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.

Lives saved, grades earned, jobs secured and more

Three years ago Nesta and the Cabinet Office set out on a journey to find and scale up the best innovations that mobilised the talents and energy of local communities to help one another. 

Over these three years the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund backed 52 innovations, mobilising more than 70,000 extraordinary people across England to give their time and expertise to help nearly 175,000 people to date - that’s lives saved (literally with first aid), grades earned, jobs secured, weight lost, connections made and more.

There are some great numbers:

  • 48,608 children taught to code by Code Club

  • 27,839 young people supporting one another through TalkLIfe

  • 23,637 students mentored by City Year

  • 20,605 local people supported by SPICE

And some great impact stats - you can read the impact reports for each of the organisations here.

But behind the headline statistics there are a few stories that I can honestly say have captured my heart.

Like Julie* who now lives with a Shared Lives Carer (rather than a residential care home) and reports not just enjoying her new living arrangements but having friends for the first time.

Or the the first aid app GoodSAM which allows London Ambulance Service to alert local first aiders to help out when someone's heart has stopped and will almost certainly have saved lives already.

And the hundreds of women who are low on self confidence having been out of the workplace for a long time who have made it back into work thanks to some smart advice and swanky new clothes from Smart Works.

We are immensely proud of the work to date, but there’s more to be done to build the field and make this type of partnership between public services and citizens normal. So today we launch three funds looking for more great people helping people ideas, specifically mobilising volunteers over 50 in the second half of their lives:

The Second Half Fund will provide grants of up to £250,000 to support the growth of new ways of mobilising the time and talents of people aged over 50 specifically in support of: children and young people, parents and families, ageing well, creating resourceful and resilient local places.

Join In Stay In Fund will award grants of up to £50,000 and significant non-financial support from behavioural science experts for organisations to undertake Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) to understand what works best to encourage volunteers to continue to give their time regularly.

Give More Get More Fund will provide grants up to £100,000 to support organisations to trial gap years or intensive volunteering placements for people over 50 - approaching or in retirement.

We’re excited to start the next chapter of this work promoting social action alongside public services because we know volunteering is good for beneficiaries, good for individual volunteers and good for communities.

It’s also good for public services. In fact I’d go further  to say it’s vital for public services making them open, agile and better able to mobilise the assets of local people to solve isolation, unemployment, managing long-term conditions and other big societal challenges of our time.

Thanks to the evidence created so far, the models (tested, dumped, reimagined, tested again and then scaled), we’re in a much better place to make sure every public service can make the most of social action.


Vicki Sellick

Vicki Sellick

Vicki Sellick

Chief Partnership Officer

Vicki was Chief Partnership Officer

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