Future Ready Fund: Call for ideas

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The development of wider skills and capabilities, alongside academic attainment, is often difficult to prioritise in schools today. At Nesta, we believe skills such as interpersonal skills, resilience, problem-solving and creativity are crucial to success in the economy and life - both today and in the future.

The Future Ready Fund is a £250,000 fund to support high-potential, early-stage interventions to test and further develop interventions that promote wider skills in secondary-age (11-18) young people, focusing on social and emotional skills and resilience. £35,000-£50,000 is available for between 5 and 7 grantees alongside non-financial support focusing on evaluation.

Our previous work has focused on supporting broader skill-sets, including collaborative problem-solving. This will continue to be an area of focus for Nesta, although this first round of funding will be supporting specific, related skills - as listed below - that underpin strong collaboration and problem-solving capacity.

This fund will support grantees with existing early-stage interventions that have shown potential for significant impact on these skills. There are a wide variety of definitions and terms for these and related skills, including 21st century, non-cognitive and soft skills.

For clarity, we have used the descriptions in the Education Endowment Foundation’s SPECTRUM framework. This framework covers the key areas relating to our target skills, and within this framework we will be focusing on:

  • Emotional intelligence, in particular how to build good relationships and collaborate effectively
  • Social and emotional competence, particularly in relation to collaboration
  • Resilience and coping
  • Perceptions of self (self-confidence and self-efficacy)
  • Motivation, goal orientation and perseverance

The funding and support will focus on supporting grantees with their:

  • Scalability and implementation - testing their projects in more locations, in order to further improve and refine them.
  • Efficacy - improve the quality of their evaluation processes, including testing the use of standardised, proven measures to understand impact (e.g. this list compiled by University of Manchester in 2017).

Successful grantees will have already delivered their project in at least one location and be able to demonstrate how it is replicable, and will be seeking to test the implementation of their intervention in other school contexts. They will be keen to improve the quality of their evaluation - including through the use of standardised measures.

Awards will be made in March 2019 and will run for 18 months.

The broader aims of the fund are to:

  • Support a small number of high-potential interventions to grow further, and improve their delivery and evaluation processes.
  • Demonstrate that effective interventions based on the existing evidence base can be delivered in a scalable, replicable way, and use secure measures to better understand their impact.
  • Use the learning and insights from this fund to launch further work targeting the skills we know will be important in the future world of work.


Eligible projects are invited to submit a short expression of interest (EOI) by 9am on the 10th December 2018. Submit your expression of interest.

The fund will target a range of organisations, including social enterprises, schools and colleges and private enterprises. Interventions can be delivered within the school curriculum, in non-curriculum time or outside of/separate from school. They should be interventions that could eventually work with large numbers of young people.

We are asking applicants to demonstrate that they target an unmet need, and we are particularly interested in interventions that work in disadvantaged communities, schools and young people. This does not mean that interventions can only be delivered to one set of students (e.g. Pupil Premium eligible students) - but projects need to demonstrate how they reach students who most need help with these skills.

Different language and terminology is often used to describe these skills, and not all projects will use the same language as the SPECTRUM framework. Applicants will need to show how their definitions and descriptions of targeted skills have a grounding in the evidence.

We will expect successful grantees to take evaluation of such skills seriously (with an interest in how to use standardised measures), and see improving evaluation as a strategic priority for their development, and as a way of contributing to the wider sector.

What is the selection criteria?

We will be looking for innovative projects that:

  • Aim to develop the targeted skills in young people that need support
  • Develop the target skills (see our FAQs page for further detail on how we define these) in young people aged 11-18
  • Have developed an intervention that is delivered within the school/college curriculum, in non-curriculum time or outside of/separate from school/college
  • Target an unmet need for these skills in young people. We are particularly interested in interventions that work in low-income communities and/or schools/communities with higher than average pupil premium eligibility
  • Deliver in any part of the UK, but we are particularly interested to hear from applicants working in communities with lower educational outcomes (category 5 and 6 areas as defined by the Department for Education)

Are committed to using evidence, and to understanding and improving their impact:

  • Can evidence that they are at Levels 1 or 2 on the Nesta Standards of Evidence (although we will consider applications with evidence at other levels, depending on the value the funding and support will add)
  • A core strategic commitment to rigorously evaluating their effectiveness to a high standard, and in time, moving up the Nesta Standards of Evidence
  • Can demonstrate a track record - or strong potential - to improve these outcomes, with a strong rationale or theory of change based on evidence
  • Are committed to developing the targeted skills to improve longer-term outcomes for the young people involved - particularly education and employment outcomes

Have the ambition and potential to grow their work:

  • Have delivered the full intervention in at least one school or location
  • Have a lead already in place, who is supported by a competent management team or board, who are open to challenge and support
  • Can commit to involvement in non-financial support that Nesta will provide, including evaluation support. More detail will be available to shortlisted applicants
  • Can demonstrate how this funding would support further testing, delivery and evaluation improvement
  • Can explain sound ideas for how the project could be sustainably grown, and how delivery can be replicated across schools/locations.

Timeline and dates

Learning about the fund and expressions of interest

The fund opens for the submissions of expressions of interest on Monday 29th October 2018 at 9am.

We will be hosting webinars about the fund during November 2018. We strongly encourage potential applicants to attend one of the webinars as they are designed to be an open invitation to find out more about what we are looking for from applications.

Please also see our FAQs which explain more about the eligibility criteria and the skills we are targeting. These will be updated based on questions we receive from potential applicants. We will also upload the slides from the webinar when available.

Proposals: submit your idea

We invite you to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) form by 9am on Monday 10th December 2018.

Shortlisting: Invitations to development meetings

Based on the ideas submitted, Nesta will create a shortlist of ideas with greatest potential and invite you to attend a meeting to develop them in mid-January 2019. Shortlisted applicants will meet with Nesta mentors and external advisors to review and work on the ideas together. The aim of this is to create connections between projects and support development of all the shortlisted ideas.

Final proposals

Those with shortlisted ideas who have joined the development meetings will then be invited to submit full applications by 9am on Monday 4th February 2019. Nesta will then make final decisions working with expert external advisors.

Key dates

  • November 2018: Participate in a webinar to find out more about the fund
  • Deadline for EOI submission: 9am on Monday 10th December 2018. Submit your idea via the online form
  • Mid-January 2019: Shortlisted ideas invited to a development meeting to discuss their application and invited to submit a full application
  • Deadline for full application: 9am on Monday 4th February 2019
  • End of February 2019: shortlisted applicants informed of the final decision
  • March 2019 to August 2020: period of grant funding.

Next steps