Skip to content

The Connected Communities Fund will work with around 20 innovations (both through the early stage ideas track and the growing great ideas track) that mobilise the time and talents of people throughout the lifecourse, to support people and places to thrive, alongside public services.

We are especially interested in supporting great innovations that enable a wider group of volunteers to give their time and skills and we will work with projects to develop their plans to consider how they will mobilise:

  • 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 which perhaps even allow them to give their time online.

We have selected four priorities for our open call (which has now closed), where we think there is a clear case for the difference social action can make, alongside public services. We are seeking innovations that focus on creating impact in one of four priority 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 ction: 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.

Below we outline what we are looking for and what each theme means.

Social action for community connections and thriving places

We are seeking to support the best innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people within local communities to share resources, create reciprocal models of care and enable people to help each other in new ways within communities.  

What is this priority about?

Lots of evidence has demonstrated the importance of social connections and how vital they are for physical and mental well-being. Our experience has shown us that communities everywhere have untapped assets and creative potential.  

We have a strong heritage of supporting a range of projects in this field including through the Neighbourhood Challenge, Innovation in Giving, Cities of Service UK, and a variety of projects such as North London Cares, Good Gym, and more recently, organisations such as Buddyhub.  We are particularly interested in new forms of sharing, and how communities can demonstrate the power of collaborative economy for good, having recently backed a number of exciting models that explore how collaborative platforms can have social impact through our Sharelab fund.

In this area we are particularly looking for ideas that harness the power of local communities to create new forms of sharing and reciprocal support, that reduces the burden on public services or increase public service outcomes. We are especially interested in innovations that encourage involvement from those people who would not normally engage in social action but may benefit most, and innovations that support people who are more isolated, including isolated older men.  

What outcomes are we looking for?

Possible outcomes include:

  • Increased connections and reduced isolation
  • Increased ability to call on others within community when support is needed
  • Increase resources available and better use of resources for individuals and communities
  • Increased individual and community well being
  • Increased ability of communities to address challenges that they identify

What we will not support?

The following areas will not be supported through this fund:

  • Traditional befriending projects
  • One off events or community celebrations
  • General community platforms

Read our FAQs for more information. Please note that the deadline to apply has now passed.

Social action for community resilience in emergencies

We are seeking to support the best innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people, through social action, to enable communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.

What is this priority about?

Time and time again we see the extraordinary generosity of citizens in response to emergencies and in times of crisis. From floods to heatwaves, to times of attack, we regularly see the power of citizens and neighbours to support each other. Whether formal or informal, volunteering initiatives play an important role in mobilising aid in the direct aftermath of a crisis situation.

We have backed some fantastic innovations in this field particularly around life saving first aid, supporting the integration of GoodSam in Ambulance Service dispatch systems, supporting the growth of StreetDoctors and most recently the growth of First Aid Community Advocates at St John’s Ambulance through the Second Half Fund. New forms of social action are also emerging, including through new digital humanitarian approaches, apps like Ushahidi, approaches like The Standby Taskforce, and prep approaches such as the Flood Network.  

We think there is untapped potential for better solutions that harness the time and talents of citizens, and better enable citizens to work together to prepare and respond to emergencies, that can reduce the risks of emergencies and the response time, to act more efficiently and with a better awareness.  

At this time, we are particularly interested in approaches which mobilise large numbers of people or support spontaneous volunteering in emergencies. We are also especially interested in projects that use digital technology to support new forms of social action, led by or in partnership with the council or other local public services.

What outcomes are we looking for?

Possible outcomes include:

  • Public services better understand how to harness and work with the time and talents of citizens in times of emergencies
  • Citizens, civil society and  and public services mobilise the time and talents of people to take positive action to prepare, respond and recover from emergencies, hazards and threats
  • More effective partnering and coordination of information and resources in preparing, responding and recovering from emergencies
  • Citizens and communities know where to turn to in a time of emergency/crisis, and feel able to act to support themselves and others, alongside public services.

Read our FAQS for more information. Please note that the deadline to apply has now passed.

Digital social action

We are seeking to support the best innovations that harness the opportunities of digital technologies to mobilise the time and talents of people in new ways that suit 21st century lifestyles and needs.

What is this priority about?

Digital technology has already changed the way we connect to our neighbours and local community. We can now use platforms like fixmystreet to report public realm issues, use our first aid skills to respond to save someone’s life through Good SAM, and gather together hundreds, thousands, sometimes millions of supporters to a cause through social media. Our Digital Social Innovation Project, showcased some of the most interesting ways that digital technology is being harnessed for good.

