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.

To succeed, Nesta must excel in five areas: people and culture, innovation expertise, risk-tolerant capital, convening power, and focus and flexibility.

People and culture

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The primary determinant of our success is the quality and diversity of the people we attract, retain and recruit, and the culture in which we work.

We seek to attract talented people to form high-performing teams in a culture that is diverse and inclusive. We are committed to increasing representation of staff from minoritised and lower socio-economic backgrounds at all levels, and to becoming a stand-out employer for the development opportunities we provide. This includes developing expertise in our disciplines and methods to a degree normally associated with top consultancies or academic training; a feedback-rich culture; opportunities to build an outstanding network; and career progression opportunities, both within and outside of Nesta.

Our shared culture will be reinforced through who we hire and promote, how we reward success and failure, the stories we tell and the routines we share.

Our shared culture is built around four values:

  • We are impact-led - We have ambitious goals and we are pragmatic about how we achieve them. We know when to be rigorous, and when to be scrappy. We put our purpose above our egos.
  • We are inquisitive - We find no idea too laughable, or too boring. We constantly invite challenge while being kind in our critiques. We have an unquenchable thirst to learn and to stretch ourselves.
  • We are incisive - We follow our hunches but are ready to pivot. We like to make abstract ideas as concrete as possible. We know when to aim for good enough or perfect.
  • We are inclusive - We shape our ideas with those who are impacted by our work. We make our work accessible to all. We love debate and disagreement but collectively own our decisions.

Innovation expertise

Tackling the big societal challenges faced by the UK will require us to draw on a range of innovation methods, bringing the best of each to bear. Drawing on each method in the right way at the right time will generate more grounded, more creative, more rigorous and, ultimately, more effective ideas and solutions. Nesta’s approach to innovation builds on deep expertise in data science, design, behavioural science, arts, collective intelligence and experimental research, brought together in multidisciplinary teams. This will be enriched by diverse perspectives and the varied expertise of academics, practitioners and those with lived experience of the issues we seek to address.

Risk-tolerant capital

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We will use our endowment strategically to take risks, make big bets and scale what works. For early-stage work, we will primarily look to use our own resources, or those of others (foundations and governments) who are prepared to deploy money for exploratory, high-risk work. For taking solutions to scale, we aim to influence mainstream public service funding or regulation, or create (or shift) business models that are self-financing.

We see an important role for invested capital to play in achieving our missions, and will continue to invest portions of Nesta’s endowment to support new and early-stage ventures. We will create and invest in new ventures through our Venture Studio and will continue to invest in early-stage, growing companies through Nesta Impact Investments, which has established a strong track record over almost two decades of investment activity. We will continue to lead the way in arts and culture finance, including through our ongoing commitment to the Arts and Culture Impact Fund.

Convening power

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Everything we aim to achieve in this strategy demands close collaboration with a range of partners, particularly our aspirations to drive change at scale. Convening powerful coalitions requires Nesta to demonstrate credibility, maintain a strong external reputation and cultivate sustained, trusted relationships. Leveraging our independence, resources and reputation, we will form unique cross-sector coalitions in support of our missions, and will continue to stimulate and challenge with novel collaborations.

Focus and flexibility

Achieving greater focus by aligning Nesta’s work around three missions is at the heart of this strategy – enabling us to bring the best of Nesta to bear on our missions, and to see innovations all the way through to scale. At the same time, remaining alive to new ideas, themes and opportunities (along with intellectual curiosity and playfulness) is part of Nesta’s DNA, and can unearth new approaches and areas of work that will magnify impact over time.

To balance our increased focus with flexibility, we will:

  • Actively pursue specific areas of exploration within our missions, giving us the opportunity to potentially change focus over time as we learn more.
  • Systematically scan for emerging trends, technologies and interventions through Nesta’s new Discovery Hub, helping us to anticipate and respond to shifts in the external landscape. The hub will also create dedicated space for exploratory work, test the potential of novel ideas and methods, and build and share intelligence on the cutting edge of innovation.
  • Ensure we allocate resources flexibly over time in pursuit of fixed goals, informed by rigorous measurement and evaluation, and supported by a culture that is obsessed with impact, celebrates good failures and is ready and willing to pivot.

Our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion

Alongside this strategy, we have committed to nine measurable goals to advance equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) through our work and within our workplace. These goals range from the diversity of our staff, the culture of our organisation and how we measure the impact of our work, to how we use our innovation capabilities to help close the evidence gap and advance ED&I efforts globally. We use leading metrics and evidence-based practices to substantiate our goals, as detailed in our ED&I strategy.

We have more to do to become a more inclusive innovator and employer. As we strive to achieve the nine goals, we intend to share publicly our learnings, failings, questions and progress. We will invite collaboration and challenge as we commit to the shared goal of greater ED&I in our organisation, both in the field of innovation for social good and in society.