About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.


Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design explores how human and machine intelligence can be combined to develop innovative solutions to social challenges. Within this we want to understand how digital platforms, new approaches to analysing, collecting and sharing data, and forms of online collaboration can help mobilise people and their collective knowledge to identify problems, develop solutions and learn in new ways. We undertake a range of projects and also fund others to develop new ideas, different approaches and research issues that help us understand how best to design for collective intelligence.


From how we bank and manage our health to how we travel or compose music, artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming most parts of society. Alongside the hundreds of millions invested in using AI for commercial purposes, there is a growing interest in using AI to address social challenges - a field often described broadly as 'AI for social good' or just 'AI for good'.

However, as is the case with AI in the private sector, most AI used to solve social challenges has focused on a relatively narrow set of applications such as automating human tasks or helping individuals become more efficient through new approaches to areas such analysis and prediction. Little attention has been given to the relationship between artificial intelligence and the collective intelligence of communities, such as the ability to mobilise the collective knowledge of communities residents, local public services businesses and civil society organisations to identify problems, develop solutions, making decisions and learning in new ways.

Nesta’s recent study on The Future of Minds and Machines: Exploring how artificial intelligence can enable collective intelligence outlines a number of ways AI can compliment human collective intelligence and the intelligence of groups, by for example, making new causal connections around complex issues and creating better ways of optimising processes.

Building on this, the research identifies four different ways that AI interacts with collective intelligence - machines working on crowdsourced data generated by people and sensors; machines and people taking turns to solve problems together; people and machines solving tasks together at the same time and using machines to connect knowledge and tasks in groups. For illustrations of what this looks like in practice, see Nesta’s recent feature of 20 projects bringing Artificial Intelligence and Collective Intelligence together.

We acknowledge the range of broader challenges related to the use of technology to solve social challenges, an issue we have studied through our work on digital social innovation, as well as the specific challenges related to the lack of appropriate AI skills and understanding of its various applications and opportunities in charities and other community organisations. However, with this grant we specifically want to explore how the emerging opportunities in using artificial intelligence to enhance collective intelligence could enable new forms of community action on the climate crisis.

Research objectives - what we are looking for

We want to support designers and researchers interested in developing a set of speculative concepts, service blueprints and low-fi prototypes that explore future use cases that make the most of the opportunity in using artificial intelligence to enhance collective intelligence. Within this we are especially interested in how this can increase the ability of communities to identify challenges and develop solutions related to climate change, environment and sustainability challenges.

The project should also help develop a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges in doing this well. Proposals should clearly outline their approach to developing the speculative concepts and low-fi prototypes.

This should include what kind of research will be undertaken to inform their development and how it will involve communities and other key stakeholders such as civil society organisations or local authorities. Proposals should also outline how they will include expert understanding of the different artificial and collective intelligence methods and subject experts in climate crisis, environment and sustainability challenges required to develop the case studies or prototypes.

We expect any proposals funded to build on lessons from work that has already happened in the field, and actively engage these organisations in the scoping and development of this project.

This will be grant funding – Nesta will not own the IP to the work. However, Nesta has an interest in widely disseminating the outputs from research and projects it supports for public benefit and will therefore publish and republish findings for this purpose under a Creative Commons Licence.


  • Tuesday 25 February - Invitation to submit proposals issued
  • Monday 16 March - 18:00 Deadline for submission of proposals
  • Monday 23 March - Interviews with highest scoring candidates
  • Tuesday 24 March - Selection of supplier


The total available grant for this project is £35,000.

The budget should include costs associated with the design of the service blueprints, and low-fi prototypes. Any potential costs associated with print or digital production of any reports or other outputs from the research will be covered separately by Nesta.

The grant will be subject to the terms of a formal grant award letter. Payments will be released in stages alongside agreed milestones, providing these have been met. The milestones shall be clearly documented in any grant award letter provided as a result of a decision to award a grant, and in accordance with Nesta’s standard grant terms and conditions.

Who can apply

We welcome applications from Universities and research organisations, charities, companies and consultancies and a consortium of providers. We will not fund individuals.

How to apply

Your proposal should be in English and consist of no more than six A4 pages (plus annexes) detailing your approach to this project and your experience. We will also accept powerpoint decks (no more than 15 slides). This should include the following information:

Methodology (40% weighting)
  • Proposed methodology for undertaking the project
  • Your approach to understanding how AI & CI based approaches can lead to novel responses to the climate crisis and developing the speculative concepts.
Track record (30% weighting)

Past track record in this or related fields - please provide up to three specific examples. Experience and capability of individual team members in producing high-quality outputs of the type required by this grant, and other relevant capabilities (e.g. key networks/relationships). This includes demonstrating that the team has experience in both doing the research, developing the speculative concepts, service blueprints and prototypes. Please include CVs of team members in an appendix.

Ability to deliver to time and to budget (15% weighting)

A project plan showing key activities, milestones and deliverables. Your approach to project management, quality assurance and risk management. Plans and arrangements describing how you would work with Nesta.

Value for money (15% weighting)

Budget: payment will be for the agreed milestones. Please provide a full breakdown of your proposed fees and pricing structure. Please also indicate which team member will lead on specific aspects of the work.

Your entire proposal, including all supporting documentation, should be e-mailed as a single document to [email protected] and [email protected] by no later than 18:00 (Noon) GMT on Monday 16 March 2020.

Information on Nesta's privacy policy