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A sharing economy with a social purpose: Nesta announces ShareLab Fund grantees

Training refugees as language tutors and a community car scheme to tackle rural isolation are among the eight projects to be funded by the ShareLab Fund, it was announced today. Through the programme, innovation foundation Nesta will support and develop collaborative economy platforms that can support public services and create social impact.

The collaborative economy is defined as using digital technologies to share things we already have access to - whether goods, services, knowledge or skills. It is often referred to as ‘the sharing economy’ and popular because of businesses like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit. However, apps and platforms based on the premise of addressing social and environmental needs are still in their infancy.

To encourage further innovation and grow the evidence-base, each ShareLab Fund project will receive up to £40,000 and additional non-financial business support from Nesta over eight months. The eight projects are:

  • The Milk Bank App (£40,000) - the Hearts Milk Bank will develop a peer-to-peer platform to facilitate the donation of safe, screened breastmilk to premature and sick babies in UK hospitals.
  • TrustonTap (£40,000) will expand its platform that connects self-employed care workers with older people in Oxfordshire who want to stay at home independently, enabling them and their family to directly choose their carer and care timings - and lowering the cost of provision.
  • HappyCT (£25,000), a pilot by Liftshare, will explore how a variety of Community Transport services in the Norwich area can better collaborate; working together to fill empty car seats, serve more routes and, in doing so, help make more journeys available; reducing social isolation felt by vulnerable people in rural areas.
  • Chatterbox (£40,000) will grow its online language learning service which employs refugees to teach their native languages, highlighting the untapped potential within the refugee community.
  • Beam (£40,000) will develop its data and technology driven pilot initiative that aims to tackle the growing crisis of UK homelessness by connecting people with skills and training. After the successful completion of their pilot and with the support of leading charities like The House of St Barnabas, Beam hopes to officially launch at the end of the year.
  • ShareSomewhere (£14,000) will develop its model that makes it easy for voluntary and community groups to rent low cost and under-used spaces on a one-off basis. Pilots will be run in Manchester and Cheshire.
  • Social Value Exchange (£40,000) is a platform to match local community groups with commercial resources as part of the procurement process - like expertise, office space or IT equipment - for free. Pilots will be launched in councils and housing associations in the South-East to test it.
  • Driver Co-op (£25,000) - The New Economics Foundation will conduct research to support the development of an alternative online co-operative platform app owned by private hire drivers in Bradford and Leeds - helping to identify and overcome barriers to success, and drawing lessons for similar worker-owned models in other industries.

Helen Goulden, Executive Director, Innovation Lab at Nesta, comments: “The ideas funded through ShareLab show that the collaborative economy has many practical applications beyond just finding a place to stay or getting a cab ride. We see great potential in these innovations to help alleviate some of the pressure on local governments, addressing the real needs of people, families and communities.”

Last November, Nesta research(1) revealed an untapped market for platforms with a social purpose - nearly 45 million British adults are not aware of how sharing economy technologies can help them access social support services, or support community causes.

To find out more about the programme and the grantees, visit:


For more information contact Kasia Murphy in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2610/2543 or 079 2980 0765, or by email on: [email protected]


1. TNS Global interviewed 2,445 British adults online between 13th and 20th October 2016. Data were weighted by age, gender, region, socio-economic grade and education to be representative of all adults in each country. Data were weighted by age, gender, region, education and socio-economic grade to be representative of all British adults aged 16+ The research was commissioned by Nesta.

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.