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We believe much more can be done to help people reach their health goals. Too many people are being told how to be healthier and what unhealthy behaviours to stop. But we know from the evidence that this directive and punitive way of ‘helping’ people (what we call Bad Help) is less effective than asking people about their lives, and understanding what motivates them and where they feel confident to start (what we call Good Help).

There is a lot of behavioural and social research that demonstrates how to do Good Help, but this isn’t being routinely built into services or support. We are working to design a Good Help programme that helps frontline teams and communities to understand behavioural and social approaches to help. We think there are three key components:

  1. Motivation & purpose - helping people connect with what matters to them
  2. Confidence to act - creating opportunities for people to feel more able to make a change
  3. Social circumstances - understanding, and wherever possible, addressing any barriers that could get in the way of change

Through this programme we hope to work with people with lived experience, practitioners, community and voluntary organisations, and statutory services to:

  • Understand the behavioural and social evidence that underpins Good Help
  • Adopt and adapt this evidence so that it feels locally relevant
  • Test whether Good Help works through multiple channels such as 121 conversations, peer groups, technology and physical spaces
  • Feel ownership of the ideas and feel more confident about how to apply the evidence in new ways.

We believe that if more services and places adopt a Good Help approach then many more people will be able to reach their health goals.


We are carrying out research in the summer (2019) to identify the key enablers and disablers of delivering Good Help. We will share more information about this as the research develops.

Good and Bad Help report

In February 2018 we launched a report 'Good and Bad Help: How purpose and confidence transform lives'; a call to action for policymakers and practitioners. The report draws on research and good practice to highlight the key drivers of action and characteristics of Good Help.

Good Help Award 2018

We launched the Good Help Award to discover more examples of ‘good help’ projects that are already happening across the country. 19 finalists have been selected from over 300 applications received. Read more about the award and the 19 finalists, including the overall winner, Blue Marble Training, and the runners up, The Membership Team @Off the Record (Bristol) and NHS Community Pain Service / Pain Clinic Plus.

Get involved

We hope our work will be rooted in the specific projects, places and passions of the people in the field. If you would like to be part of this community or become involved in any other way, please register your interest here

The team

The core team at Nesta behind the project is Christina Cornwell, Esther Flanagan and Tara Hackett from Nesta.


We are working with Osca who co-authored the original report and supporting them to continue to develop Good Help in other public sectors beyond health, including employment, education and criminal justice. If you would like to know more please get in touch with Rich Wilson, Nick Nielson or Jo Weir.

Project partners


Christina Cornwell

Christina Cornwell

Christina Cornwell

Director, Health Lab

As Director, Christina leads Nesta’s work helping to develop and grow innovations that create new relationships, networks and technologies that improve health and well being.

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Esther Flanagan

Esther Flanagan

Esther Flanagan

Senior Programme Manager, Social Health

Esther joined the Health Lab in January 2017 and is working in the social health team on a range of projects.

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Tara Hackett

Tara Hackett

Tara Hackett

Assistant Programme Manager, Nesta Health Lab

Tara joined Nesta in January 2018 and is working in the social health team on a range of projects.

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