The Tech to Connect Challenge is looking to help civil society develop their early stage ideas for tech that enables more or better interactions between people. Tech can be alienating or divisive for those that are isolated, so we want to help civil society translate their knowledge into good ideas for new ways to connect people.

About

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The aim of the Tech to Connect Challenge is to draw out and help develop ideas enabling civil society to 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. We want to build on the technology that has been developed to connect people and find ways that tech can really make a difference in the lives of those that are removed from society.

The Challenge prize will help finalists develop their 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 financial support.

10 finalists will each receive a £25,000 grant to use in the development of their prototypes; from these 10 finalists, 2 runners up will each receive a £75,000 cash prize and 1 winner will receive a £100,000 cash prize.

Tech to Connect is part of a range of efforts to tackle the impact of social isolation and loneliness in England. These include the Government’s 2018 strategy for tackling loneliness in England  Last year the Government published ‘A connected society’. A UK first, the strategy sets out Government’s vision and its ongoing commitment to this issue, alongside some important initial policy commitments.  It recognises that Government can’t make the necessary changes alone, and sets out a powerful vision on how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society.

Challenge process

Applicants will be asked to detail a problem related to social isolation in England and their idea for how technology can help to address it. 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).

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After an initial assessment finalists will be invited to follow a programme of guided support over 5 months, including the receipt of cash grants. 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.

At the end of the 5 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 2 runners up will be selected to receive cash prizes to continue their journey (whether that’s attracting new investment, more user testing, or a market campaign to launch the product/service). 

The issue

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Loneliness and social isolation are interconnected. Often experienced, but rarely talked about. 

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.

Social isolation is distinct from loneliness, which is a related issue that affects many in our society. In 2016 to 2017, 5% of UK adults reported feeling lonely “often” or “always”. Loneliness 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. Yet we think there is space for technology to do even more to tackle social isolation specifically. That is why we are 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.

The organisers

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. Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good.

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Our Nesta Challenges team is at the forefront of identifying and defining problems where new ideas, technologies and approaches can be encouraged to radically improve outcomes and then developing and managing challenge prizes that optimise the likelihood of success. Challenge prizes are competitions which reward whoever can first, or most effectively, meet a defined challenge and we have launched prizes that include improving outcomes for Nepalese farmers, improving access to energy for refugees, and the £10m Longitude Prize for antimicrobial resistance.

Funded by

Nesta Challenges is delivering the prize for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The Tech To Connect Challenge will play a direct role in driving innovation as set out in the cross-government Civil Society Strategy, in which the government committed to exploring what more can be done to harness the power of technology to address complex social issues. In particular, Government is committed to exploring how civil society can take better advantage of technological innovations to help solve some of the most pressing social challenges, such as loneliness and social isolation.

This Challenge also delivers against commitments made in ‘A connected society’, the government’s first strategy for tackling loneliness in England. This Strategy recognises that the government can’t make the necessary changes alone, and sets out a powerful vision on how we can all play a role in building a more socially connected society. The Tech To Connect Challenge will deliver on the objectives of both government strategies by encouraging participating organisations to focus on tackling social isolation using tech innovation.

Partners

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Forster Communications helps organisations to turn their social change ambitions into reality. Their strategic communications services tackle the barriers that are preventing progress and they create tangible value for their clients, their stakeholders and society. Forster works for businesses and charities, and brings them together to accelerate change. Founding UK B Corp and winner of 2019 edie’s Consultancy of the Year award, they bring a unique heritage of experience, insights and connections across social issues and deliver a lasting positive impact.

Contact

Any questions about the Challenge can be directed to: techtoconnect@nesta.org.uk