Why did we do this?
Our society is ageing. A 2016 report into the state of health and social care in the UK highlighted some challenges posed by the ageing population. An increase in people living with long-term conditions, coupled with the challenging economic climate, was translating into “increased A&E attendances, emergency admissions and delays to people leaving hospital, which in turn is affecting the ability of a growing number of trusts to meet their performance and financial targets.”
Loneliness and social isolation are common amongst older generations, and are key risk factors for ill health. In 2015, the Holt-Lunstad meta-analysis into loneliness and mortality found that loneliness is likely to increase a person’s risk of death by 26%.
Nesta and the National Lottery Community Fund had a shared ambition to support more ways for people to age well, feeling connected to others, actively engaged and able to build strong local networks and neighbourhoods.
What did we do?
From 2016 to 2021, the eight Accelerating Ideas grantees shared £5.48 million in funding to help develop and scale their innovation. They received intensive support from Nesta, which acted as a coach and critical friend, and became part of a cohort who met regularly to share experiences and learning.
The portfolio included innovations focused on:
Neighbourhood networks. Strong inter-generational friendships at the street and neighbourhood level can make a significant difference to older people’s lives – enabling them to feel supported and safe, enabling them to connect, have fun and give back to others and addressing low-level needs such as shopping or fixing something at home.
- The Cares Family creates community networks of young professionals and older neighbours who hang out and help one another.
- GoodGym is a new way of supporting older people. It’s powered by a growing community of runners who work to reduce isolation among older people and bring communities together.
Volunteers supporting older people. Local volunteers, including older volunteers, can make a great deal of difference to older people. High-quality, structured schemes can train volunteers to respond at a time of particular need or at a point of transition, such as bereavement or leaving hospital.
- British Red Cross’ First Call service supports vulnerable people as they recover from a crisis and helps them remain independent at home for longer.
- GoodSAM is a collaborative platform, and a community of first responders, that can increase the chances of survival after a cardiac arrest.
Connecting people to make a difference. Very significant and deep levels of voluntary connections and mutual support can be created with the right approach. These relationships can be transformational and prove that connecting people together can be life changing.
- Shared Lives Plus is an innovative form of social care based around sharing home and family life.
Peer support to manage day to day. Older people are living with more long term conditions, so managing their health on a day to day basis is a real concern of older people and their carers. Peer support groups connect older people together who share similar experiences and enable them to provide one another with valuable social and emotional support (e.g. British Lung Foundation’s Integrated Breathe Easy, Carers UK’s National Volunteering Programme or Stroke Association’s Hand in Hand).
- British Lung Foundation’s Integrated Breathe Easy peer support programme connects people living with chronic lung conditions with each other and healthcare professionals.
- Carers UK’s national volunteering programme enables people with experience of caring to provide valued support to help others better manage their caring role.
- Stroke Association’s peer support network brings people living with the effects of stroke together, to reduce isolation and promote recovery.
What did we learn?
You can read about the highlights of the programme here.
We supported each grantee to conduct their own impact evaluation and shared knowledge and learning through regular publications.
Key successes of the programme:
- Supporting innovations to scale in different ways. We have worked closely with the Accelerating Ideas cohort and eight other Nesta grantees to publish Nurturing the seeds of change, which captures their experience and insights from scaling people-powered health and care innovations.
- Knowledge and learning. Nesta wanted to build an evidence base across each of the four key themes, particularly focusing on how these interventions impact on people, communities and on the wider sector. Key to this was finding the right approach to impact measurement for each innovation. Many of the organisations partnered with universities or research agencies to complete more robust evaluations on their behalf and this was encouraged and funded throughout the programme.
- Fostering a network: From the outset there was a strong emphasis on encouraging the organisations to learn from each other and to work together. This has also resulted in practical collaboration, such as the partnership between British Red Cross and GoodGym, which thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Amplifying their work to help influence the system:It had always been a wider programme ambition to advocate for and create demand for more people-led health and care innovations rather than just scaling the handful of high potential innovations through the fund. Nesta used its resources and networks to amplify the innovators’ voices, building bridges between policymakers, commissioners and frontline innovators.