Why are we doing this?
We all need a purpose, to have a sense of well–being and to be connected to others. There is good evidence that the strength of our social relations is an important determinant of individual health and wellbeing, and communities ties build trust in others and social cooperation between people and our institutions.
Whether we call it formal or informal volunteering, giving, social action or simply ‘people helping people’, spending some of your time in the service of others is a deeply ingrained part of our culture. Over the last five years, in partnership with the Office for Civil Society (now part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - DCMS) we have run a number of Funds, including Innovation in Giving, the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, and more recent funds, such as the Second Half Fund, Early Years Social Action Fund, and Savers Support Fund, that seek to harness the power of social action alongside public services to transform the lives of beneficiaries.
We know that innovative forms of social action have a key role to play in augmenting public services and achieving better outcomes for us as individuals, and we now want to support more great ideas in new areas where we have identified significant opportunities for people helping people models.
In recent years, there has been a huge and exciting focus on youth social action. However, we want to ensure that people across the lifecourse have social action opportunities that suit their needs and interests. As such, we will be supporting great innovations that enable a wider group of volunteers to give their time and skills, and will work with selected projects to develop their plans to consider how they will mobilise volunteers including:
People aged 50+ - we want to back social action innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people aged 50+ in new ways, especially those who may not have previously volunteered.
People who want to give less intensively - we want to back social action initiatives that offer a variety of opportunities from high commitment to smaller commitment, sharing time and resources in new ways, and enabling a variety of people to give their time and talents.
People who want to connect online - we want to back social action initiatives that make the most of technology to connect with and engage volunteers, and that perhaps even allow them to give their time online.
What are we doing?
The Connected Communities Innovation Fund is a partnership between Nesta and the Office for Civil Society at DCMS, providing up to £4 million in grants, alongside significant non-financial support, to the best innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people across the lifecourse, to create outcomes in any of the following themes:
Community connections and thriving places: innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people within local communities to share resources, create reciprocal models of support and enable people to help each other in key priorities within their communities.
Community resilience in emergencies: innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people to enable communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.
Digital Innovation: innovations that harness the opportunities of digital technologies to help mobilise the time and talents of people in new ways that suit 21st century lifestyles and needs.
Improving our environment: innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people to create better responses to reducing waste and pollution.
So if you have a great idea, we want to hear from you. We will work with applicants to develop their proposals (see more below), including considering how they might reach volunteers who are aged 50+, want to give less intensively, or want to connect online.
Eligible projects are invited to submit a short expression of interest (EOI) by midday on the 30 October 2017.
There are two sizes of funding awards available, depending on the maturity of the idea. Both awards are available for innovations in all four priority areas.
- Early stage ideas: We will provide grants of £50-75k, and significant non-financial support, over 12 - 18 months for innovative social action approaches. Applicants must be able to demonstrate the high potential for impact on public service outcomes in the thematic areas; the innovation must also offer something different and needed in the field. However, you might still need to do some testing or prototyping to evidence impact, or you may need to work on your scaling plans.
- Growing great ideas: We will provide grants of £100-250k, and significant non-financial support, over 2 years for innovations ready to sustainably grow their existing social action project or programme to reach and benefit many more people in new locations.
Read the EOI questions here before applying through our application system:
Early stage ideas
Through this track of the fund, we are looking to support innovative ventures and ideas that:
Are passionate about the opportunity that social action alongside public services can bring to public sector outcomes, and have plans to mobilise volunteers to help many more people (at a very minimum, ideas should mobilise 100 volunteers, but digital or low intensity models would likely mobilise thousands). Projects must be committed to mobilising volunteers across the lifecourse, and we will support projects to particularly develop their plans to consider how they will mobilise those aged 50+, those who wish to give less intensively, and those who wish to give their time digitally.
Are able to demonstrate why their idea or project could offer something different or better in the field.
Have already carried out some early stage development and testing of the idea, but may not yet have proven the concept, received any funding or reached more than a few people.
Have ambitious, clear plans to test and prove the concept and a realistic route to sustain/grow the work after the grant period ends.
Have a lead already in place, who is supported by a competent management team or board, who are open to challenge and support.
Growing great ideas:
Through this track of the fund we are looking to support innovative ventures and programmes that:
Are passionate about the opportunity that social action alongside public services can bring to public sector outcomes in the thematic areas, and have plans to mobilise volunteers to help many more people (at a very minimum, ideas should mobilise 300 volunteers, but digital or low intensity models would likely mobilise thousands). Projects must be committed to mobilising volunteers across the lifecourse, and we will particularly support projects to develop their plans to consider how they will mobilise those aged 50+, those who wish to give less intensively, and those who wish to give their time digitally.
Bring an innovative approach to a new scale.
Show clear evidence of impact in improving outcomes in one of the specific priority themes, and have a commitment to rigorously measuring their ongoing performance and progress against our Standards of Evidence.
Have an ambitious and financially sustainable strategy for growth beyond the lifetime of the fund. Growth approaches could be achieved through replication, organisational growth, licensing models or through partnerships. Projects will be able to identify significant match funding (including in-kind) for the grant period, to enable sustainability and continued growth of the model beyond the lifetime of the fund.
Have an identified lead and plans to bring in additional staff if needed, and who are supported by a competent management team or board who are open to challenge and support.
Full details of the type of innovations we can support, and what we are looking for, can be found in our eligibility criteria and priority theme pages. We advise all innovations to review these pages before submitting their Expression of Interest.
Following an assessment of the Expression of Interest, we will invite the best to submit a full application. Nesta will work with applications to co-develop these, including rigorous assessment by an independent advisory panel.
More information can be found in our Connected Communities Innovation Fund FAQs. If you have any questions about the Connected Communities Innovation Fund, please email [email protected]. We are also holding a number of webinars if you would like to discuss the fund before applying. Please register in advance of these sessions by clicking on the link: