Innovation In Giving

Innovation in Giving

Building a Culture of Giving

WWF-UK and Scope came together to explore whether the way in which they each fundraise could impact on their donors’ willingness to support the work of the other charity.  So, for example, might it be that the way in which WWF-UK engages its supporters around conservation has an effect on the level of concern that those same supporters express about disability?

This is a very important – and overlooked – question. Could it be that some approaches to fundraising – while perhaps effective for an individual organisation – actually serve to erode concern for other charitable causes? Conversely, might it be possible to identify approaches to fundraising which actually strengthen donors’ motivation to support the work of other charities? And in this, how might a fundraising communication, optimised for strengthening wider concern, impact on a charity’s own fundraising objectives?

Working with social psychologists Greg Maio at the University of Cardiff and Netta Weinstein at the University of Essex, we predicted that an understanding of cultural values, and the way in which a particular fundraising communication engages with these, would have an effect on motivation to support a wide range of social and environmental causes.

To test this, we designed a trial in which we re-engaged lapsed Scope and WWF-UK supporters through regular text giving. We designed material which engaged a particularly ‘intrinsic’ set of values. Intrinsic values relate to connection to other people and to nature, a sense of helpfulness and community. Some supporters were provided with this material, some with ‘business as usual material’, and some with control material.

First, we examined the effectiveness of this material in re-engaging lapsed supporters.

Encouragingly, both lapsed WWF-UK and lapsed Scope supporters were more likely to re-engage when they were given material designed to connect with intrinsic values. This result seems to confirm the argument advanced by the academics with whom we are working: values matter in motivating giving.

But what about those supporters’ concern about other issues?

The trial still has six months to run, so we don’t yet know the answer to this question. As I write this, we are just finishing off the first of our ‘cross-sell’ tests: calling up all the participants in the trial and asking them if they would like to donate to Scope, and vice-versa.  As can be imagined, this is a test which runs against the grain for many fundraisers – and it certainly couldn’t have happened without Nesta’s support! We’ll be able to report on the results of this trial over the coming months.

Fundraising communications are crucially important in shaping most people’s attitudes towards giving, and even their response to social and environmental problems more generally. It is essential, therefore, to take time to step outside the competitive framework of our individual charities and ask: what wider effects are our fundraising communications having? The Innovation in Giving Fund offered us the opportunity to do this – so far as we know, in the first ever collaboration between WWF-UK and Scope!

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Posted by Helen on December 2, 2013

Innovation in Giving

Our first Open Innovation skills sharing evening!

Over the past 18 months, Age UK has been part of the Nesta Open Innovation Programme working to develop our first Open Innovation product. Along the way it has been a journey of trials and tribulations. We have challenged our way of thinking. We have had to relook at our initial ideas and go back to the drawing board on more than one occasion.

Through all of this we have worked hard with our Open Innovation Coach Kim and Nesta’s Alice Casey to explore different options. We have also developed partnerships with Ecomodo and Age UK Bromley and Greenwich to create our Age UK Bromley and Greenwich Wealth of Experience circle. From all this hard work and amazing partnerships we were able to host our first Open Innovation skills sharing evening!

Last Thursday one of our Age UK volunteers taught two supporters to knit for the first time. The evening was hosted in a local restaurant where food and drink was shared. Our new knitters were quite excited to learn came armed with lots of patterns, needles and wool. Their ambition and excitement almost got the better of them and was agreed we would start with a simple cat blanket and simpler jumper. The group have agreed to meet our Age UK volunteer over the course of the next few weeks to help the projects progress.

The Age UK supporters were thrilled to be part of the Age UK Bromley and Greenwich Wealth of Experience knowing that while they are learning to knit they are also able to help an older person. They found out about the programme through the Ecomodo site and are looking forward to try other skills sharing activities. They are also eager to become volunteers to help an older person in their community either through the skills sharing platform or their local Age UK.

This is the first of many Open Innovation skills sharing projects that we hope to showcase over the next few months.

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Posted by Helen on December 1, 2013

Innovation in Giving

Guest Post from Roland Harwood – 100% Open

Open Innovation: A U-Shaped Process


The Open Innovation in Giving Programme aims to enable charities to use successful approaches to open innovation (that are increasingly common in commercial organisations such as LEGO, Procter and Gamble and Orange) to accelerate innovations in giving time, money and resource.

As Paul Vanags at Oxfam has said previously that “Open Innovation is a U-Shaped Process.” by which he means it’s fun at the beginning when you are having ideas and meeting new people, and fun at the end when you are delivering new value, but it’s generally difficult in the middle when you have two or more organisations pulling in different directions, operating at different speeds, with only a partial proposition in place.

We are now at the half way point of this programme, which is arguably the most difficult point, and so we were keen to share some of the challenges and learnings to date including:


  1. Don’t underestimate the capacity required – open innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The majority of charities have found it hard to add this project to business as usual and this has could result in conflicting priorities and slippage of milestones.
  2. Complement any lack of skills and experience - whilst open innovation skills can be learnt, with tight timescales and a new project it creates challenges for effective project delivery, which is why we have allocated experienced open innovation coaches to each project.
  3. Momentum is mandatory - The charities have at times struggled with the short time scales, however it has also helped to focus and galvanise the partnerships.
  4. Not invented here – Getting internal buy in for open innovation early is so important else you run the risk of the organisation rejecting ideas which come from outside. Whilst the majority of charities now have the support of their senior teams and stakeholders, it has required time and effort for charities, coaches and Nesta to ensure the right stakeholders support the project.
  5. Lack of data and benchmarks – Some of the charities lacking data about their supporters, and/or the skills to interrogate the data to draw robust conclusions.
  6. Developing authentic partnerships - several charities have struggled to truly develop open innovation – the nature of several partnerships is transactional rather than ‘open’ – and have at time needed reminding of the aspirations they set themselves so as not to allow operational constraints dilute the initial project ideas.


All of the charities have gained new skills and learnt a considerable amount during the programme to date. The key areas of learning are listed below.


  • The importance of the strategic direction of the project and being really clear on the outcomes required before getting into the detail of the idea.
  • Open innovation takes time – you have to take time to develop networks before you need them.
  • The importance of flexibility to respond to new insights and changing audience needs.
  • To be realistic about risk at each stage of the project planning.
  • The value and importance of not making assumptions but gaining real insight and listening to audiences.


Conclusion and next steps


Notwithstanding all of the challenges we are not aware of many other examples of large charities embracing open innovation in the same way, so to some extent there are no benchmarks and these charities are breaking new ground.

Open Innovation is hard and it does not necessarily come quickly, cheaply or easily. All of the charities have found it challenging and yet are learning a new way of working and developing a new culture and style to deliver this project.

As with all innovation, across this portfolio of projects we are confident there will be both some fantastic achievements but also further struggles, and will continue to share and learn from both their successes and failures, and collectively aim to maximize the unique opportunities that the Open Innovation in Giving Programme provides.

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Posted by Helen on August 9, 2013

Innovation in Giving, Innovation in Giving

“The biscuit trick”- should schools pay our kids to achieve?

