About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.


What we are doing

GoodGym is a new way of supporting older people. It is powered by a growing community of runners who work to reduce isolation among older people and bring communities together. GoodGym’s volunteers provide the following support to older people:

  1. One-off practical household and garden tasks
  2. Regular visits to isolated older people

GoodGym also organises regular group runs which combine a run with doing manual labour for community organisations. GoodGym is already rapidly scaling, in particular its group runs, and is on track to double in size for the third year in a row, operating in 24 areas across the UK, with 3,500 mobilised volunteers (runners) reaching 700 older people.

GoodGym’s work with older people is at an earlier stage, but the evidence of impact is powerful; isolation and loneliness are effectively reduced and participants' well-being is increased over a six month period. GoodGym are committed to growing their work with, and impact on, older people in the communities in which they work. Furthermore, GoodGym has demonstrated increasing sustainable revenue.

What we are learning

GoodGyms’ Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund evaluation, conducted by Ecorys found that: Coaches (older beneficiaries) interviewed reported positive outcomes related to their emotional isolation. They appreciate someone who listens to them and gives them the ability to speak about emotional topics. This was also the case where coaches had carers, family members, friends, neighbours, other volunteers or a combination of these visit them on a regular or irregular basis.

Rather than the quantity of social contacts, the depth and quality of the interaction with their runner is the key to achieving positive outcomes. All coaches felt happier, and 98 per cent considered their runner a friend. On a scale of 1-5, the average scores for social isolation improved from 2.44 at the baseline stage to 2.74 at follow-up, while the average scores for frequency of feeling lonely improved positively from 2.11 to 2.58.

More individuals scored their life satisfaction as high (7-8 points) or very high (9-10 points) after six months of seeing a GoodGym runner (eight in total at the follow-up stage compared to four at the baseline stage). Average life satisfaction scores changed from 4.78 at the baseline stage to 6.11 at follow-up. The longitudinal survey found that the majority (57 per cent) of people would not have joined another running club instead of GoodGym. It also found that the average number of days spent running among the participants was 9.5 days per month at six months after joining (an increase of 0.7 days).

The survey findings also suggest that GoodGym helps participants to meet the Government’s recommended levels of weekly physical activity, as the survey showed some short-term overall increases in levels of weekly physical activity at six months after first joining GoodGym. The changes detected were:

  • An average weekly increase of 0.29 days of moderate physical activity
  • An average weekly increase of 0.21 days of vigorous physical activity
  • An average weekly increase in total time spent doing vigorous activity from 93 minutes per week to 113 minutes

Our ambitions to grow through Accelerating Ideas

GoodGym aims to expand to 100 areas across the UK within the next three years. This will increase our reach, growing from around 1,500 members to having over 45,000 runners supporting older people with weekly visits and help with household tasks.

The scaling plan is based on four objectives:

  1. Build an efficient digital platform for matching runners with older people: Enhancing the current technology to reduce the cost per pairing and to improve the runner's experience of supporting older people. GoodGym will create a platform that enables runners and referral agencies to connect more directly. This development will be informed by input from older people themselves.
  2. Support more referral agencies: GoodGym will design and build an interface for referral agencies to request support for isolated older people, which will then be fulfilled by GoodGym runners. This interface will reduce the cost of GoodGym handling referrals and enable them to take 10 times as many referrals per area as they are able to today.
  3. Increase number of engaged runners: GoodGym will recruit a communications manager and invest in reaching new runners. This will increase charitable donations, as 65 per cent of runners contribute through a monthly voluntary contribution of £9.95. A £30 marketing spend to recruit each runner is estimated.
  4. Partnership with parkrun: Parkrun is the UK’s largest running organisation with 150,000 runners each week and over 1 million unique runners. GoodGym have established a partnership with parkrun, in which website integration and shared comms will bring up to 8,000 new runners per year to volunteer with older people, by integrating the GoodGym and parkrun websites.