Supporting successful social action innovators to scale further

From April 2013 to March 2016 the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund supported 52 organisations across England to develop and grow the reach and impact of social action innovations; mobilising people’s time, energy and talents to help each other, while working alongside public services.

Working in partnership with the Office for Civil Society, we mobilised 70,000 volunteers to support 175,000 people

As part of the programme, each funded project was supported to commission an external evaluation, demonstrating their impact and value. If you would like to find out more you can read the evaluations published so far, which are grouped according to Nesta’s Standards of Evidence.

Some of these innovations are becoming the new normal. It’s possible to have a Shared Lives scheme, a Code Club or a Good Gym in every town or city. Others are still growing, joining the public’s (or, more importantly, the public sector commissioner's) consciousness.

But the journey is not quite over, and more needs to be done to grow the supply of great social action innovations at scale.

So, as part of the continuing partnership between Nesta and the Office for Civil Society, we have awarded further funding to a limited number of high performing projects from the portfolio.

These grants will support awardees to further scale up their activities - some to new geographies, others to bring in new commissioners.

Smart Works helps female job seekers back into the workplace

Action Tutoring tackles educational disadvantage by offering free tuition for students who need extra help with GCSE English or maths, delivered by volunteers. They are now operating in Birmingham, Brighton, Sheffield, London, Liverpool and Bristol. A grant of £129,501 will support further expansion of both primary and secondary programmes, including launching the programme in a new city.

The TLG Early Intervention programme trains volunteers to work with primary aged children to tackle behavioural problems and build their confidence. £142,291 in follow-on funding will be used to establish at least 58 new centres, helping the programme improve its evidence base and move towards long term financial sustainability.

City Year UK aims to make ‘year of service’ (full-time volunteering) in schools a typical part of young adulthood, based on a successful US initiative. Following the success of their programme in the UK, we are awarding a grant of £150,000 to support ambitious plans to further increase the number of school partnerships.

Smart Works helps female job seekers back into the workplace through a highly successful two hour dressing and interview preparation service delivered by volunteers. The service is now delivered in five cities, through a successful licensing model. A grant of £135,000 will help Smart Works launch in a new city and expand capacity in existing locations.

Ambulance trusts across the country already work closely with first responders in the community, with the aim to improve the outcomes of cardiac arrests through the early application of CPR and defibrillation. East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust have each been awarded £15,000 to streamline the way they deploy their volunteer first responders and members of the public with basic life support skills, to life-threatening emergencies within their vicinity through GoodSAM, a smartphone app.

This funding sits alongside a number of other new funds aiming to mobilise social action to meet specific social challenges from Nesta and the Office for Civil Society.

For Nesta, this work is part of our long term commitment to working in the field of government innovation.


Chris Norris

Chris Norris

Chris Norris

Senior Programme Manager, Central Programmes

Chris is a senior programme manager working in Nesta’s central programmes office, supports our mission teams to develop partnerships and deliver innovation projects.

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