Michael Simpson, Year Here

There’s something funny about watching a child’s eyes light up at the sound of the word “biscuit”. From a disgruntled Year 10 pupil to a hysterical, chair-throwing, limb-flailing Year 8 – I’ve watched the offer of a biscuit solve even the most turbulent situations. The modern carrot-and-stick technique, “the biscuit trick” is often a last-resort strategy in the ‘inclusion unit’ at Hatch End High School in Harrow. Simple yet effective, an artfully dispensed chocolate digestive or custard cream can often be enough to calm, distract or motivate kids in the difficult throes of adolescence. It begs the question, if a sugary mesh of butter and flour can do this much, how far could larger rewards, or even financial incentives go towards motivating disadvantaged youngsters and narrowing the gaps in educational achievement across the UK?

A major study by Stephen Gorard of the University of Birmingham recently concluded that bribing children from poor homes with cash rewards to attend school, do their homework and read books is the most effective way to improve their exam results. In a review of more than 165,000 research studies and journal articles, it was found that dangling financial carrots (or biscuits) is a more effective way of increasing the success of disadvantaged students than other large-scale initiatives aimed at raising aspirations.

Working as a learning mentor at a secondary school, it doesn’t take long to notice “the biscuit trick” manifesting itself in a number of ways. From stickers, drinks and chocolate to the Vivo Miles system, in which students can gain credits towards getting prizes including iPods- incentives are everywhere.

The notion behind this technique is simple. If children receive incentives for a certain behaviour or goal, they are more likely to achieve that goal.

Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr ran a test among 18,000 children in cities across the US, paying out a total of $6.3 million in financial incentives. Fryer found that when cash is given for something every student could control, like reading books or attending class, the results are better than when they were rewarded for more intangible tasks, like achieving better grades. Basically, kids know how to attend school, limit bad behaviour, and read more books but they don’t always know how to improve test results and develop their skills.

Giving financial rewards has been said to pose a number of risks. The University of Rochester’s Edward Deci’s experiments in the 1970s found that money-like other tangible rewards- was not a brilliant motivator in the long term. When material rewards were taken away, the acts that they had been rewarding in the first place often diminished, arguably reducing the intrinsic value of the task itself. Some teachers have argued that rewarding children for what they should be motivated to do anyway is a dangerous game to play.

Rather than just look at financial incentives, we could cast an eye over the popularised ‘nudge’ theory- the idea that some people can be pushed to behave in certain ways through emphasising ‘social norms’. Or perhaps we could deploy the notion of semantic priming- the idea that the words that we use can have a major impact on the way that the human unconscious influences conscious actions. It can all sound very daunting, but with some positive peer pressure, gentle framing of language to encourage educational engagement, and the possibility of small financial incentives for those who are most disadvantaged, we could arrive at a more positive horizon for educational disadvantage that isn’t dependent on a one-tiered approach.

While more good research needs to be done on the effects of incentives, particularly financial ones, real impact must be made in addressing educational disadvantage that looks beyond a one-pronged quick fix solution. As Fryer says, ‘Kids should learn for the love of learning…but what if they’re not?’. From my experience the “biscuit trick” works, but it surely shouldn’t be the only one up our sleeve.

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Posted by Lynette on May 22, 2013

Innovation in Giving

Money for Good

Jen Lexmond

Last Thursday Nesta hosted the launch of the UK’s largest ever survey into donor motivations. The research was conducted by New Philanthropy Capital and published in their report Money for Good.

A few of the key findings:

  • There is opportunity to increase the size of the pie. The UK public would give £665m— nine times as much as was raised by Comic Relief’s most recent Red Nose Day  —more to charity every year if organisations provided more information about the things they care about, such as how their money is spent and evidence of impact.
  • But the giving culture      in the UK is weak. Less than half of donors think people should      donate to charity if they have the means. This figure is based on a sample      of those who gave over £50 in the last year, which is only around four in      ten people in the total population. The sense of duty to donate may be      even lower in those who donate at a lower level or not at all.
  • Donors are loyal in      their key charity relationships. 70% of mainstream      donors have given for the last three years to the organisation where they      made their largest donation, and 90% intend to give to the same      organisation next year.
  • Donors care about      impact.      Three in five pay close or extremely close attention to how their donation      will be used. Donors say they pay little attention to being thanked for      their donation.

In addition to producing a range of findings about levels and approach to giving money and time, the researchers also developed a new segmentation model, crucially based on motivations to giving rather than standard demographic profiles. We know, for example, that it is a better starting point for designing a fundraising approach to ask ‘what do you care about more – giving to a cause you identify with, or knowing that your money is making the most impact possible?’ than it is to ask ‘what region of the UK do you live in, and what is your gender?’. Although there are some differences in giving according to demographics, it is likely that these differences originate from aggregate differences in motivation to give across these groups. The evidence suggests that segmentations will be more accurate if driven by data on motivations rather than demographics.

For me, the key outcome of the event was the clear consensus that we the success of this research is predicated on the successful application of findings into practice. Everyone recognised need for more experimentation – taking the segmentation model developed and making it live by using real donor data from charity fundraising teams to segment real donor populations, and creating new marketing materials that speak to the motivations and interests of each group. Taking an experimental approach to such work would allow us to quickly and cost effectively test new approaches to increasing giving. The trend towards open data will certainly help. For example, the cost of acquiring new users is coming down as available knowledge about users’ interests and attitudes increases through social media.

Social media also allows new approaches to targeting influential donors through network analysis, as Nick Mason, Head of Fundraising Strategy & Development at RNIB, shared on the panel in his response to the research findings. You could imagine designing a fundraising or volunteering strategy that targeted people at the centre of social networks – the social lynchpins you might say – using what we know about the power of peer suggestion in motivating giving and volunteering behaviour. If these central figures can be targeted accurately and effectively, they will exert their influence on the network around them, effectively taking on some of the work of generating new users that a traditional fundraising team would be responsible for.

At Nesta, our aims in delivering the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund, are to invest in, support and grow innovative ideas that bring about a step-change in levels of giving and exchange and which have a credible route to being self-sustaining in the longer term. A major part of our approach has been to bring about a greater understanding of what motivates people to give, testing that out on the ground through the work of our many awardees. We have particularly found the role of reciprocity & reward, personal networks, and collective social action important motivating factors in giving, as well as seeing a central role for technology in reducing barriers to giving and creating smoother giving journeys. The rigorous and wide-scale survey work that NPC has conducted brings an important additional perspective to the insights we have developed. We’ll be continuing to pursue ways to bridge the research and practice divide, making the findings as relevant and practical as possible for the charity sector.

A summary of social media activity around the launch can be found here.

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Posted by Lynette on March 25, 2013

Innovation in Giving

The Open Innovation Programme, journey so far

Nicole Wilkinson

I recently had the pleasure of meeting staff from the 10 charities that are being supported through the Open Innovation Programme as part of the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund to officially launch phase two of the programme.

Whilst the focus of the phase two event was firmly upon looking forward and ensuring effective delivery of the exciting and ambitious innovations that have been developed, the launch of phase two also provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on some of the learning from the development phase (phase one.)

During the course of phase one, all charities kept individual learning logs to capture key developments and reflections. Whilst these are only simple tools, they have yielded some interesting insights that, in the spirit of the programme and Nesta’s commitment to legibility, it felt valuable to share. This is by no means an exhaustive list but covers off some of the main themes that came back:

1.Open innovation is a relatively new process for many in the charity sector: Open innovation is relatively established in the commercial sector, with companies such as Kraft Foods Collaboration Kitchen being regularly cited as leading examples. However, whilst the 28 charities selected onto phase one of the programme demonstrated a genuine appetite for open innovation, this was a new methodology and way of working for nearly all of them – 64% of charities participating in the programme defined themselves as having little or no organisational experience of open innovation at the start of phase one.

