What is the Early Years Social Action Fund?
The Early Years Social Action Fund will offer grant funding to scale the most promising approaches that use social action to help parents and carers improve children’s development. All projects will work with a majority of families who are ‘just about managing’ and will focus on children aged four and under.
What is social action?
Whether we call it formal or informal volunteering, giving, social action or simply ‘people helping people’, spending some of your time in the service of others is a deeply ingrained part of our culture. Social action is about people coming together to help improve their lives and solve the problems that are important to their communities.
It can broadly be defined as practical action in the service of others, which is; carried out by individuals or groups of people working together; not mandated and not for profit; done for the good of others, whether individuals, communities or society; and bringing about social change or value.
We think social action has a key role to play in augmenting public services; from community networks supporting older people to live well and peer networks for people living with long term health conditions, to young people helping their peers navigate job and training opportunities.
Specifically within this fund, social action is where skilled volunteers work alongside parents, carers and children to help ensure children meet developmental milestones. Volunteers here have potential to make a profound improvement to children’s outcomes.
What types of social action projects will the Early Years Social Action Fund support?
We are especially interested in supporting:
1. Mentoring models to skill up parents and carers.
2. Peer to peer models to skill up parents and carers.
3. Models which mobilise digital technologies to increase awareness of key skills (language, physical movement) and increase their practice in the home.
What do you mean by ‘just about managing’ or ‘jam’?
There is no precise definition of a ‘Jam’ household, but these families tend to have at least one person in work, are struggling to get by, and often have less than a month's income worth of savings. There are about six million households in this situation, according to the Resolution Foundation.
Why are you focussed on parents and primary carers, rather that childcare and early childhood education providers?
This fund focusses on supporting the role of parents and primary carers over and above childcare and early childhood education providers for two reasons. Firstly, the role parents and primary carers play is the largest single influence of children's outcomes, so it makes sense to build confidence and understanding for parents and carers about how they can directly contribute to achievement of developmental goals.
Secondly, social action is well placed to work with this audience who can be reached beyond formal settings. Social action can help support people that traditional and formal care settings do not, as well as provide a different sort of support for early years.
We do not currently work with the early years, does this mean we can’t apply?
The assessment criteria will focus on evidence of impact in working to support children aged four and under to achieve developmental milestones. Given this, it is unlikely applicants who do not already have a track record of working to help early years development would be shortlisted to the next stage, unless you have good evidence of working with children in another age bracket and can make a plausible case for why similar impact would be seen when you apply the model to early years.
What types of volunteers does this project have to work with?
The nature of volunteers you draw on will be dependant on the nature of your programme. However, proven mentoring, peer support or digital forms of social action will be given a preference. We are also keenly focussed on social action that assists parents and carers, rather than support provided in formal early years education or childcare settings.
Is there a minimum number of beneficiaries our innovation will need to have?
We appreciate that volunteering interventions will all be different in terms of intensity. For very intensive interventions we would expect projects to engage a minimum of 250 volunteers. Less intensive interventions would need to engage many more.
What do you mean by scale for this fund?
This fund will back projects that can grow - for example to new geographies, or through new partnerships etc - and reach many more people. We are flexible on your route to scale and this may include a range of strategies from organic growth, to using digital solutions, to franchising..
If you are looking for support to maintain your existing initiative in a single location, or reaching a similar number of people then this fund is unlikely to be the right source of support for you.
What stage innovations are appropriate for this fund?
Nesta has a strong heritage of backing early stage ventures - supporting people to incubate ideas or prototype new solutions. However, this fund is for projects and organisations that have already done this early stage work, and already have some evidence of success and are now looking to grow in order to reach many more people.
What kind of evidence do you require us to have for our expression of interest (EOI)?
We have found that innovations which understand if their work is making a positive difference in the world, and can demonstrate this, are more likely to grow and be commissioned or purchased by others.
As innovations grow and reach more people it is important that you have increased confidence to be able to determine what difference the innovation is making and how it is making this difference.
The Early Years Social Action Fund has adopted Nesta's Standards of Evidence as the basis for understanding and assessing the evidence of impact for a specific intervention or service. The standards of evidence are on a one to five scale with level 1 being the starting point where a project or service has a clear account of how it intends to achieve impact but no evidence, moving up to level 5 where the innovation has very strong evidence of effectiveness.
We want to know what current tools and processes you have in place or have carried out in the development of your innovation, and ask you to share this as part of the EOI. We want you to be honest and open about what you currently have in place, but we are not looking for you to have everything in place already. In the EOI, there is a checklist of types of evidence, simply tick which apply for your innovation.
What types of organisation can apply?
The Early Years Social Action Fund is able to support public services, charities, social enterprises, or partnerships led by these organisations. For-profit organisations may apply if there is a strong argument for public benefit, if they can demonstrate that they require public funds to scale, or if they do so as a partnership with a not-for-profit organisation as the lead applicant.
Do you back individuals?
We can support incorporated entities and unincorporated associations with formal membership structures, but not individuals.
Are faith based organisations eligible to apply?
We welcome applications from faith based organisations, but we cannot fund activity that is inherently religious, such as religious worship, instruction or proselytising.
Are there any other restrictions?
As the Early Years Social Action Fund is part financed by Nesta, we can only fund projects which advance our charitable objects for public benefit. We cannot fund projects which are party political, or which support or promote religious activity, and can only fund limited paid for marketing or advertising.
As the fund is part financed by the OCS, grants will come from public funds and must not be used in a way that constitutes unapprovable state Aid.
Can organisations apply in partnership or consortia?
Yes, but one partner must act as lead and take responsibility for the others. As part of the EOI, we explicitly require that all partners are aware of the partnership and have agreed to the EOI, even where a formal partnership arrangement is not suitable or not yet in place. We may check in with partners as part of our assessment process.
How many innovations are you looking to work with?
We are looking to work with between four and six organisations or partnerships
Can my organisation submit more than one EOI?
Yes. Organisations can submit EOIs for different ventures or programmes. However, we will assess organisational capacity to carry out multiple streams of work when selecting organisations to progress to the next stage.
If my EOI is not successful can I get feedback?
We anticipate a high volume of applications and so will not be issuing individual feedback. We will publish some summary feedback in the round though.
Why is the Early Years Social Action Fund restricted to England?
Whilst Nesta works across the UK, the Early Years Social Action Fund is a partnership with the Office for Civil Society, which has responsibility for social action in England only. While applicants can be established in any part of the UK, the benefits from the proposals should be in England only.
When is the deadline for completing the EOI form?
The deadline for the EOI is midday Wednesday 29 March 2017.
Do we need to have match funding secured in order to submit an EOI?
We require organisations/partnerships to provide at least 33 per cent match funding for this fund. While you do not need to show this funding has been secured at the EOI stage, you should have a clear sense of what match funding or in-kind funding (such as staffing or systems) you could contribute.
What are the timescales for the fund?
Thursday 16 Feb 2017 - Expression of interest open
Midday 29 March 2017 - Expressions of interest close
Thursday 4 May 2017 - Shortlisted Applicants Workshop
Shortlisted applicants from the EOI stage will be invited to develop proposals and apply for the fund in full; with a view to award grants to the best of the full applications in July 2017.
What are the timescales for the delivery of the work if we are successful in our application?
You are welcome to apply for funding to support a 12 to 18-month project to grow your work, commencing from August 2017. We hope this project will have a catalysing impact on your future growth and so would want to be assured at full proposal stage that it is part of your longer term growth strategy to scale.
If our EOI and proposal are successful how long do we have to spend the funding?
The fund is scheduled to end December 2018 and funding milestones will be designed to end within this timeframe.