Social action is an integral part of this digital social innovation movement. Over the last few years we have supported a number of exciting digital social action projects including enabling people to better use their first aid skills to help others experiencing a cardiac emergency through integrating GoodSAM with Ambulance Services; supporting people to donate data to improve research around Parkinson’s Disease with uMotif Big PD project; enabling young people with HIV to be supported by peers remotely using existing technology through Body and Soul’s Beyond Boundary approach, and most recently enabling volunteers to remotely tutor disadvantaged pupils to improve their grades at school using digital technology, through the new Click Connect Learn programme.

We know that digital social action is a broad field and we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. In this priority theme we are most interested in innovations that use digital technology to:

  • Foster volunteer-led support in one of the other three priority areas (community connections and thriving places, community resilience for emergencies, and improving our environment).  We are particularly interested in ways to support neighbours to care and support each other; sharing models that better harness talents and skills, as well as promote the better use of resources, particularly for those who could benefit most, and supporting communities to prepare for take action in times of emergency.

  • We are also interested in impactful forms of micro digital volunteering, that harness the time and talents of people in new ways, but enable people who may not otherwise be able to give their time. This can be in a variety of ways, for example, encouraging people to share their data for public good, better ways of sharing information, or mapping resources.

In this priority theme we are particularly interested in approaches which mobilise large numbers of people, engage people who may not have previously volunteered, or enable people who may not otherwise be able to volunteer to give their time remotely. We know that it is particularly important that innovations do not stereotype people with regard to skills and access to digital technology, and are open to the potential of people across the lifecourse being digital volunteers.

What outcomes are we looking for?

Possible outcomes include:

  • Increased community resilience
  • Decreased social isolation
  • Improved ways for communities to share resources for social good
  • Increased ability for neighbours to support each other in identified priority areas
  • Improvements in environment
  • Citizens, civil society and  and public services take positive action to prepare, respond and recover from emergencies, hazards and threats
  • Increased opportunities for more flexible volunteering

Read our FAQs for more information. Please note that the deadline to apply has now passed.

Social Action to improve our environment

We are seeking to support the best innovations that mobilise the time and talents of people, through social action, to improve our environment, and reduce waste and pollution.

What is this priority about?

While there has been significant progress in reducing waste and improving recycling and reuse of waste over the last few years, it remains an enormous challenge and an area which needs new solutions.

  • Recycling rates in England have plateaued in recent years. Recycling performance varies considerably between local authorities - with householders in the lowest performing areas recycling less than a fifth of all the waste material they produce.

  • For the 2015/16 year, local authorities dealt with 936,000 fly-tipping incidents, a 4 per cent increase over 2014/15.  The estimated cost of clearance for fly-tipping to local authorities in England in 2015/16 was £49.8 million. According to Keep Britain Tidy, for many local authorities, fly-tipping is now their number one environmental issue.

  • It costs the taxpayer almost £1 billion to keep our streets clean across England.

  • At least 270,000 tonnes of surplus food from the UK food and drink industry could be redistributed to feed people each year (WRAP 2016).

  • Air quality levels have hit the headlines repeatedly, with increased calls for solutions that cut the air pollution and its contributions to ill health.

Over the years we have supported some exciting initiatives in this field including the Gleaning Network, and other organisations through the Reducing Waste Challenge Prize, and more recently FareShare through the Second Half Fund. But social action and citizen led solutions to augment the work of public services offer huge potential. In this area, we are interested in a whole breadth of approaches from community food and sharing with initiatives such as the Community Fridge Project; citizen science projects such as Smart Citizen or Wild Oxfordshire, or the pollution patrols such as Idling Vehicle Volunteers, or reusing resources,  such as through organisations such as the Restart Project.

In this priority theme we are particularly interested in approaches which mobilise large numbers of people, or learn from and influence the behaviour of individuals and communities e.g. through behavioural science. We are also especially interested in projects led by or in partnership with councils or other local public services.  

What outcomes are we looking for?

Possible outcomes include:

  • Reduction in inappropriate waste
  • Reduction in pollution
  • Increase in recycling and reuse for impact for communities and citizens
  • More resourceful communities, who feel better able to take action to support each other to look after their environment.  

Read our FAQs for more information

The deadline to submit an expression of interest was midday on 30 October 2017. If you have any questions not answered on the Connected Communities Innovation Fund webpages please email connectedcommunities@nesta.org.uk.