This meant that for many charities, significant time investment was required to build internal buy-in, commitment and overcome (understandable) reticence about discussing giving challenges with external organisations and developing collaborative solutions to these challenges that share the risk and reward.

Encouragingly, by the end of phase one, 68% of charities defined themselves as having significant skills in open innovation, with 5% defining themselves as expert with the role of programme support identified as central in developing this (see point 2.)

2. The value of having the space, legitimacy and agency to innovate: 86% of charities defined the phase one process as very valuable for them. Within this, what emerges strongly from the qualitative insight is the value charities gained through the phase one process providing them with the legitimacy and agency needed to justify spending time working on longer term innovation. In particular, the feedback centered upon the support of a dedicated coach and Nesta enabling:

  • staff members to have new types of conversation internally – sometimes quite challenging ones – to address internal barriers
  • bring together sometimes quite disparate teams to collaborate around shared organisational giving challenges
  • the space to look outside of their organisation and engage new partners

3.     The open innovation journey is rarely linear: It’s a cliché but one that certainly appears to be borne out in phase one. We asked charities to record their confidence in achieving their phase one objectives on a monthly basis over the course of phase one. At the aggregate level across the charities in the portfolio, 95% of charities self-defined as having mostly or completely achieved the phase one objectives they had set and we see a steady increase in open innovation skills and confidence over the course of phase – which is clearly in line with what we would expect.

However, when delving into the detail of individual charity journey’s, it’s obvious that aggregate trends mask significant differences. For some, there is steady upward trend in confidence. However for others, a graphical representation of their levels of confidence over the course of phase one shows a more challenging journey with notable peaks and troughs as charities really unpacked their giving challenges and began to develop collaborative solutions to them, often through several very different iterations.

In addition, we observed that charities were often running several components of the open innovation process concurrently, rather than in linear progression. Both of these points reflect key learning from open innovation case studies in the commercial sector and that the phase two portfolio contains charities with varied innovation journey’s feels very valuable to the next stage of the programme.

4.     A flexible approach is vital: This applies both to Nesta’s model of delivery support and to the behaviour needed from charities. In particular, over the course of phase one, we saw charities explore a number of giving challenges and a number of emerging partnerships / consortiums develop to address these.

Some of these consortia grew legs and formed the basis of developing collaborative solutions. Others came together to explore challenges and ideas, before deciding to go their separate ways – often because organisation’s didn’t feel they had the right skills and experience to add value to where conversations were heading.

This birth, re-birth and sometimes death of risk/reward-sharing partnerships is inherent in the open innovation process and can be where a significant proportion of the value is derived from. Charities fed back that even if partnerships didn’t gain traction, the process of sharing ideas with a range of partners was often useful in broadening horizons and adding fresh perspectives. However, this requires flexibility to ‘ride out’ the journey which can present challenges in keeping stakeholders and internal decision makers engaged with the progress of the programme.

5.     Time can be a challenge and a motivating factor: The phase one process ran from early July through to mid-October, presenting a relatively short timeframe in which to cover significant ground, which we acknowledged from the outset may be challenging. The feedback from charities on this has been interesting – several charities have stated that a relatively ambitious, time-bound project proved useful in generating and sustaining momentum for innovation and reducing barriers such as extended internal sign-off periods, accelerating review processes and necessitating disparate team coming together.

So what does this mean for phase two?

So, as we set our eyes firmly on phase two, we have tried to incorporate this learning into the design and structure of programme support. This includes:

  • Running more flexible support workshops
  • Ramping up the support and coaching provision for charities in phase two
  • Continuing to run networking events bringing together a range of charities, social businesses, start-ups and social enterprise to provide space for collaboration
  • Supporting continued learning and sharing within the cohort and with the wider sector

I look forward to updating you on progress…..

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Innovation in Giving

Small Business Saturday: what about every day?

Theo Keane

Last week Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, called for the UK to adopt a US initiative ‘Small Business Saturday’, which once a year urges consumers to shop at local independent stores. And in a poll taken by the Guardian last week (January 2nd), an overwhelming majority of respondents (83%) thought it was a good idea.

I agree with them, it’s a very good idea. It offers a small but simple and effective way to celebrate local businesses and the hugely important role they play in our communities. From local communities to the more ambiguous ‘shared interest’ communities, there are inspiring examples of people encouraging local enterprise and social action: from London currency Brixton Pound to the GoodGym’s ‘runners that do good’

But here at Nesta we’re looking to go much further. Soon, we are going to launch a programme which will bring businesses and civil society groups together in new ways; exploring new modes of giving and exchanging time, resources and skills and celebrating partnerships where acting together, locally, is business-as-usual.

We want to encourage businesses to support their community in new ways, as well as asking communities to support their local businesses.

In researching and scoping the programme we’ve discovered an extremely crowded landscape. There is considerable work going on across all sectors to understand the levels and modes of SMEs contributing to their local communities, to structure the thinking around effective engagement policy and practice. There are a lot of dedicated people out there.

But what is apparent is that the brokerage system between sectors is fragmented into myriad organisations that are difficult to navigate and understand, and that employee contribution to their local communities is unknown or under-recognised by employers, particularly if it is inconsistent with the core giving agenda of the business.

What we need to do to have real impact is to make business giving and its relationship to the development of flourishing communities much more accessible, visible, relevant to and aligned with local needs and aspirations.

Digital technologies and new approaches to business giving are beginning to address this brokerage gap, and I’m privileged and excited to have recently met, and now be involved with, a collection of inspiring innovations that have emerged from the IIG second call for ideas. C, Give What You’re Good At, GoodPeople, Women Like Us and Young Philanthropy represent a diverse portfolio of projects with one common ambition: make it easier for businesses and their employees to connect with impact to the causes that they care about.

Nesta is delighted to be working with Young Philanthropy. Its model introduces young professionals between the ages of 21 and 35 to a career of giving and develops their potential as leading philanthropists. The foremost initiative is the YP Syndicate that enables these young professionals to pool their money, time and skills and invest in compelling charity projects, with the matched funding of experienced philanthropists.

Give What You’re Good At is an online platform gaining significant traction from all quarters. It matches professionals who want to give and share their skills with ambitious non-profit organisations that need them for less than five hours a week. Likewise, GoodPeople is an operating system upon which pro-bono and skills-based volunteering programmes can be run. It is a website and mobile technology that will closely match talented people with exciting opportunities to work with civil society organisations based on their skills, causes and location.

Women Like Us is a multi-award winning social enterprise that provides support to women in finding work that they are able to fit into family life. Its career swapshop will enable a sharing network and build social connections between mothers in London who need family-friendly careers. And most recently C, an online social marketplace for giving and volunteering, made possible by individual giving accounts which are funded in innovative ways. Individuals can give time and money to the charities and initiatives of their choice, using a personal ‘C account’ funded by money from government, employers and commercial product and service providers.

These platforms highlight a need and an appetite for new mechanisms and solutions to bridge the gap between the private and third sectors. We can learn a great deal from them, and we will assess their impact on addressing barriers to increased giving; stimulate their adoption and adaptation in different contexts, expand the variety of models and mechanisms that might bring closer working partnerships, as well as gaining deeper insights into giving practices by a younger generation of business professionals.

