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1. We are looking to support activities that mobilise the time and talents of people through social action 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 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 Social Action: 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.  

2. We are looking to support activities in England by innovative organisations and programmes that:

  • Are able to demonstrate that the benefits of their proposals will be in England only.

  • Are passionate about the opportunity to use social action as a mechanism to improve outcomes for communities across the four priority themes. That could be: Increasing individual and community well being, citizens and communities knowing where to turn to in a time of emergency/crisis, increased opportunities for more flexible volunteering or more resourceful communities, who feel better able to take action to support each other to look after their environment.  

  • Are either; already operating a proven social action programme that has good existing evidence of impact in achieving outcomes for communities and have the capacity and energy to scale into new areas across the UK or; have developed a strong approach that offers something different and needed in the field and require support to prototype or test your idea. (See the explanation of the Growing Great Ideas and the Early Stage idea tracks of the fund below)

  • Have a track record in mobilising the time and talents of volunteers. Note 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.  

  • Can demonstrate that they have appropriate networks or channels to reach out to people in the identified areas for growing the existing initiative.

  • Have a commitment to measuring their on-going performance and progress against our Standards of Evidence.

3. Nesta can only fund projects which advance its charitable objects for public benefit. The Connected Communities Innovation Fund is able to support public services, charities, social enterprises, or partnerships led by these organisations.  For-profit organisations may apply if there is a strong argument for public benefit and demonstrate they require public funds to develop or scale their work, or if they do so as a partnership with a not-for-profit organisation as the lead applicant.

We may impose conditions and restrictions on private benefit and profit derived from our funding. In particular, if you are a for-profit business, we may require you to make technology developed using the grant freely available, to reinvest profits from commercial exploitation back into your project to deliver greater public benefit or to return a share of profits to Nesta. If you have any questions about this, please contact us on [email protected].

4. We can support incorporated entities and unincorporated associations with formal membership structures, but not individuals.

5. A number of organisations can apply together, but one must act as lead and take responsibility for the others. For-profit organisations are only able to apply individually if they demonstrate a strong case for public benefit and the need for public funds to develop or scale their work.

6. As the Connected Communities Fund is financed by the Office of Civil Society (OCS) at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), grants will come from public funds and must not be used in a way that constitutes unapprovable state aid.

7. While applicants can be established in any part of the UK, the benefits of their proposals should be in England only.

8. We cannot fund innovations which are party political - or which support or promote religious activity - and can only fund limited paid for marketing or advertising.

Selection Criteria - Early Stage Ideas Track

Organisations or partnerships must be able to demonstrate:

  • A strong idea to mobilise many more people throughout the lifecourse, to support people and places to thrive, alongside public services.

  • How their planned approach aligns with one of our four priority themes.

  • In what way their suggested approach adds something different and needed in their chosen field

  • The culture and ambition to develop their emergent, impactful approach.

  • The ability to achieve ambitious volunteer recruitment targets, including mobilising at least 100 volunteers but digital or low intensity models would likely mobilise many more.

  • Have gathered some early stage evidence of impact for beneficiaries (e.g. Increased connections and reduced isolation, citizens and communities knowing where to turn to in a time of emergency/crisis, improved ways for communities to share resources for social good or more resourceful communities.

  • Have the capacity and organisational appetite to deliver in the timeline of the fund.

  • Existing connections / a pipeline of leads in the local areas they wish to develop the work.

Selection for the final stage will be based on:

Impact / public benefit: We are interested in supporting organisations with a track record in improving outcomes across our four themes. We are interested in understanding the nature of activities you (and partners) deliver currently, as well as those you intend to run through this fund (should it differ).

Reaching and retaining volunteers: We are looking for innovations that 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. 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.  

Capacity: Applicants demonstrate that they are committed to being part of a fast-paced and creative innovation process, and are supported by a competent management team who are open to challenge and support.

Sustainability: We want to understand how the business model for the innovation, and the assumptions about how the idea will grow, as well as risks and challenges in developing an early stage concept.   We are looking for ideas with an understanding of their market, and how you will aim to be sustainable in the future.

Innovation:  Proposals will need to demonstrate how they are innovative.  For a fund of this kind, we are seeking ideas that are adding something new to their chosen field.

Selection Criteria - Growing Great Ideas Track

Organisations or partnerships must be able to demonstrate:

  • A clear plan to mobilise many more people throughout the lifecourse, to support people and places to thrive, alongside public services.

  • How their planned approach aligns with one of our four priority themes.

  • The culture and ambition to scale their emergent, impactful approach.

  • The ability to achieve ambitious volunteer recruitment targets, including mobilising at least 300 volunteers (but digital or low intensity models would be expected to mobilise thousands).

  • Clear existing evidence of impact for beneficiaries (e.g. Increased ability of communities to address challenges that they identify, more effective partnering and coordination of information and resources in preparing, responding and recovering from emergencies, decreased social isolation or a reduction in inappropriate waste).

  • Capacity to deliver in the timeline of the fund.

  • Match funding (including in kind) of at least 33 per cent.

  • Existing connections / a pipeline of leads in the local areas they wish to scale to.

  • A clear plan for scale and sustainability beyond the lifetime of the fund.

Selection for the final stage will be based on:

Impact / public benefit: We are interested in supporting organisations with a track record in improving outcomes across our four themes. We are interested in understanding the nature of activities you (and partners) deliver currently, as well as those you intend to run through this fund (should it differ).

Reaching and retaining volunteers:  We are looking for innovations that are ready to scale.  They must already have an innovation that has been tested and developed, and is now ready to grow to benefit many more people. 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.  

Capacity: We need to understand the capacity of the organisation or partnership to deliver a scaling programme. This organisational capacity will rely on have the right skills and capabilities,  good and reliable systems that track and monitor volunteers, as well as buy-in from senior leadership.

Sustainability: Proposals will need to demonstrate that they do not create ongoing demand for grant funding. We want to understand how the innovation will achieve sustainability and the applicant’s assumptions about how the idea will grow, as well as risks and challenges in developing and scaling the concept.

Innovation:  Proposals will need to demonstrate how they are innovative.  For a fund of this kind, we are seeking ideas that have achieved evidence of impact and are operating, but are not ubiquitous or common practice across England.