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The Future Ready Fund: Evaluation findings

Since 2018, Nesta’s Future Ready Fund has supported the scaling of 10 high-potential, early-stage interventions that aim to build social and emotional skills and resilience in 11–18-year-olds. This executive summary outlines the findings from an independent evaluation of the programme conducted by the University of Sussex.

The £500,000 Future Ready Fund programme was designed out of a recognition that social and emotional skills are important for successful life outcomes, yet schools often struggle to find effective, time and cost-efficient ways to develop them. The fund awarded £35,000–£50,000 to 10 grantees, supporting them to scale their projects to new locations, improve the quality of their evaluation processes and test their impact using standardised measures.

The University of Sussex was commissioned as the evaluation partner for the Future Ready Fund, with the aims of:

  • Supporting grantees to establish realistic research designs and measurement approaches (especially incorporating standardised measurement tools) for enhancing their own evaluations.
  • Providing grantees with support in implementing these evaluation designs, analysing the data, and interpreting and reporting on results.
  • Using mixed methods to gain insights regarding the Future Ready Fund as a whole, and providing recommendations regarding the delivery and support of work in this area.

This executive summary presents the overarching learning from this evaluation activity. Key findings include:

  • There was evidence across the Future Ready Fund grantees of an overall small positive effect size (d=.17) in terms of improvements in scores on standardised measures. However, it is important to note that these positive changes cannot be causally attributed to specific intervention activities at this early stage.
  • Statistically significant improvements were observed in five of the seven Future Ready Fund projects where pre and post comparisons on standardised measures were possible. These were evident across a wide range of competencies, from different aspects of hope and resilience (including problem-solving and peer support) through to dimensions of empathy and emotion regulation skills such as cognitive reappraisal. These improvements were found to be small to medium sized effects, with some evidence from some grantees of significant (and sometimes larger size) effects on standardised measures of wellbeing.
  • Qualitative analysis revealed the importance of:
    • Trust among and between young people and staff, which appeared to generate an empowered sense of agency and positive self-perceptions.
    • Sustainability and reinforcement as key facilitators of project success, including a need for a systemic approach involving shared understanding and joint commitment within schools to the principles of the intervention.

The report concludes that investment in early-stage interventions is likely to have value for fostering positive changes in young people’s social and emotional skills, and potentially their broader wellbeing and psychological functioning. It includes recommendations for grantees and Nesta, and implications for practice and policy.

A selection of project-level evaluation reports from the grantees can be accessed below:

If you would like to hear more about the Future Ready Fund programme and evaluation, and hear from some of our grantees, please join us for a webinar with the University of Sussex on 19 October at 2.30pm. Register here for the webinar.

You can also read our project page to learn more about the Future Ready Fund.


Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Assistant Programme Manager

Emma was an Assistant Programme Manager in Nesta’s Education team.

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Robin Banerjee

Professor Robin Banerjee is Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, where he also leads the CRESS lab.

Janet Boddy

Janet is Professor of Child, Youth and Family Studies in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex.

Lucy Roberts

Lucy is a Research Assistant at the University of Sussex.