One immediate reflection is that all of these innovations enable a bottom-up approach: an opening up of the giving framework whereby employees are more empowered and rewarded for giving to the causes that they care about. This is an important development if on the one hand we want to coordinate the exchange of business capacity with community need, and catalyse increased and new forms of business giving on the other. Watch this space.

Through supporting the projects in the business giving portfolio and delivering a wider programme of activity (details to follow), one of the key questions that I will address is what effective infrastructure models can be identified that mobilise and sustain charitable giving by businesses at a local level? Our programme will endeavour to uncover innovations that answer that question, or at least propose new possibilities for a world in which businesses are energised and recognised for their contribution to the economic and social development of communities through transformational new approaches and cross-sector initiatives.


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Innovation in Giving

The Rise of Behavioural Insights

Jen Lexmond

For the last two years, the Behavioural Insights Team at the Cabinet Office has been working to apply insights from behavioural sciences and economics to a range of public and social policy challenges – thus taking many years’ worth of academic research and hauling it into the realm of practical application. Recently I’ve been to two events – one, the launch of the Behavioural Design Lab (a partnership between Warwick Business School and Design Council), and two, a recent Which? workshop exploring how to better ground regulatory policy in the behaviour of ‘real consumers’ – that suggest the approach is beginning to spread beyond government and into the territory of regulators, designers, and innovators. As part of the Innovation in Giving Fund, we are also interested in how to apply behavioural insights to better understand motivations and behaviour around giving and reciprocal exchange.

Taking the realm of economics as a way into this discussion, here our traditional understanding of human behaviour has been based on a theoretical model – people are conceived of as ‘utility maximisers’, where utility is understood as a function of consumption. In other words, decisions are based entirely on getting the most stuff for our money. This principle of human motivation is the underlying rationale for our entire economic system.

But when we look at real, human behaviour, it’s all the other stuff – time, mental exertion, social norms – that shape our decisions just as much. We function within ‘bounded rationality’ – limited by the amount of time available to us to make a decision, our patience to sort through complicated options and weigh up pros and cons, our ability to successfully defer instant gratification to make the best long-term decision, and the information that we have about the decision we’re making.

The problem is that our entire policy and regulatory system is based on the model, not the reality. It’s how the myriad of choices that the mass majority of us make have been dubbed ‘irrational’ and therefore ignored.

Two examples from the Behavioural Insights Team that I really like include:

Government subsidised insulation in attempts to incentivise more people to insulate their lofts. According to ‘rational choice theory’, people should have taken up the offer. But no one did. Why? It’s not that people didn’t want to save money (not to mention do their bit to protect the environment) but more than that, they didn’t want to go up to their lofts and spend hours clearing out old boxes in order to make room for the installation – it was just too much of a hassle. Under the current system, this would be considered ‘irrational’ behaviour, and hence not captured in the model. But in basing a policy in a genuine understanding of human behaviour and motivation, new solutions can be found. In this case, it was designing an installation service that included a complimentary clear out of your loft and delivery of unwanted goods to the charity shop. Suddenly, the take up rose significantly.

Another great example is the way that social norms and peer pressure shapes our decisions – another area entirely unaccounted for by rational choice theory. In pushing people to complete their tax returns, reminder letters are often sent out, and often ignored. But in a new approach letters were sent out that stated the percentage of people in your neighbourhood/county/city who had already completed theirs. In seeing that the majority of your neighbours and peers had fulfilled their responsibility, people were compelled to take action. The desire to stick with the herd, and not be the odd one out, is strong. Communicating this information to others had a significant and sharp impact on number of completions, saving huge amounts of money.

In the separate, but related, field of charitable giving, we see that human behaviour is governed not just by a desire to make the biggest impact with a donation or volunteered time, but also a desire to forge and develop meaningful relationships, build our sense of identity, share with others, win a reward, or just have fun. A couple examples of the behavioural insight approach being used in practice in this space include:

  • Brixton Pound, New Economics Foundation and Dr David Reinstein at the University of Essex are testing out how the use of a complementary currency and different incentives can increase donations and local giving. Called Payroll Local, it takes an experimental approach and draws on insights from behavioural economics.
  • Professor Peter John at University College London are using RCTs to test what mechanisms are effective in recruiting volunteers here in the UK to support a variety of different causes, from assisting older people in their homes to reducing bullying in schools.

And we’re always on the lookout for more opportunities to use behavioural approaches to test out and build our understanding of the most effective ways to increase giving – so keep watching this space.

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Innovation in Giving

IIG Christmas Party

Helen Goulden

Monday night saw the gathering of nearly 200 people involved in the Innovation in Giving Fund.  We celebrated the participants who are going through to the next Phase of the Open Innovation Programme, and Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd, trailed our new work in the field of business giving and how we will be supporting innovative new approaches to creating greater impact and sustainability within volunteer centres.

It was great to see how much energy there is for all participants across the fund to engage with each other. Charities large and small, small start-ups, businesses, social enterprises – all working toward a collective goal to increase giving in huge variety of ways.  The Year of Giving blog sets out a little the plans for next year, and there will be much more to say about this in early 2013.

As 2013 comes to a close, a huge, enormous thanks to everyone who has made the Fund work. Our tireless selection panel who have often gone above and beyond the call of duty to support the fund, the Cabinet Office for making it possible of course and all the fund’s awardees, who are showing us just exactly what  Innovations in Giving look like.

See you all in 2013

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Innovation in Giving

Trading For Good

Theo Keane

At the Business in the Community AGM last week, Kay Allen OBE was named as a game changer, and it is very well deserved.

I came to know Kay whilst researching and scoping the business giving programme as part of the Innovation in Giving Fund. Kay is the founder of Trading for good, a free to use social media platform designed to showcase the good work that small businesses do in their community.

Small businesses set up their own profile page on the Trading for good site where they can upload details of their responsible business activities, helping them to secure consumer loyalty and competitive advantage. It aims to encourage SMEs to be more socially responsible, demonstrating that good business practice can help grow profits.

It fits a different and important niche.

We know that small businesses make up an ever increasing proportion of the private sector, and play a hugely important role in the areas in which they operate.

What we don’t know is the different levels and types of giving and exchange; there is very little known data on the behaviours of SMEs in the local giving space. In fact that has been the fundamental challenge that I’ve faced in designing the business giving programme.

Trading for good fills a critical gap and it will be an important part of the forthcoming programme. We are proud to be supporting the platform with a grant from the Cabinet Office, which will be matched by funding and resource from Santander.

I’m really looking forward to working with Kay and her team in 2013 to utilise Nesta’s reach and influence and ensure that Trading for good fulfills its potential as a real game changer.

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Innovation in Giving

The Case for Slow Volunteering…

Helen Goulden

One of the assumptions that are lot of us make when thinking about ways of encouraging more people to volunteer is that people don’t have enough time to get involved. That the pressures of a 21st Century life mean that we are time poor; with jam-packed lives that squeeze out certain kinds of activities.

As someone who shuttles daily between work, the school gate, and suffers the 1950’s gravitational pull of family household chores and a background hum of guilt about not doing – or being – more, I can sympathise with this point of view.

The response to this belief about time poverty in a volunteering context has been to think about designing short, sharp volunteering opportunities; micro-volunteering that might only take a few minutes, or one-off opportunities that might just take an hour or so.  There are a number of initiatives which focus on flexible volunteering and micro-volunteering emerging, and of course technology allows us to accelerate this idea of micro-volunteering either through offering more opportunities online, on phones or as a route to identifying slivers of need out there in the real world.

