Alternarratives: frequently asked questions
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Who is Nesta and why are they doing this?

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality. It also means changing lives for the better. This is what keeps us awake at night and gets us out of bed in the morning. We want to see the arts and cultural sector make the most of technology to create new artforms, reach new audiences and engage existing audiences in new ways. Find out more about Nesta and our creative economy or education work.

What are the key dates of the prize?

  • Submissions deadline: 9am, 13 January 2020
  • Longlist writers informed by: by 28 February 2020
  • 3 month R&D period begins (including 2-3 workshops): 1 March 2020
  • Final works submitted: 1 June 2020
  • Shortlist selected and winner announced: June 2020

What was submitted?

You were asked to submit two examples of existing work, and a short story which would form the basis of your project alongside a proposal to explain the idea behind the work you would like to create through Alternarratives and how you will do this.

How many ideas have been selected?

There are 10 projects in the initial longlist who will each receive a £1,000 R&D bursary to develop their ideas into final works over a development phase. There will then be a shortlisting process from these final works to select three final projects. From that shortlist, one winner will be chosen and awarded £15,000. All prizes or bursaries will be awarded to the lead of the project/submission and will be subject to signing an agreement with Nesta.

What will the workshops during the development stage entail?

We know that every applicant will have differing levels of knowledge and ability to create and deliver a short-form storytelling work in a new format. We want the workshops to be useful to everyone. They will include exploration of innovation of form, future methods of storytelling and co-creation best practice. Once the 10 projects or ideas have been shortlisted, we may alter the workshops to best suit the participants. We also plan to host a young people focus group to discuss your ideas in conjunction with their expression of their needs, motivations and preferences to help you develop your work.

Where will the workshops be and do I need to pay for my travel?

Location is currently TBC but is likely to be a mix of London and regional. We will have travel bursaries available for the workshops.

This year, Alternarratives asked writers/creators to develop work for a young audience between 11-16. Is the competition divided into age categories for the writers?

No, there weren't any division of ages in entrants but you needed to be 18 or over to enter.

Could young people have entered work?

No - you needed to be 18 or over to enter. But there will be other ways for young people to get involved and explore or feedback on the works created later in the process. If you are aged between 8-18 and are interested in writing, you might like to find out more about Nesta alumnus Ministry of Stories.

Could students have entered?

Yes - anyone 18 or over was able to enter but needed to be mindful of the timeline and time commitment that the longlisted ideas will need for development and completion.

Could I have entered on behalf of someone else?

Yes, as long as the person you submitted on behalf of fits the eligibility criteria, had consented to be entered and could be contacted via email and telephone.

When will the winner be announced?

The winner will be announced in June 2020.

What can the £1,000 R&D bursary be used for?

The bursary must be used by the shortlisted project lead during the R&D phase to develop the new work or to continue work on an existing innovation, as per their proposal from the submission process.

What can the £15,000 prize be used for?

The prize should be used to support innovation in short-form storytelling.

Who has won the prize previously?

This is a brand new initiative from Nesta in its pilot year, so we don’t yet have previous winners.

Is the prize money taxable?

Yes - those receiving funding are responsible for the payment of taxes where applicable when using the prize money. It will be the responsibility of the prize winner to pay any tax due.

What ideas are you hoping to see come through?

In this first year of Alternarratives, we are exploring whether innovations in short-form writing could help re-engage young people with reading. We kept the brief open to encourage a huge range of creative solutions to come through. We were looking for bold and creative ideas that use all the tools available to writers and creators today to tell stories in new ways. We want to know what is out there already, how we can support more of these ideas and how we might help them gain traction with the reading audience.

Should the idea have been for fiction or non-fiction?

It could have been either! Please bear in mind if you are referencing real people, you will need their permission.

Did it have to be digital?

No - we wanted to hear all your ideas, but we wouldn't be supporting traditional short-form writing and linear written documents in Word or equivalent.

Was Alternarratives open to individuals or organisations?

Both - we wanted to get an understanding of what is out there and where these ideas are coming from.

Did my idea need to relate to a theme?

No. There was no brief beyond the target audience of young people aged 11-16 and exploring how this may help re-engage them with reading.

