Three scaling insights from the Accelerating Ideas Fund

If we cast our minds back 15 months ago, we might remember that May 2016 was a historical moment in time in some parts of the UK.

For example, in London, we elected the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city, and for football fans, Leicester City went mad as its football team defeated all odds to win the English Premier League. But something else quite special happened 15 months ago - something that would have an impact on more localities and communities throughout the UK. In May 2016, eight highly-promising innovations embarked on a five-year journey to scale their new approaches to support an ageing population. With funding from the National Lottery and with support from Nesta, the Accelerating Ideas Fund was launched!

Over the summer, we convened the innovations and asked them about their journeys and their key lessons learned ‘one year on’. Here are their three main insights:

1. It takes sturdy hiking boots to grow innovations

Most of our innovations described their journeys as an uphill path, with bumpy terrain and lots of twists and turns. They described the past 14 months of their scaling process as “hard work” because of internal factors such as staff turnover, competing organisational priorities, and balancing delivery with evaluation and managing the programme at large. On top of these internal factors, scaling has been difficult because of external factors as well. These factors include engaging with local health and care system leaders (for buy-in and to support impact management plans), engaging volunteers to deliver services, and reaching communities that have been historically more difficult to reach.

With support from Nesta, and learning from other organisations that have been through this journey before, the projects have been resilient; pulling up their metaphorical boots and trying new things such as organising awareness-raising events in new locations (Shared Lives Plus), testing new ways to empower volunteers to deliver services (Cares Family), and engaging new groups that don’t typically engage with services by starting where people are (British Lung Foundation).

Throughout the fund, we will be capturing the ways the innovations are navigating these challenges and learning from the methods that work and the ones that don’t.

2. Things take twice as long as you might think!

Growing innovations takes time...a lot of time. We have written extensively about this before. It’s inherently time consuming to carry out the activities required to spread, such as raising awareness, building and mobilising communities, building staff and team capabilities, and managing partnerships with other stakeholders.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to minimise the time it takes to scale but there are a couple of exciting initiatives that the innovations are testing that are worth highlighting here:

  • Leveraging digital where it makes sense. For instance, Carers UK is exploring a digital solution which might help with volunteer engagement and the tracking of volunteer hours and activities. This type of data digitally captured would be very helpful in impact analysis.
  • Tapping into behavioural insights to mobilise communities quickly - for instance, GoodGym uses digital badges to motivate its members to run further, more frequently, etc. We have done a lot of work with the Behavioural Insights Team on ways to mobilise communities, which can be found here.
  • Campaigning for NPC’s Health Data Lab initiative. Some of the projects in the fund have huge ambitions to do robust impact evaluations, which would be valuable for them in their scaling journeys. For instance, the Stroke Association has ambitions to understand the impact of its peer support group and compare the outcomes with a similar cohort who don’t have access to peer support. GoodSAM has plans to study out-of-hospital survival rates for those who are treated by one of its community first-aiders, in order to compare survival to regional and national averages. The British Red Cross has plans to analyse hospital usage data of the people it supports at home and compare these results with a similar cohort who don’t receive its support. All of this analysis would be facilitated if it was easier for charities and other social programmes to access data. We strongly agree with NPC that the time has come to unlock health data and that a Health Data Lab would help charities to maximise their impact.

3. Celebrate achievements along the way because every bit of motivation helps!

Despite the hard work and time it takes to scale innovations, the projects in the fund have also had many successes - both external and internal wins - over the past 14 months, and we have enjoyed celebrating each milestone with them:

The British Lung Foundation has celebrated the high levels of engagement it’s had with its respiratory information sessions. These are events organised with local CCG partners to introduce communities to the self-management education and peer support offer of its Integrated Breathe Easy Groups.

The British Red Cross continues to celebrate the success of its third First Call service, launched in Bristol, which helps people in crisis get the support they need at home, for up to 12 weeks. 

The Cares Family has celebrated how it is building capacity within its team by nurturing existing talent. This allows the opportunity to grow talent from within the organisation while retaining the culture and uniqueness of its model.

Carers UK has celebrated recent survey results that highlighted that the majority of its volunteers, who are often in caring roles, would volunteer again with the organisation. This sustainability of its volunteering offer allows the organisation to reach and support more carers around the UK.

GoodGym proudly celebrates its positive culture and community. It continues to leverage media opportunities to raise awareness and mobilise communities.

GoodSAM continues to celebrate every life it saves because of its growing community of first-aid responders and growth in partnerships with ambulance trusts across the UK.

Shared Lives Plus has celebrated successful high-profile events in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - the new places it would like to grow its new care model for older people. In Scotland alone, it has successfully mobilised nearly two dozen new carers.

Finally, the Stroke Association celebrated tackling its big digital ambitions, to help get more people living with stroke digitally connected and supported through its My Stroke Guide self-management service.

The Big Lottery Fund and Nesta are proud to be supporting these innovations as they grow their impact across the UK, and we are celebrating their successes and capturing their lessons at the same time. For more information on the programme or projects, please contact us at [email protected].


Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Programme Manager

Jullie worked with a number of health and ageing projects funded through the Accelerating Ideas programme, focusing on social innovations that make it possible for people to be more in…

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