Through this fund, we’re interested in knowing more about the potential impact of micro-volunteering, hence supporting research by the Institute for Volunteering Research to explore just this issue.

But is this assumption right, that people don’t volunteer because they don’t have the time? I wonder. I’ve been thinking that maybe we are colluding with this idea of time poverty and that the only answer is to break things up into bite size chunks, create opportunities that can be squeezed into the nooks and crannies of every day life as a route to getting more, new people into the habit of volunteering.

Let’s get off that trip momentarily and make a case for Slow Volunteering. A nod toward the Slow Movement and what it stands for…

A recent research report from the Association from Psychological Science claims that giving time away, volunteering to help others actually increases the sense of having more time. Research from Volunteering England suggests that volunteering is good for your health and according to the American Psychological Association it could actually lengthen your life – so not just that it feels like you have more time, but you actually have more time.

Being a Games Maker was a fairly hefty commitment of time. Volunteering at Kings College Hospital requires a serious commitment; one year minimum and a minimum number of hours per week – and both (and many other more intensive volunteering opportunities like the Samaritans) have turned large numbers of people away due to over-subscription.  Time poverty, in these examples, doesn’t seem to present a problem.

And at its heart it’s because these experiences foster feelings of quite deep connection with other people, an increased sense of purpose, of being needed and a more expansive view of care; care beyond our pitiful selves and quiet concerns about our own well-being, toward greater compassion toward others. That takes time. Could micro-volunteering take you to that place? I don’t know.

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Posted by Lynette on December 5, 2012

Innovation in Giving

Mind the Gap reflections

Tiger De Souza

The latest CAF report on giving trends certainly paints a bleak picture for the future of charitable giving. The report effectively highlights that over 60s are more likely to donate than those under 30 and when they do give, they give six times as much. It also indicates that propensity to give is dropping in the younger generation down from 23% in the 80s to 16% in the present day. However, the report has received widespread criticism across the sector and even taking those statistics at face value is rather unhelpful. An individual’s resonance with a charitable cause is often driven by personal experience, so it is reasonable to expect that the older generation will have built up a closer relationship to a number of causes through their life. Whether a trigger was becoming a parent for the first time or seeing a close friend or family member battling an illness, many people support charities because the issue has touched their lives. So the first challenge is how do we connect the under 30s to our cause?

Analysis of the behaviour of the under 30s indicates that they have higher expectations and want a more equitable value exchange: what do I get in return for my charitable gift? With 40% of consumers using comparison websites in 2009 and projections suggesting that figure is only likely to grow we must ask ourselves: how effective are we at demonstrating the impact of a donation? If the under 30s are a more challenging, discerning bunch what do we need to give them in return for their time or money?

Lifestyles have also changed over the last forty years, technology has developed and the world has evolved. However, especially in terms of volunteering, there are limited examples of exciting new products that connect with the younger generation and inspire them to take action.

  • Movember has been a big success because it is fun
  • #riotcleanup worked because it was spontaneous
  • iHobo generated 750,000 downloads because it was edgy and controversial

We’re in the midst of a digital boom and the rapid growth of smartphone ownership deserves more than a cursory glance. According to O2, 28% of people prefer to use their mobile to access the internet and making phone calls is only the fifth most popular activity, behind things like gaming and social networking. However, there are limited examples of charities successfully navigating this space.

Mobile technology presents an exciting opportunity for charities to connect with a younger audience, improve the value exchange and develop innovative ways to empower them to support their cause. The stumbling block is that technology is constantly evolving, new trends are emerging and web development is costly. The Faberge Big Egg Hunt certainly demonstrates that if you make the activity fun, exciting and slightly unusual you can engage with a wider audience. The Elephant Family and Action for Children should be applauded for this unique fundraising approach and how the concept exploited the power of mobile technology and social media. However, there is a need for more examples that indicate that a foray into this field would yield a significant return. With a back drop of economic uncertainty, at present it seems unlikely that many charities will break cover and make a significant push in this area.

To be successful in this area I believe we need three key ingredients:

  • We need to work with new and exciting partners and I believe the corporate sector could play a huge role in supporting the design of exciting and innovative products
  • We need to be more open and share our learning so that we can all understand what has worked well and what has not
  • We need key decision makers in charities to actively encourage collaboration and embrace the need to take calculated risks

If the giving gap really is widening the growth of mobile technology offers us a platform to reverse that trend.

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Posted by Lynette on November 19, 2012

Innovation in Giving

The Sharing Economy Goes Global But UK Consumers Miss a Trick

Benita Matofska

It’s a busy time for the Sharing Economy as this week sees the first Global Sharing Day take place on Nov 14th with 161 partner organizations and a reach of over 60 million people in 147 countries. Created by The People Who Share, the day will see millions around the world come together to share resources, ideas, skills and knowledge from 1-2pm as part of The Greatest Share on Earth.

The People Who Share have united the leadership of the Sharing Economy including Shareable Magazine, Mesh Labs and OuiShare with partner support from to put the Sharing Economy on the global stage.

But despite the fact that the emerging Sharing Economy is now reported to be worth over £310 billion globally, UK consumers seem to be missing a trick. Research commissioned by The People Who Share, carried out by Opinium and released today reveals that Britons make and save £8 billion a year through sharing but the potential is far higher.

Research among 2,000 UK adults over 18 reveals that on average UK adults save £99 and make £335 a year, primarily through sharing services such as selling second-hand goods booking or share or swap childcare services or sharing a ride. But super users of the Sharing Economy report that by using innovative tech sites like  Airbnb Whipcar and Love Home Swap you can save thousands.

I for one, have seized the opportunity to share and am saving £20,000 a year. The advent of sharing sites enables the savvy to live a shareable lifestyle, by using the things that you don’t need, to get the things that you do.

Times are tough, people need to do more with less and for anyone who isn’t maximizing their resources they’re missing out. We have the technological ability to share the world; we just need to make it easier to share than not to.

Benita Matofska is Founder and Chief Sharer of The People Who Share, the company behind the first aggregator of the Sharing Economy.

The full research paper can be found here:

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Innovation in Giving

Who is giving to charity and what does this tell you about the state of the economy and society?

Baroness Claire Tyler

Recent research is pointing to a growing generational gap in charitable giving. What’s interesting to me is what lies behind these trends and what it means for charities moving forward. Professor Sarah Smith’s research, building on a major collaborative study published in early 2011 “The New State of Donation”( Bristol University/Cass Business School/CGAP) tracked three decades of household giving to charity. In nutshell it showed that older people, particularly those aged 60 plus, are increasingly the most likely to participate in charitable giving and give most.

A report published this September by the Charities Aid Foundation and the University of Bristol to stimulate debate at the party conferences also made the growing generation divide in giving its main headline. It stated that more than half of all donations now come from the over 60s compared to just over one third thirty years ago. It also said that the over 60s are now more than twice as likely to give to charity as the under 30s. Should we be worried about this and what should charities be doing about it?

