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.

Innovation learning online: a new project with the Open University

We’re excited to kick off a new project in collaboration with The Open University to develop an online learning programme in innovation, based on the DIY Toolkit, and co-funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Death by download

Not long after Nesta’s DIY Toolkit launched last year, a study by the World Bank highlighted how few of its reports are actually read. Nearly a third have never even been downloaded. Of course, downloads aren't the only measure of successful knowledge dissemination, but the report prompted us to think of ways we could build learning experiences around the DIY Toolkit to make it more than just a download.

Fast forward nearly 18 months and the DIY Toolkit is not only being accessed and implemented, it has grown into a broader initiative of activity for Nesta’s Innovation Skills team. It now underpins a lot of our capacity building work with social sector organisations, and has been viewed more than half a million times by people in over 200 countries and territories around the world. The toolkit has become a key innovation resource for social business accelerator and innovation programmes in Africa; for tech labs and entrepreneurial networks such as Ashoka Changemakers, Social Innovation Exchange, Global Giving, Afrilabs and Impact HUB; as well as for youth labs working to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship skills in young people.

Thinking big

Our big vision is for innovation to become the new normal. We have two fundamental objectives:

  • to reach more people with our work

  • to bring about deeper learning around innovation

The DIY Toolkit is central to that agenda, and creating useful online content is one element of that. But we want to go one step further to provide meaningful learning materials and experiences.

Learning gap

It's no secret that organisations are struggling to find the help they require. Increasingly complex global challenges are compounded by a lack of internal capacity to generate innovations that can create lasting impact. The result has been a surge in demand for innovation learning. At one end of the spectrum is an ever-growing body of freely available online content. The DIY Toolkit is one such resource. At the other end of the spectrum lies a broad range of capacity building and training offers.

We believe that there is a learning gap somewhere in-between. Online content on its own won’t bring about deep learning and shifts in innovation capability. On the other hand, training offers are limited in their potential to reach the large numbers of people that require support. For innovation to become the new normal, we need to find new models to achieve maximum impact with limited resources.


We see a big opportunity to create an online learning programme in innovation. ‘Innovation’ was one of the most popular MOOC (massive open online course) subject searches in 2014. Yet there are surprisingly limited options related specifically to innovation, bar a handful of MOOCs exclusive to different platforms. A large proportion of the content is time-bound (rather than on demand) and structured on a course basis (rather than in bite-size modules). No content is platform agnostic and available for syndication across different providers.

Our response

In partnership with the Open University we have made ambitious plans to respond to this opportunity by developing:

  • groundbreaking innovation learning through a first of its kind modular curriculum on innovation tools and methods.

  • just-in-time learning materials that will be available on demand as standalone modules so that users can access at their moment of need.

  • open content that is platform agnostic and an Open Educational Resource (OER), available for syndication across multiple educational programme providers.


We believe the potential reach and impact of this project could be massive. The Open University’s online platforms attract over 9 million visitors each year and somewhere between 16 to 18 million students were enrolled in MOOCs in 2014. There are many millions of practitioners and NGOs around the world, and many more social entrepreneurs. If this project taps into just 1 per cent  of that target population it has huge potential to bring about a shift in the innovation capacity of the social sector.


The DIY online learning programme will be freely available from Spring 2016 on the Open University OpenLearn Works platform, and via the DIY Toolkit and Nesta websites. We will be hosting a series of webinars and events to promote the launch so if you would like to know more about the project and how you can be involved please do get in touch with us by contacting [email protected].



Theo Keane

Theo Keane

Theo Keane

Senior Programme Manager

Theo was a Senior Programme Manager in the Innovation Skills team, responsible for the design and delivery of innovation skills initiatives for international development and public sec…

View profile