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Social movements are a powerful driver of societal change. The Social Movements for Health programme, funded by Nesta and the Dunhill Medical Trust, will support up to seven emerging social movements to grow their influence and impact on health and care. The programme will offer tailored funding, movement-building opportunities and connection to a community of social movement peers.

What do we mean by social movements for health?

Social movements for health emerge when people come together to promote or resist change in the experience of health or the systems that shape it. They unite people around a common vision and they grow networks to amplify their message and challenge society, institutions and elites to think and act differently. Often they bubble up outside formal institutions, but they can also come from within. They are often most successful when they nurture different voices and diverse interests and motivations.

For this programme, we are looking for social movements that aim to improve health or care, for example by:

  1. Improving people’s experiences of health, including with respect to a particular health condition
  2. Improving people’s experiences of the delivery of health and care services
  3. Addressing health inequalities, justice and rights issues
  4. Addressing the wider determinants of health.

What will the programme offer?

The programme will offer:

Tailored funding: We will work with successful applicants during the early stages of the programme to agree objectives and milestones that can help each movement grow and make progress towards their longer term goals. Grants of between £20,000 and £50,000 are available for up to seven social movements.

Movement-building opportunities: will be identified and provided by people with extensive experience of movement-building, such as framing, tactical development, network formation and engagement strategies.

Connection to social movement peers: The community of peers will provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded people facing similar opportunities and challenges, share ideas as well as explore opportunities for collaborative working.

The programme is informed by existing social movement research and lessons from some of the world’s most successful movements, including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and rare disease, as well as previous work on how institutions and funders can support social movements. In the spirit of social movements, the programme will be experimental and emerging. It will be shaped with participants, recognising the diverse needs of different types of social movements in their early stages of growth.

Why are we doing this?

People Powered Health is our vision for the future of health and care: a future that is for people, by people and with people. The Social Movements for Health programme represents an opportunity to think differently about how to develop and support health and wellbeing. There is untapped potential to combine the energy and dynamism of social movements with the need for radical institutional change. This creative tension between people and institutions lies at the heart of our work on People Powered Health.

Over the past two years, Nesta has conducted research and practical work on social movements, including publishing two reports (The Power of People in Movements for Health and We Change the World: What can we learn from global social movements for health?), serving as a partner on NHS England’s Health as a Social Movement programme and working alongside social movements across the country.

We believe that more can be done by funding organisations to support the growth and impact of social movements. But we also recognise that movements usually emerge organically and informally and often span multiple organisational boundaries. This requires funders to think differently and develop new approaches to collaboration, funding and support.


We are looking for groups or organisations that are in the early stages of developing a social movement to grow influence and impact on health, wellbeing or care. You will already have some momentum, for example, you will have a clear vision of the change you want to achieve and why a movement is needed. You will have started to mobilise a wider group of people, and may have already run a campaign, reframed an issue or attracted media attention.

To be considered, you must be:

  • Based in the UK
  • Involved in a social movement focused on improving health or care of people living in the UK (while we anticipate that some social movements will have global reach or aspirations, the primary focus of activity now should be in the UK)
  • Committed to actively taking part in the programme between Apr 2019 - Apr 2020, including training, workshops and events, as well as engaging in evaluation and reporting (Apr 2020 - Aug 2020) and ongoing learning.
  • Able to receive and process funds on behalf of the movement (through an existing organisation or dedicated bank account based in the UK)
  • Able to enter into an agreement with Nesta (as an individual representing an unincorporated or incorporated group).

You should have some clear ideas about what funding and support will be useful and what progress is achievable in 12 months. You should also be open to being challenged and supported as well as sharing your learning more widely - the challenges as well as the successes.

We are not able to support applications that:

  • Are still at the early idea stage and have not yet achieved some momentum (e.g. you have not yet mobilised any people, organised any events etc).
  • Are likely to increase inequality or exclusion, or otherwise have a harmful or detrimental effect on individuals.

Selection process

Participants will be selected by Nesta and Dunhill Medical Trust, with input from people with experience from a range of social movement perspectives (e.g. as participants, allies, leaders, researchers or supporters). Selection will be based on the following criteria:

  • Motivation: What issue is your social movement addressing? Who does it affect? What needs to change? What values are at the heart of your social movement?
  • Marginalised: Does the issue you are working on need more attention (e.g. resources, funding, research)? What’s been holding back the change that is needed?
  • Movement: Why do you think a social movement is needed to achieve change in this issue? What does a social movement offer over traditional change approaches?
  • Momentum: What have you done so far to grow the social movement (e.g. have you mobilised a group of people, run a campaign, reframed an issue or attracted media attention)? What support and influence have you achieved so far?
  • Measuring impact: What do you hope your movement will achieve in 12 months? How will you know if you are succeeding?
  • Membership: Why would you like to be involved in this programme? What do you hope to learn and what support do you anticipate needing? What value do you see the programme having for the success of the social movement and the people who can benefit? What would you bring to this programme as a member?

How to apply

There are three steps to the application process. The first step is to submit an expression of interest.

Expression of interest

We invite you to submit a short Expression of Interest (EOI) form by 10am on 21 December 2018.

Please note that we will be hosting a webinar on 11 Dec from 1-2pm to share information about the programme and answer questions.

We are also hosting briefing workshops across the UK in:

  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh
  • Manchester

The workshops will be a chance to hear more about the programme, meet other movements and potential collaborators, and discuss your application with the programme team.

Shortlisting development workshop

Nesta and Dunhill Medical Trust will invite a shortlisted group of applicants to a workshop on 28, 29 or 30 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will meet with the Nesta and Dunhill Medical Trust team to review and work on the ideas together. The aim of this is to foster connections across projects and support development of all the shortlisted ideas.

Full proposal

Shortlisted proposals will be invited to submit full applications by 11:59pm on 18 February 2019.

Nesta will make final decisions in collaboration with Dunhill Medical Trust and external advisors, including people with a range of perspectives on social movements.

Key dates

  • November 27 2018: Applications for expressions of interest open
  • December 11 2018: Online webinar. Listen to the recording.
  • December 13-17 2018: Briefing workshops
  • December 21 2018 at 10am: Deadline for expressions of interest
  • January 18 2019: Nesta invites full applications
  • January 28 - 30 2019: Workshops with shortlisted applicants
  • February 18 2019 at 11:59pm: Deadline for full applications
  • March 1 2019: Successful members informed
  • April 1 2019: Programme begins
  • April 2020 - August 2020: Evaluation and reporting