As so often, if you dig a little deeper, a more complex picture emerges. The long term decline in giving amongst younger age groups between 1978 and 2002 appears to have been reversed during the 2003 – 2008 period. Data covering the impact of the recession is not yet fully available, although given sharply declining living standards for many low to middle income earners, it’s fair to speculate that charitable giving may be tailing off even more. Gender also makes a difference – women give more than men, as do households with children, people in employment and those with higher education. Additionally, whilst better off donors now account for an increasing share of total donations, poorer households are much more generous if you look at the proportion of their total budget given to charity. It is interesting how little publicity this latter point receives compared with the age focus .I’d like to see more public recognition of this generosity from poorer people –it’s an  important antidote to the  “benefit scroungers” narrative of which we hear so much.

So what’s to be done? One of my first reactions on reading these reports was that we must not be too quick to point the finger at younger people. The financial pressures that many of under resulting from ever higher levels of indebtedness (often linked to studying), youth unemployment and the huge difficulty in getting the first foot on the housing ladder at a time of sharply declining living standards must be having a big impact on choices about disposable income. I also think it’s incredibly unfortunate that, however unfairly, in some people’s mind charitable giving is becoming more associated with tax avoidance. And now more than ever, charities need to be able to demonstrate that they use the money they receive effectively and show how it improves the lives of their beneficiaries.

To finish where I started off, perhaps above all charities need to do a lot more to involve younger people in their activities, whether by actively reaching out to recruit younger trustees, taking on apprentices and interns and recognising that for many young people the most precious thing they can give is their time and passion which may – in time – translate into regular charitable giving.  Indeed I’d like to see more focus and support given to volunteering by young people. For this generation, as distinct from the baby boomers, it’s often a more available and meaningful commodity. Linked with other research for the sector which shows that the amount of time given by people is positively correlated with the amount of money they give, I suspect this is the key that has the potential to unlock and changes attitudes to giving across the generations.

Baroness Claire Tyler is a Liberal Democrat working peer in the Lords, ex Charity CEO of Relate, Current President of the National Children’s Bureau, Chair of CAFCASS and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.

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Posted by Lynette on October 24, 2012

Innovation in Giving

Award-winning innovations – brief reflections from the inaugural digital fundraising awards

Nicolle Wilkinson

Last week I attended the inaugural Blackbaud’s Digital Fundraising Awards in association with UK Fundraising. The awards are designed to specifically recognise and celebrate the people / organisations that are using digital tools to fundraise in the most effective way with awardees being decided by a combination of expert panel reviews and public voting – with over 8,000 people submitting their votes. From an Innovation in Giving Fund perspective, we were delighted that a number of the innovations that the fund is backing were recognised and short-listed.

Timto, Pennies and Blue Dot were all recognised in the ‘Most Promising Digital Tool’ category and we were delighted that Timto won the overall award, with Blue Dot being highly commended. Although, all three of these innovations are focused upon different areas of giving – gifting, micro-donations and  alternative currencies for positive social action – what they have in common is the ability to embed giving deeper into everyday life through tapping into different motivations.  

In Timto’s case, it seeks to tap into the established motivation of giving and gifting to celebrate special occasions, whilst Pennies enables customers to donate small sums seamlessly as part of everyday transactions and Blue Dot incentivises giving through reward and recognition.  Indeed, embedding giving into everyday activity was a theme, with a number of awards being made for innovations that facilitate this, for example Acorns and Aston Villa Football Club’s Text to Donate campaign.  

The other clear theme to emerge from the awards was a strong reminder of the importance of holistic integration of technology with other aspects of strategic planning, product development, marketing, and communications in maximising the impact of digital giving innovations.

The importance of this was further highlighted in Visceral Business’ Social Charity 100 report which was presented at the awards and provides a comprehensive overview of social charities in the UK. It presents the clear take away that effective performance depends upon picking the right portfolio of platforms, tools, offline support and technologies to suit organisational brand and personality.  

This is an area that we really recognise and are constantly striving to support the innovations that are backed through the Innovation in Giving Fund to cultivate and grow through tailored non-financial support, networking / partnership development and possible follow-on funding for promising innovations.

In addition, through the Open Innovation Programme we have bought together 28 well-known charities with a number of giving innovations (many of which are backed through other strands  of the Innovation in Giving Fund) and it has been fascinating to observe how partnerships come together and witness, first hand, how organisational focus, values and long-term objectives have influenced charities decisions regarding who to partner with and how in order to develop their proposed solutions for their organisational giving challenges. As phase one of the programme has just ended, we look forward to supporting some of these partnerships grow and develop in phase two.

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Innovation in Giving

Complementary currencies: news from Payroll Local

Nick Webb

The role of complementary currencies and local shopping schemes in promoting the flow of money in local economies have generated real interest in recent years. As part of the Innovation in Giving Fund, Nesta is supporting nef and the Brixton Pound Community Interest Company (which runs the UK’s largest complementary local currency) to develop an innovative ‘Payroll local’ scheme in south London. Nick Webb, of Nesta, who works on the Fund spoke to Susan Steed, at nef, about the scheme . . .

Nick: Tell me about ‘Payroll Local’, the project you are developing with Nesta funding . . . what’s the innovation?

Susan: Payroll Local enables Lambeth Council staff to automatically receive some of their salary in Brixton Pounds (B£’s). They will get 10% bonus for the share they accept in B£ and this money will automatically be available through their phones. They can then either spend it or donate it to local charities.

We think this is innovative for several reasons. The first is the ‘Pay by text’ platform, the first in the UK. It’s really simple to use and means that even very small traders can take electronic payments (without needing to hire a credit card machine or pay a chunk of their takings to Visa). This means council staff can connect up with other local residents and pay from anything from a coffee to cat sitting by text. Secondly it’s a payroll giving scheme for very local charities – often larger charities are the only option on Payroll giving schemes. Thirdly, having a local council to use a local currency at this level is unprecedented.

Nick: How does the Brixton Pound differ from other local shopping schemes?

Susan: Currencies like the B£ are very different from conventional buy local schemes because they have a chain effect.  Using the currency means businesses, as well as customers, are committing to understanding where they respend their money. This can make money change hands more quickly, speeding up the flow of money around an area and producing local economic well-being. In Brixton we have found that the currency accelerates the growth of new enterprises by fostering tighter connections between businesses their suppliers and customers all using the currency.

What’s interesting about the Payroll local project is that we’re also bringing local charities into the mix. This means as well as residents and businesses we are looking at ways that charities can use a local currency to both increase their donations and use these to support the local economy.

Nick: There has been a lot of recent press coverage on complementary currencies – what do we know so far about what makes them successful and sustainable?

Susan: I’d say one of the biggest threats is that people don’t give them enough of a shot. So, many complementary currencies (cc’s) are started by volunteers who loose energy and motivation. In practice the nature of starting a currency is that it takes time for people to recognize and trust that it has a value. Tying it in with local value chains is the key to long-term success and having the local business community and the council involved are invaluable assets.

CC’s are also often wrongly seen as a threat to sterling. People don’t know how to deal with them from an accounting side, for taxation and how they interact with benefits. In fact, far from trying to avoid tax, cc’s could be a key way to boost tax revenues or get more people involved in the delivery of public services.

In Brixton we’re delighted that businesses can now pay their business rates to Lambeth council in Brixton Pounds. We’re looking to build on this at nef with the roll out of Payroll Local with the council and also a wider European project ‘Community Currencies in Action’ which will address some of the administrative burdens to scale up the use of alternative currencies.

Nick: Do you have a favourite story of what B£ has been used for?!

Susan: It’s really exciting looking at the range of things you can spend Brixton Pounds on. We’re proud to be able to support a range of new and exciting local enterprises, and be able to promote them to businesses already in the scheme.

