Rapid Recovery Challenge: the winning innovations

We introduce the winning innovations designed to support those who’ve been hardest hit by the economic consequences of COVID-19.


As the pandemic escalated throughout early 2020, it quickly became clear that there would be huge economic consequences. Although furlough and other financial support schemes delayed some of the immediate impacts on employment and financial security, economic forecasts did not look good. In response, we launched Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge in September 2020.

The focus of the Challenge was to support and scale innovative tools and services that can improve access to jobs and money for people across the UK, focussing on those who were in precarious work or financially vulnerable – situations that have been hugely exacerbated by COVID-19.

Working in partnership with JP Morgan Chase Foundation and The Money and Pensions Service, our ambition is for one million people to access these tools by 2023, securing support in improving their career and financial prospects.

Following a rigorous twelve months of research, design and development, testing and iterating, we are delighted to announce the overall winners of the challenge.

Udrafter - winner, Job Recovery Stream

The Job Recovery Stream was created to support solutions that connect younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work into open jobs that match their skill sets.

Our winner in this stream is Udrafter – an online marketplace where businesses can access student and graduate talent on demand, offering paid, degree-relevant micro-internships that provide crucial work experience and income.

"Being a part of this competition has given us the ability and resources to scale our solution to those most in need of work within a very short period of time. The funding will enable us to quickly execute on our plans to reach at least 50,000 more young people by 2023 and match them with paid work opportunities. A huge thank you must go out to the NESTA Rapid Recovery Team, the funding partners and RRC network for giving us this opportunity." – Daryll Morrow, Udrafter

Hastee - winner, Financial Stream

The Financial Recovery Stream stream was created to support solutions that help younger workers or those in (or who had recently lost) low-paid or insecure work to access financial assistance more easily, manage their cash flow or, where necessary, access affordable, responsible credit.

Our winner in this stream is Hastee – a financial health platform that allows workers to withdraw a portion of their pay as soon as they have earned it, breaking the outdated fixed pay-cycle that forces many into debt and financial stress.

"It is an absolute honour to be selected as the winner of the Rapid Recovery Challenge. We are extremely grateful for all the support and guidance we have received from Nesta, the Challenge’s donors, the Rapid Recovery Network, and the other semi-finalists and finalists. It will take a strong and concerted effort from stakeholders across all parts of society to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19, but we are ready to do our bit: we will bring earnings on demand and our other financial education and management tools to hundreds of thousands of young people, those in low-paid jobs, and those in insecure roles." – Clemens Moehring, Hastee

These winning innovations have already helped tens of thousands of people to recover faster from the economic impact of COVID-19 - each securing a total of £475,000 to collectively support a further 100,000 by the end of 2023.

From 148 original applicants, 14 semi-finalists were supported to develop a range of innovative tools relating to employment and financial resilience. The semi-finalists were then whittled down to six finalists, who were invited to focus on scaling their products to reach the people who need them most. This cohort of innovators, from the first stage to the last, have demonstrated impressive determination and creativity. Over the course of the challenge, Nesta and our partners have supported the innovators to use human-centred design principles, employ user testing at key development stages, and with marketing and communications, strategy and scaling support. Along the way, we’ve learned a huge amount about how challenge-based funding can prove an effective catalyst for change by accelerating highly focussed activity and impact, with skilled teams supercharging great ideas and vision to address the pressing problems of our time.

What's next?

When we launched the Rapid Recovery Challenge a year ago, the UK was woefully unprepared and the future was impossible to predict. A year on, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that unemployment has increased, with young people particularly adversely affected. We’re proud to have played a role in getting people back on their feet, but there’s a long way to go and we know that achieving a rapid recovery from the economic impact of Covid-19 will require significant effort and collaboration from actors across different sectors. It’s essential that government, regulators and policymakers create the conditions that enable innovation to thrive, ensure that individuals are protected from financial harm, and improve the collection and analysis of relevant data to identify households in need and ensure that support reaches the people who need it most.

We look forward to continuing to work with the partners who have made this Challenge a success.

Author

Karmel Edmonds

Karmel Edmonds

Karmel Edmonds

Assistant Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges

Karmel is currently working in the Nesta Challenges team as an Assistant Programme Manager.

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Lucy Hawkins

Lucy Hawkins

Lucy Hawkins

Programme Coordinator, Nesta Challenges

Lucy is the Programme Coordinator for the Rapid Recovery Challenge.

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Seoana Sherry-Brennan

Seoana Sherry-Brennan

Seoana Sherry-Brennan

Digital Communication and Prize Engagement Officer, Nesta Challenges

Seoana works across all themes centre-wide, helping to inspire more people to enter our prizes by facilitating the growth of an engaged community of solvers via our digital channels.

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