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.

Many more of us are living longer. With each day our life expectancy is said to increase by five hours. The expected shift in demographics will no doubt create challenges, but also act as a prompt for us to realise the most from the extraordinary good fortune of living at a time when so many have the prospect of extra years of life.

We know that around 5.4 million people over 50 formally volunteer at least once a month, with around 6.5 million people over 50 estimated to volunteer informally at least once a month. But if we are living longer, it is critical that the number of and nature of the volunteering opportunities also shifts. This extraordinary gift of extra time, if harnessed, can not only be directed to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing society, but also benefit us individually as we age.

In September 2016, Nesta and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched the Second Half Fund. Here the 13 ambitious innovations share their plans to grow their work to reach many more people, through mobilising the time and talents of hundreds of people aged 50+, alongside public services.

Meet the grantees:

Aesop 'Dance to Health'

Dance to Health led by Aesop, combines the creativity of leading dance organisations with two evidence based falls prevention programmes - Otago and FaME. It aims to reduce the high number of older people’s falls in a way which is empowering and long‐lasting for the older person. It is capable of being more effective and cost‐effective than existing NHS/public health interventions.

Aesop has been awarded £246,919 to scale its model to 35 locations, mobilising the talents of almost 728 (including 583 50+) volunteers.


BuddyHub is a new tech‐enabled befriending service that targets older adults considered to be at high risk of loneliness and social isolation. The BuddyHub approach is based around a 'Friendship Wheel' that overcomes the identified barriers by connecting older adults with three new like‐minded local Buddies.

BuddyHub has been awarded £115,000, to grow the model in North London, by mobilising the time and talents of 228 50+ Friendship Buddies supporting 190 Seniors. This will lead the way for further scaling in London and across the country.

Eden Project 'Deep Roots, New Shoots'

More than 1.6 million grandparents provide childcare for their grandchildren, saving £11bn in childcare and enabling more than two million parents to stay in work. Current parental support structures are not always geared up for grandparents and many feel that existing networks and activities are ‘not for them.’ This means that many grandparents are less likely to engage with or use support that is available.

The Eden Project will build on its successful educational and early years provision to specifically develop sessions aimed at supporting grandparents and under-fives. As well as hosting activities and providing support through Deep Roots New Shoots sessions across the Eden Project site.

The Eden Project has been awarded £136,811 to mobilise the time and talents of 150 volunteers aged 50+ as peer educators, narrators and nature-based play facilitators. They will support grandparents and their grandchildren (aged 0-5) to explore and learn together, in particular with local families where grandparents are taking on a significant caring role, or need additional support. The learning will be disseminated to other visitor attractions and spaces, to help support more grandparents and grandchildren.

Family Action ‘National Digital Parent Support Service’

Family Action will build on its experience of successful local face-to-face befriending support for parents and families. To reach many more families, without restrictions of geography, Family Action will develop a new ‘virtual digital service’, to support families and prevent challenges from reaching crisis point; providing access to specialist information to support parents to be resilient when they face challenges. This model will focus particularly on parents experiencing mental health challenges, single parents and parents with children with additional needs

Family Action has been awarded £249,900, to allow them to mobilise the time and talents of 450 new volunteers, 350 of whom will be aged 50+. In the new digital service, volunteers will carry out a variety of roles, including through a centralised digital help desk, as well as virtual volunteers who will provide specialist advice and 1-1 befriending at a distance.


FareShare fights hunger and its underlying causes by unlocking high volumes of surplus food from the food and drinks industry.

FareShare volunteers distribute thousands of tonnes of food, that would otherwise be wasted, to charities and community groups, helping to feed almost 500,000 people each week and benefiting the environment through waste reduction.

FareShare has been awarded £177,500, to substantially grow their work through increasing their volunteer workforce, particularly increasing the number of 50+ volunteers by 1,284 people at their regional centres in six locations. This will support FareShare to provide surplus food equating to 33 million meals each year and to reach 815,000 beneficiaries each week.

Home-Start Greater Manchester 'Baby Bond'

Homestart Oldham, Stockport, and Tameside have developed a Parent-Infant Mental Health Project (PIMH), that trains volunteers to support parents experiencing poor mental health, with their 0-2 year-old infant to have a greater understanding of their child’s needs and how to meet them.

Building on this, Home-Start Greater Manchester has been awarded £284,970 to replicate this model across the Home Start Greater Manchester network, working in partnership with local health providers. Each scheme will work to develop the model and embed alongside the public services perinatal and mental health pathway suitable to that area. To do this they will mobilise the time and talents of 505 volunteers aged 50+.