So, for example I was really chuffed to see pictures of vegetables being grown on an inner-city estate in the new Lambeth Poly tunnel, then being cut and bagged up and delivered the same day to a restaurant in Brixton, then paid for by text in Brixton Pounds.

I also can’t resist mentioning that you can also buy a share in locally produced energy from the roofs of the Loughborough estate in Brixton, you’ll also get your dividends paid in Brixton Pounds.

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Posted by Lynette on October 10, 2012

Innovation in Giving

60 minutes well spent…..

Nicolle Wilkinson

Einstein is rumoured to have said that if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding the solution.

From an innovation perspective, this presents us with an interesting challenge – the challenge of staying ‘solution neutral.’ This essentially means taking time, often longer than you think you need, to really unpack and critically understand the nature of the problem, whilst avoiding the temptation to immediately jump to finding possible solutions for those problems. I have recently attended a number of workshops with individual and clusters of charities as part of phase one of the Open Innovation Programme which is part of the Innovation in Giving Fund where Einstein’s insight has proved to be particularly apt.

Watching charities really unpick the giving challenges their organisation(s) are facing has been fascinating. In line with the open innovation process, many charities have engaged a diverse range of individual supporters, corporates, partner organisations and external innovators to develop their understanding of their challenge- and ultimately their proposed solution to it. In particular, what has been interesting has been being part of some really interesting and challenging conversations that have looked at the assumptions that are made about who their supporters are, what they want, why and how they like to give. For some charities, these workshops have served as a reminder that confirms their core understanding. For others though, it has resulted in significant revelations and a recognition that they, in the words of one staff member, ‘need to throw the textbook out of the window.’

This then, is what Einstein is surely referring to. That by understanding (not assuming we understand) the nature of the problem we are trying to address, we are much better placed to develop viable, innovative solutions to address these. An obvious statement, but I think one that tends to be forgotten as most of us are naturally keen to progress to the more positive (and, let’s face it, often more fun) part of developing a solution. Watching how this has played out has also served as a timely reminder of the value of open innovation processes – through looking beyond our own organisations and sphere of knowledge, we can often deepen (or completely change) our understanding of the issue we are trying to solve.

The other interesting theme that is emerging quite strongly from the programme in phase one is how, when you really delve into it, many of the challenges facing the 28 charities in the portfolio are common across the portfolio – irrespective of whether the charity works in conservation or cancer, disability or young people. Very broadly, common challenges emerging include:

  • How to grow giving among a younger generation – particularly as many charities have an ageing supporter base and young people are traditionally one of the most challenging demographics for charities to engage effectively in giving


  • How to maximise the giving of time through offering more flexible, volunteer-led opportunities  - turning the existing model of a set number of volunteering opportunities on its head and responding to growing demand from volunteers for more ad hoc, flexible and micro volunteering opportunities

  • Better engaging with and maximising their supporter’s journey – many charities have recognised that often supporters are categorised as either a volunteer or a donor, when the reality is that many are both at various stages in their life. Clearly, when you’re talking about database’s that sometimes hundreds of thousands of supporters, categorisation makes it easier to manage the supporter base. However, as individuals increasingly move back and forth from one group to the other throughout various phases in their lives, charities are identifying the need to respond to this more nimbly.


  • How to maximise digital ‘supply and demand’ matching platforms: This has been a common challenge, alongside discussions around navigating a dense digital landscape to find the platforms that best suit charities’ needs, identify those that are genuine innovations and those that are simply a ‘flash in the pan’. Responding to this challenge, Nesta ran an additional support event on 3rd September focusing upon this, details of which are given in Helen Goulden’s blog 

In addition to open innovation supporting understanding the giving challenges that charities are facing, it is obviously our hypothesis as part of the programme that open innovation can also lead to the development of disruptive, agile solutions too. Judging by the ideas that are developing in phase one this seems to be the case and choosing which ones to back more intensively in the next phase of the programme is going to be very tough.

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Posted by Lynette on September 24, 2012

Innovation in Giving

Crowdfunding: Hear from

Alice Casey

Crowdfunding is something that has become a bit of a phenomenon  to date, with lots of interest in finding out more about how to use online platforms to directly raise project funding online. As part of Innovation in Giving, Nesta is supporting a range of web platforms focused specifically on crowdfunding. Alice Casey of Nesta who is developing the crowdfunding workstream is going to delve into these platforms a bit more by speaking directly with people who run them, to get their particular perspectives on crowdfunding.

First up is Nick Underhill of Keo Digital who leads the development team at

Alice: Tell me about peoplefund – where did the idea come from?

Nick: The website was set up by KEO digital, a digital media company that pioneers community solutions to everyday problems. KEO digital was set up around the online community of River Cottage. It has upwards of 300,000 members who are all interested in food, gardening and an outdoor lifestyle.

In 2009 we set up a site called Landshare, which brings together people who have a passion for home-grown food, connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food. Since its launch it has grown into a thriving community of over 70,000 people with some fantastic successes.

The next platform we launched was energyshare. This is a social network where you can connect with other people and community groups, find out how to generate your own renewable energy or support others to get a project off the ground.

As a result of these other projects we were confronted with a demand from people coming to us with their ideas. Rather than just pick one we decided to set up a platform that would allow ANYONE to set up their own projects.  With Nesta’s support we built and have helped many groups start their own businesses and projects.  We’ve learned pretty quickly that grass roots projects can lead to big things.


Alice: Why would people use crowdfunding instead of doing a regular fundraising drive?

Nick: Crowdfunding is a great way of raising money but it has many benefits over traditional sources of finance like banks and loans. First off it provides proof-of-concept. By offering people early access to your product or service you are in effect proving that there is a demand for it.  Secondly it helps develop networks. When you become fully funded on you have access to all your backers, this can be invaluable when you’re starting a business to have a network to get your started.

Finally having a project online can really focus you to distil your idea into easy to read elements. On you need to make a video, offer rewards and describe your project. Just having these 3 things can really bring on your project or business in leaps and bounds. A perfect example of this is The Bicycle Academy. They need to raise £40k to help fill their premises with tools and machinery that would allow them to teach people how to make bikes from scratch. At the same time they wanted to prove that there was a demand for their services as well as get a list of interested customers. They managed to raise the amount in an unprecedented 6 days showing that not only was there a high demand for what they offered but they also started their business with a list of customers they knew were interested.

Alice: Crowdfunding has become a bit fashionable of late – do you think its here to stay?

Nick: As a way of raising finance it’s definitely here to stay. Crowdfunding offers a viable alternative to costly loans and has so many other benefits that it’s a no-brainer for some businesses. It’s obviously a case of horses-for-courses but the amount of crowdfunding options is increasingly rapidly in this country every day. For example you can offer products and services for capital or if you want to offer equity in your business in exchange for capital that’s possible too.

Alice: What’s different about peoplefund?

Nick: We are unique amongst the crowdfunding platforms because not only can you pledge your money to the project owner but also you can pledge your time and skills. This makes us ideal for startup companies who need advice, capital and unique skills to make their business a reality. We also have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to digital community projects. Our previously established networks add up to over two million people who all have interests in this area. This is a massive bonus for all projects owners and can boost the funding of projects significantly.

