The aim of the Tech to Connect Challenge is to draw out and help develop ideas that can help combat social isolation using technology. This can be by developing new ways for people, or the organisation itself, to interact with others. By lending the right assistance to organisations that know the problem of isolation best, the hope is that technology can be targeted properly and delivered in a way that best reflects the needs of its users. The challenge prize will help finalists develop their new ideas into working prototypes and plan for their implementation. The £1 million prize will be split into £500,000 of business support from Nesta Challenges with the other £500,000 being awarded as cash prizes to the best entrants.
Finalists will receive cash grants to use in the development of their prototypes; from these finalists, two runners up will each receive a £75,000 cash prize and one winner will receive a £100,000 cash prize.
We see social isolation as “being deprived of social relationships that provide positive feedback and are meaningful to the individual”. Social isolation is measured by the strength of a person’s social connections, and therefore the lack of these connections denotes social isolation. It’s distinct from loneliness, which is a “subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship”. In an age of social media, there has never been more technology that connects us with one another. Though we think there’s space for technology to do more. That’s why we’re looking to civil society – England’s charities, social enterprises and social ventures – for new ideas of tech for good. The Tech To Connect Challenge will give these organisations the resources they need to bring their innovative ideas to life.
Applicants will be asked to detail a problem related to social isolation in England and their idea for how technology can help to addressit. The solutions can be direct (‘this is how we plan to change the interactions between people’) or indirect (this is how we plan to improve the service we offer people face-to-face).
After an initial assessment, seven finalists will be invited to follow a programme of guided support over five months. During this time they will conduct further user research, design and develop a prototype and a plan for its implementation, then develop a working prototype of the technology. The finalists will be expected to submit the design of their prototype, the plan for its implementation (in whichever way best reflects the idea) and a summary of any user research conducted before progressing to the development and testing of their prototype. During the development phase they will be given the resources to develop, test and refine their idea as much as possible.
At the end of the five months, the finalists will present their prototypes and plans for implementation to the judges at an event held to showcase their progress. One winner and two runner ups will be selected to receive cash prizes to continue their journey.