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.

Mass Localism

This discussion paper presents a way to help small communities solve big social challenges.

This discussion paper presents a way to help small communities solve big social challenges.

Key findings:

  • Top down initiatives have struggled to make an impact on many of the complex issues facing us today. 
  • Policymakers need an alternative that combines local action and national scale, an approach we call ‘mass localism’.
  • Mass localism costs less and has more potential for lasting impact that traditional approaches 
  • This report represents five principles, which could create more opportunities for communities to take the lead on addressing major social challenges.

Policymakers increasingly recognise that many of the solutions to major social challenges – from tackling climate change to improving public health – need to be much more local. Local solutions are frequently very effective, as they reflect the needs of specific communities and engage citizens in taking action. And they are often cost-effective, since they provide a conduit for the resources of citizens, charities or social enterprises to complement those of the state. Given the growing pressure on government finances, these are important benefits.


But localism presents a dilemma. Government has traditionally found it difficult to support genuine local solutions while achieving national impact and scale.


This report offers a solution: an approach by which central and local government can encourage widespread, high quality local responses to big challenges. The approach draws on the lessons of Nesta’s Big Green Challenge – a successful programme to support communities to reduce carbon emissions.



Laura Bunt and Michael Harris


Laura Bunt

Laura Bunt

Laura Bunt

Lead Policy Advisor, Public and Social Innovation

Laura was Nesta'’s lead policy advisor for public and social innovation until November 2013. She joined Nesta's Policy and Research team in 2009 focusing on social innovation and innov…

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