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.

Using tech to tackle social isolation and loneliness

The winner of the England-wide challenge, which sought to find new ways that tech can tackle social isolation and loneliness, is revealed.

The Tech to Connect Challenge was launched in the summer of 2019, in order to help civil society in England develop early-stage ideas for technology that enable more or better interactions between people. The challenge looked for the most innovative ideas, helping them turn these ideas into prototypes that have the potential for real change, either in the way civil society interacts with people or how people interact with each other.

An expert Judging Panel selected 10 Finalists in September 2019, who each received cash grants of £25,000 to use in the development of their prototypes. We were delighted that through the design of the challenge we were able to fuse together multiple perspectives to enable digital transformation in the social sector, and were thrilled that user-centred design was at the very heart of this process. 10 Finalists of the challenge have gone on an iterative learning journey over the last 6 months.

The challenge is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The winner

YANA: You Are Not Alone

YANA is an online web platform created by the community interest company Chayn, and provides a safe space for people to access details of local shelters, sexual violence units, lawyers and therapists, to build a more connected system of support for sexual assault survivors suffering from isolation. As Winner of the Challenge, YANA will receive a £100,000 prize.


Mirthy and the Chatty Cafe Scheme

Mirthy is a web platform to enable older adults to stay active whilst remaining independent at home, by connecting under-utilised communal spaces in retirement housing schemes with those people looking for social clubs.

The Chatty Cafe Scheme reduces loneliness and gets people talking by encouraging venues to designate a Chatter & Natter table, via their web application. Chatty Cafe already has partnerships with Costa and Sainsburys, and 73 other venues have joined through the website since January 2020.

As runners-up of the Challenge, Mirthy and the Chatty Cafe Scheme will each receive £75,000 prizes.

Pargiter Trust Grant Winner is Music Memory Box

An additional grant of £25,000 from The Pargiter Trust was awarded to Music Memory Box, an innovative kit to support and connect people with dementia and their loved ones. It combines sensors, sentimental objects and photographs to link to songs, helping to unlock and recall memories in a simple and tactile way.

Although entrants to the challenge submitted their ideas well before the coronavirus outbreak, innovative tech solutions that bring people together virtually and provide online support will be even more important as people across Britain limit their face-to-face contact to reduce the spread of the virus. Some of the concepts shortlisted will be available for people looking for ways to stay connected and to be supported.


Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Gary Fawdrey

Assistant Programme Manager - Sustainable Communities, Nesta Challenges

Gary worked on social innovation and tech for good prizes.

View profile