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.


StreetDoctors helps young offenders turn their lives around by using volunteer medical students to teach them live-saving first aid skills.

StreetDoctors aims to change lives by giving teenagers – particularly ex-offenders and those involved in violent crime – the skills and confidence to deliver life-saving first aid, taught by volunteer medical students and junior doctors.

In doing so, StreetDoctors aims to increase young people’s skills, self-esteem and willingness to act to save lives, as well as changing attitudes towards violence, while at the same time helping trainee doctors develop their own communication skills.

StreetDoctors has been awarded £153,110 to scale the concept, including appointing a dedicated Medical Director to develop new training resources and identify partnership opportunities. With this support, StreetDoctors aims to increase its reach from nine to at least 16 medical schools in the UK by late 2015, and tripling the number of young people they teach, with a big focus on improving the quality of training to get the best possible outcomes for young people.

Find out more: http://streetdoctors.org/

Image credit: StreetDoctors

Parents 1st

Parents 1st enables local parents to help isolated mums have healthier pregnancies, a positive birth and the confidence to give their babies the best start in life.

Becoming a parent for the first time is a big challenge for anyone, but for new mums who don’t have access to a strong support network, it’s particularly daunting. Parents 1st trains local volunteers (usually mums themselves) to support isolated and vulnerable mums through pregnancy, childbirth and their first few months as a parent.

Pregnant women are paired with a volunteer buddy, who they meet with weekly to discuss everything from developing a birth plan to preparing for breastfeeding. Some buddies also provide much-needed support in the delivery room – in some cases preventing mums from giving birth alone.

Having already established a successful programme in Essex, and with its volunteer training course accredited by City & Guilds, Parents 1st has been awarded £395,000 to seed fund three hubs in new areas, as well as developing a new affiliate model to scale the concept.

Find out more: www.parents1st.org.uk

User Voice

User Voice is a charity run by ex-offenders, which aims to reform criminal justice and reduce re-offending by giving marginalised people within the prison and probation systems a voice.

User Voice aims to improve the lives of people in prison and on probation – in particular, to reduce violence and reoffending.

Nesta is working with User Voice through its council system. Led by volunteers (either prison inmates or ex-offenders in the probation service), these are democratically run groups which represent the most marginalised people within the criminal justice system, helping to get their voices, concerns and ideas heard by practitioners and policy-makers.

The programme currently runs in 13 prisons and probation trusts across England, managed by ex-offender staff from User Voice. The organisation has been awarded £419,000 to expand the model and test its impact “through the gate”. This includes setting up five new councils and building solid evidence of impact to help the organisation to scale further. This will be match-funded by £110,000 from the prison and probation services.

Find out more: http://www.uservoice.org/

Image credit: User Voice


Spice encourages people to volunteer their time with local public services in return for “time credits” which are redeemable for experiences, such as access to movies, public pools or training courses, on an hour for hour exchange rate.

Spice encourages people to volunteer in their community in return for ‘time credits’ – which can be banked, traded or redeemed for various activities from partner organisations. For example, a volunteer might help out at a local school, earning credits to spend on local theatre tickets (where each hour spent earns one time credit). Spice supports local service providers from a range of sectors, including education, housing and social care, to embed time credits within their systems and ultimately, create better services which users help to deliver and shape.

Since launching in Wales in 2009, Spice has expanded into five areas in England; and in the last two years it has supported 14,000 users to give time. Spice has been awarded £343,972 to move towards a regional hub model and to create two new hubs in the East of England and Lancashire. This will significantly expand its reach and help to secure new income from service providers.

Find out more: www.justaddspice.org/


GoodGym encourages volunteering by channelling the energy that people spend on exercising and turning it into positive social action.

GoodGym thinks too many people waste their time, money and energy in gyms – and that this could be much better spent in achieving good in their communities.

GoodGym runners volunteer their time for social purpose activities like weekly group runs with a physical task (like clearing leaves in a local park or shifting soil in a community garden), regular weekly runs by volunteers to visit isolated older people and ’missions’ which are one-off tasks for older people such as support with shopping, DIY or gardening.

The combination of exercise, motivation and support from a group and volunteering has proved popular and GoodGym currently operates in nine areas, with around 700 volunteers. Over the past 12 months it has supported over 250 older people.

In November 2014, GoodGym was awarded £245,000 (including £20,000 for evaluation) to support its expansion, with the aim of launching in over 30 areas in the UK by March 2016, helping 18,000 runners to give 160,000 hours of volunteering each year to support their local communities.

Find out more at: www.goodgym.org/