Spice 'Time Credits'

Spice Time Credits is a social enterprise that has developed a unique time-based printed currency called Time Credits. They work across health and social care, housing, community development and education, supporting organisations and services to use Time Credits to achieve their outcomes. The Time Credits model is one where people can earn a printed Time Credit for each hour that they give to a service or community organisation.They can then spend this Time Credit in the organisation where they earned it or across a national Spice Time Credits spend network.

To date Spice Time Credits have shown that it is a great mechanism to activate volunteering for those least likely to volunteer.

Spice has been awarded £247,260 to expand the model in three new geographies of Westminster, Kent and Greater Manchester, with a specific focus on mobilising older and isolated individuals, particularly those on a low income and those experiencing poor health.

St John Ambulance ‘First Aid Community Advocates’

Each year in the UK, thousands of people die in situations where basic first aid could have given them the chance to live. St John’s Ambulance will grow a new role they have been trialling - First Aid Community Advocates - to target first aid knowledge and experience in the communities who could benefit most.

St John Ambulance has been awarded £249,993 to recruit, train and mobilise the time and talents of 740 volunteers, including 593 volunteers aged 50+ as First Aid Community Advocates from specific target communities, to raise awareness of the importance of first aid in their communities and teach individuals from priority groups the first aid training and skills they need. They will reach 330,000 people through 13,140 events, and engage at least 13,400 people in first aid workshops and ensure 9,600 people from vulnerable groups are trained in life-saving skills.

St Joseph’s Hospice ‘Compassionate Neighbours’

Developed and supported by St Joseph’s Hospice, Compassionate Neighbours are volunteers who offer time, friendship and emotional support to people who live near them who have a chronic or terminal illness and are experiencing loneliness or social isolation. The Hospice acts as a hub, building upon their expertise and knowledge of death, and their reputation within the community.

St Joseph’s Hospice has been awarded £233,844 to replicate the Compassionate Neighbours model in seven other hospices, in London and the South East, mobilising the time and talents of 420 50+ neighbours. The first replication will be with St Christopher’s Hospice in South East London. They will refine and codify the approach, before replicating to further sites, and establishing a London-wide network of Compassionate Neighbours.

The Access Project

The Access Project supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress to selective universities through one-to-one academic tuition with volunteer tutors and personalised university support and guidance. Volunteers meet a disadvantaged student for weekly academic ​tutorials to help lift that young person’s grades. The programme’s impact is proven: their tutoring (alongside their programme of university mentoring) almost doubles a disadvantaged young person’s chances of getting to a top third university or a Russell Group university.

The Access Project has been awarded a grant of £83,500 to grow its work to support more young people, by recruiting 150 new 50+ volunteers. It will also be using its learning to reshape its volunteer recruitment strategy to meet demand for the programme nationwide.

The Reader 'Shared Reading'

Since 2002, The Reader has pioneered the use of Shared Reading, a model that brings people together in weekly groups where stories and poems are read aloud. Facilitated by a trained Reader Leader, it is a simple yet powerful non-medical intervention that improves wellbeing, reduces social isolation and builds community resilience and connectedness.

The Reader has been awarded £270,000, to refine and grow a model to reach many more people across the North West, through a new community-led model. The Reader will mobilise the time and talents of 474 volunteers aged 50+, to establish 216 new community-led groups, and shift 53 established groups to the refined model.

V.I.Y. ‘Trade Team Mentors’

Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) challenges young people, aged 14‐24 (who are primarily not in education employment of training, or deemed at risk of leaving school and becoming NEET), to learn practical trade and building skills by committing to help fix local youth clubs and other community buildings.

Professional tradespeople volunteer their time as mentors and young people gain Entry Level City & Guilds accreditations and, where relevant/appropriate, access to employment and further training progression opportunities.

VIY has been awarded £201,000 to mobilise the time and talents of 500 trades skills mentors aged 50+, to deliver 200 new projects involving 4,000 young participants. Seventy per cent of these new projects will be located in areas where VIY has not previously worked.​

Volunteering Matters ‘Grandmentors’

The Volunteering Matters programme Grandmentors matches a young care leaver with a volunteer aged 50+ (the Grandmentor) as they transition to independence. They work to build safe, positive relationships and to act as a role model, supporter and source of positive change, supporting young care leavers to shape their lives.

Volunteering Matters has been awarded £225,000, to replicate the Grandmentorsmodel in five new local authorities, mobilising the time and talents of 522 people aged 50+ to support 582 young people. Volunteering Matters will also develop a new business model, to enable the programme to reduce costs, and attract new revenue streams to increase sustainability.