling these challenges.

The IEP is supported by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Images by Caroline Beavon


Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Head of Corporate Social Innovation

Kate was responsible for managing Nesta's Corporate Social Innovation and Inclusive Growth work

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Khyati Modgil

Khyati Modgil

Khyati Modgil

Programme Manager, Government Innovation

Khyati was a Programme Manager in Nesta's Government and Community Innovation team. She is interested in democracy. civic participation and nurturing inclusive organisational cultures.

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Thea Snow

Thea Snow

Thea Snow

Senior Programme Manager, Government Innovation

Thea was a Senior Programme Manager in the Government Innovation team.

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