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.

Whether you are from a local authority, social enterprise, business improvement district, ‘Friends of’ group, or beyond, we’d love to hear your plans and ideas on how we can rethink parks across the UK.

There are two award streams within the programme:

Replication award; Grants of up to £200k over 2 years aimed at supporting organisations to set up, run and learn from innovative, tested, operating models for parks.
Prototyping award: Grants of up to £100k over 9-15 months to support  testing and learning from digital innovations with the potential to address challenges that parks face.

About the replication awards

We are seeking organisations and partnerships who are well placed to replicate and run some of the most promising and innovative operating models for parks - particularly drawing from what was learned in the Rethinking Parks programme in 2014.

We are particularly interested in hearing from those who are interested in setting up Parks Foundations or including a focus on parks within a Business Improvement District. However we will also consider other innovative models that have been shown to contribute to sustainable parks management. For an informal discussion please contact [email protected]


Initial applications will be accepted up until the closing date of Tuesday 27 February 2018 and Nesta will work with the longlisted ideas to develop them further in a second selection stage before final funding decisions are taken in Spring 2018. We expect work to begin with successful areas in June 2018.


To be considered for funding and support through the programme, the lead applicant should:

  • Be based in the UK
  • Have identified a public park/s or park service/s to work with
  • If you are not the landowner, have agreement or strong likelihood of getting agreement from the landowner to develop the innovation
  • Be a not-for-profit organisation; a social enterprise or a local authority

We welcome proposals from organisations working in partnership, as long as one eligible organisation is nominated as the lead.

Although for-profit businesses cannot be a lead, they can be part of the partnership. If private owners or for-profit organisations are involved in a project, we expect public benefit to be greater than private gain. To this end, we encourage open source approaches to any technical proposal where it is possible to create additional benefits to others.

Funding can only be awarded to test models that have an identifiable public benefit related to the aims of the programme, such as increased financial security of the park, increased public access, community engagement  opportunities for employment and education, increased health and wellbeing, increased biodiversity etc. Any financial profit arising from the Rethinking Parks funding must be reinvested in the same or similar social purpose.

Funding selection criteria

To be considered for funding and support through the programme we will need to be convinced that your approach demonstrates:

  1. Capability and capacity: Skills, understanding, and demonstrable commitment to embark on challenging, innovative programmes of work.

  2. Engagement and partnerships: A demonstrable and appropriate approach to working with the community and relevant local partners

  3. Sustainability: Demonstrate potential contribution towards more financially sustainable ways of managing parks that are appropriate to local circumstances;

  4. Impact: Will create positive societal and environmental outcomes; you can clearly describe what you expect these to be and have ideas for how you will measure them.

  5. Innovation: Demonstrates an appropriate approach to replicating and adapting innovation and learning from other parks

Specific considerations for the two award streams that we are particularly keen to see:

  • For the replication awards, demonstrable commitment from local authority parks managers and senior stakeholders (cabinet member or chief executive) and relevant partners, as well in-kind support, potentially from the relevant local authority or other key stakeholders, for the work.

When selecting innovations, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund and Nesta aim to support a variety of parks, UK locations and applicant types.

Got a question?

Email [email protected]