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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.

Top tips for future apps

Thank you once again to all who applied to the Neighbourhood Challenge! The level of interest was extremely high with around 600 applications received at the first stage.

We really enjoyed reading your expressions of interest at round one and are currently working through the shortlisted proposals to select the final neighbourhoods who will take part in the programme.

Successful applicants announced mid-February

It is a very exciting time for the project at the moment. We will announce the successful neighbourhoods in mid-February, and post the list on our website.

Because we had so many people expressing an interest in the programme, feedback on a 1-2-1 basis sadly isn’t possible for us to manage.

From talking to organisations who were not taken forward, we understand that it would be valuable to have some tips on how to improve future bids to a programme of this kind.

We have talked with our reviewing team to compile some top tips, drawn from common features of the expressions of interest submitted. Thanks all for your suggestions and patience in receiving this - we hope it is helpful!

Tips which might apply to other programmes

Be as clear and succinct as possible when describing your approach to the project

  • The strongest applications were able to succinctly describe a very clear approach to galvanising communities with a coherent set of activities that would take place.
  • They could also provide strong reasons for choosing this approach in their selected neighbourhoods.

Go beyond the stats

  • The strongest applications showed a deep understanding of their neighbourhoods’ specific challenges and strengths which, while including stats and research, went beyond those to describe the real conditions and concerns in the areas chosen.
  • They considered the strengths, motivations and needs of people as well as describing the geography and demographics.

Provide evidence and explanation

  • The best proposals explain and demonstrate as much as possible about how they meet the criteria. For example, using quotes or survey results, and describing relevant previous experience to reflect on what lessons they learned that now inform their ideas.
  • The weaker proposals often tended to repeat our questions and language back to us without further evidence or explanation as to why their proposed approach could work.

Avoid jargon where you can

  • We know that some specialist terms are there for good reason, (eg. social capital!) and that’s absolutely fine, but too much of this can hinder rather than help understanding of what it is you are actually proposing to do.

Tips for applying to a programme with similar aims

Demonstrate your commitment to open learning

  • The best proposals demonstrated a strong commitment to learning from their community, from each other and in sharing those insights with others.
  • We were looking for organisations to work with who could generate clear lessons about how to effectively encourage and support community-led solutions to local issues.
  • Clearly demonstrate how the approach will unlock potential through working collaboratively with the wider community.
  • The best proposals were very clear about how they would enable others, including new groups of people, to engage in and take a lead on activities.

Be clear around how you will engage people in activities

  • The strongest proposals described how they would engage local people actively in their approach, and some clear reasons as to why these people would want to take part in the proposed activities.
  • The best applications described approaches in which local people would be genuinely generating and leading the solutions that the project encourages and supports.


Alice Casey

Alice Casey

Alice Casey

Head of New Operating Models

Alice led on a portfolio of work looking at how technology is transforming communities and civic life.

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