I’m not a ‘Young Adult’ writer - could I still have entered?

Yes - Alternarratives is all about stimulating new work, encouraging new forms of storytelling and exposing writers to new ways of using technology to tell their story. We strongly encouraged those that do not identify with this genre to enter.

I don’t know anything about technology - could I still have entered?

Yes. We recommended that you think about what low tech options you can use yourself and be inventive with, or finding someone that could partner on the project with you.

Could I have entered if I already have a literary agent?

Yes - but you didn’t need one. We wanted to discover what ideas are already out there and how we can support these to become a reality, as well as working to develop new voices and writers who don’t already have access to the industry.

Could I have entered if I’ve already had work published? What if I’m self-published, published in another format or genre, or published as part of an anthology?

Yes - we were happy to receive applications from all writers and creators.

Did you accept collaborative work?

Yes, we did accept collaborative work. One of the collaborators needed to make the application on behalf of everyone involved.

Could I have entered more than one idea?

Yes - there is no limit to creativity!

How could I have entered?

Entry was online only, via the entry system. Only entries submitted via the system will be accepted. Part or unfinished entries will be discounted.

Could I have posted my submission to you?

We could only accept entries via the online link.

Could I have submitted my project to you outside of the prize?

At Nesta we focus on providing support and fund through our programmes. To find out more information on current and future opportunities follow us on twitter or #Alternarratives and sign up to our newsletter.

Was there a registration fee?

No, the prize was free to enter.

When was the deadline for entries?

The deadline for entries was at 9am 13 January 2020.

My computer crashed or the form timed out before I finished my online entry. What could I have done?

You could have started and submitted a new entry - any part entries were discounted. We recommend drafting your proposal in a Word document or similar before submitting through the online form, so you can save a copy of this.

What were the selection panels looking for in my project?

The prize will be awarded to a bold and creative use of storytelling in an inventive form. We want to leave the format/platform as open as possible to encourage lateral thinking about story development. The story will also be judged by the panel on quality of writing, how it engages the audience, innovation in form, interface and interactivity, as well as in overall quality of content. In the early stages, the panels will be more interested in the concept of the idea. Later, the panels will be looking at how the project has changed and developed during the R&D phase and the final content.

How did you select the best from all of the entries?

Entries were assessed in a multi-stage process, working with a youth panel and a selection panel of professionals with expertise in storytelling, technology and innovating ideas.

Why was there a youth panel?

In its pilot year, Alternarratives will be testing how these types of ideas could help re-engage young people with reading again. As the end audience of the new content will be young people, we want to get them involved in the creation and selection processes to make sure we’re finding the right ideas.

Did the panels read every entry?

The youth panel helped us create a longlist which will then go to the selection panel after full projects are submitted. A team of Nesta staff members read and reviewed every entry.

Who is on the selection panel?

The selection panel of professionals will be announced soon - keep a look out for updates.

Will I get any feedback on my application?

We aren’t able to give individual feedback to every applicant due to the volume of applications we expect to receive. Applicants that were successfully longlisted received personalised feedback on work to help guide individuals during the R&D phase. As this is a pilot, we hope to share with the public as much information as possible during our learning process, from what we discover is already out there to how new projects have been developed.

I submitted my entry. What happens now?

The deadline for entries was 13 January 2020 - we then completed the first stage longlisting process with the youth panel and informed all entrants of the decision by 28 February 2020. The R&D stage then began.

What if my idea wasn’t longlisted? Can I take my project elsewhere?

Yes! We hope this initiative will help to stimulate as many ideas as possible.

If I was longlisted, what happens to my work when I submit the final piece for selection?

The work, all intellectual property and rights still belong to you. We are looking into different ways that we can showcase the work of the 10 longlisted writers/creators and will be exploring how this could work once we know more about the longlisted works. Watch this space!

Once the prize has ended, then what?

We are hoping this will not only showcase the brilliant ideas already out there, but also stimulate new ideas for writers or creators, either to push their current work or collaborate more. We will take learnings from this pilot to share with the public to encourage this type of intervention and also to plan the next Alternarratives prize…

Are there any questions Nesta hasn’t thought of?

Yes, definitely! If your query wasn’t answered above send us an email at [email protected] and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.