Another thing that is unique about our site is our partnerships. Apart from the help and support of Nesta we are also partnered with Plymouth University. Having direct access to the UK’s leading enterprise university has helped stoke with fresh ideas and networks of people interested in crowdfunding.
Coming directly from our link with Plymouth University we have developed an affiliate scheme that allows any individuals to make money by recruiting new projects to the site. We ask that people encourage others with great business ideas to add their projects to, then lend them a hand to raise the money to reach their funding targets.
Once a project’s target has been reached, we’ll give them a slice of the action. It’s simple. Soon we’ll be rolling it our around the whole country, you can read more here >

Alice: What’s the biggest fundraising drive you’ve seen so far on the site?

Nick: One of our previous projects attempted a major fundraising drive that even we thought might be too challenging. Young Rewired State targeted £20k in 10 weeks and ending up raising over £21k. That was one of the most amazing fundraising feats we’ve seen because so many people were involved in helping those guys out. It was a combination of social networking and online journalism that helped get them over the line. They were featured on the TechCrunch website and tweeted about by Stephen Fry and Martha Lane-Fox. It led to them getting support from all over the internet and they were able to raise enough money to run their ‘Festival of Code’ and help support some young coders from all around the country.

Alice: Do you have a favourite project raising funds at the moment?

Nick: Some of the most innovative projects on the site often come straight from the community. One project that’s raising money at the moment is the Perranporth Pool Project. A community based around a primary school is trying to get enough money together to renovate their pool and add in renewable heating. They’re offering swim passes, do pledge support and have a look at their fantastic video if you can >

To find out more about crowdfunding please contact


Posted by Lynette on September 19, 2012

Innovation in Giving

Common Challenges and Shared Opportunities

Nicolle Wilkinson

Many definitions of Open Innovation have been put forward since Henry Chesbrough first coined the term. However, 100% Open provide a succinct version, describing Open Innovation as ‘Innovating with partners by sharing risks and rewards.’

The Open Innovation model recognises that innovation can be expensive and risky – commercially, typically fewer than 1 in 100 ideas that are invested in ever make money back – meaning that sharing risks reduces any one organisations liability, whilst sharing rewards, so the logic goes, provides incentives for new types of partnership and collaboration. This type of innovation has become commonplace in many sectors of the commercial world, where there are countless examples of Open Innovation partnerships producing game-changing ideas and multi-million pound products in everything from toys to toothbrushes.

From a giving perspective, last week I was working with some of the 28 well-known charities that are participating in the Open Innovation Programme as part of the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund managed by Nesta. Frequently, the Open Innovation process starts with an unmet need or challenge. In exploring the giving challenges that charities face as part of phase one of the programme, I have been struck by two things. Firstly, the level of commonality of challenges and opportunities identified by charities and secondly the level of commitment and (no pun intended) openness to new types of collaboration.

Whilst the usual issues of innovation – risk, expense and the fact that innovation is, by definition, unproven – have been understandably prominent and much-discussed. Other challenges that have been articulated have been more nuanced  – challenges surrounding intellectual property, organisational capacity and engrained methodologies across the sector have come to the fore.

Indeed, one of the most common challenges has not been, (as the charity sector can be accused of) a lack of commitment to innovation and working outside of the sector, rather it has been a more practical issue of needing support to navigate the landscape effectively and make connections with people and organisations that charities normally do not work with. This is tailored support that Nesta is providing for this specific programme but it provides interesting food for thought for funders, businesses and umbrella bodies regarding their role in facilitating these connections.

So, whilst it’s early in the overall process, recent workshops have served as a strong and timely reminder of the value and potential that can be unlocked in bringing together diverse audiences to collaborate around shared giving challenges. However, common challenges have been juxtaposed against genuine excitement about opportunities to work together and with innovators outside of the sector to cross-fertilise ideas, target new audiences, share existing tools and collaborate in new ways with new partners.

*Charities selected to participate in the first phase of the Open Innovation Programme:

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Posted by Lynette on September 11, 2012

Innovation in Giving, Innovation in Giving

Don’t Ignore The Hype

Helen Goulden

On Monday, I spent the afternoon with a number of large charities who are participating in the Open Innovation Programme; part of the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund.

We talked a lot about trends in giving and explored some questions about what would enable us to differentiate between a long-term trend from a passing fad.  The stakes are high for many charities; and while there seems to be an acknowledged need to innovate, translating that need into being comfortable spending time on testing things that might not work is not as straightforward…

Understanding the hype cycle felt relevant to explore with our participating charities. A lot of innovation is happening within the charitable sector but there is a fantastic amount going on outside it; that will affect charities one way or the other. And for those charities without the internal resources to dedicate to innovation and experimentation, looking round at a plethora of new ideas can create some complex dilemmas about how to act.

The hype cycle is one way of articulating that over the course of a lifetime of a particular idea, innovation or breakthrough, there will be a period of time where the inflated expectations about what it can achieve masks the reality of what it may be able to ultimately achieve.  And having been in the beating heart of  a digital media agency during the dot com boom and bust, it’s easy to reflect on the web’s giant hype cycle. I saw plenty of emperors wandering around in new clothes at that time (not a pretty sight) and if I’m honest, I see a little of it now in the collaborative consumption space. But just as all great aviation engineers stand on the shoulders of those who took to the air in W Heath Robinson deathtraps made of bicycles and organza, much of what happens in an innovation’s early days fuels the collective learning and insight, that in turn fuels evolution and adaptation; taking us to a point where we can make a fairly good judgment about the value of the idea, in what context it best works and how we can exploit it. So. Lean back and learn from what happens to others or steal the march on the idea in the hope you’ve made a good bet that the idea is a winner?

In 2005, when Alex Tew from Wiltshire set up the million dollar home page, with a mission to sell the one million pixels on his home page for a dollar each. He managed it, raising over a million dollars and spawned a whole load of copy-cat sites, which of course never realised the same success as he had. Most people saw that this for what it was – a one-off, a gimmick. But the principles that underpinned it were age old and pretty sound; that you can, given an engaging enough idea, get lots and lots of people to give you relatively small amounts of money. The rise of tech enabled crowd-funding embodies these exact principles, and while I would expect crowd-funding to evolve quite a bit over the next few years – I suspect the principles that underpin it will broadly persist. So when we’re looking at ideas like crowd-funding, sharing platforms, NFC, reward cards for giving etc, it makes sense to look under the bonnet and explore the underlying principles. Do the principles (as distinct from the thing itself) stack up for you? And are there more and better ways they might be applied to suit your organisation and aims?

We’re supporting 28 charities through the Open Innovation Programme, all of whom have bought into the idea that sharing the risks and rewards of backing an early stage innovation is a good way of navigating these dilemmas. We’ll be supporting about ten of the twenty-eight charities developing the most promising ideas more intensively in 2013 and from what I saw yesterday, we’ll be making some very tough choices about who to back.


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Posted by Lynette on September 10, 2012

Innovation in Giving, Innovation in Giving

Standing Out From The Crowd

Philip Colligan

One of my favourite things about these amazing Olympics has been the Games Makers.  That’s the 70,000 or so volunteers that can be seen across Central London and at Olympic venues all over the country.

Whether you like the colour or not, there is something inarguably cool about a bunch of ordinary people standing out from the crowd in their Games Maker kits (kudos to Adidas).  You know there’s no pretensions, no cynicism – just great people giving up their time for someone or something else.

Are they motivated by the chance to be part of something bigger; to be a part of the greatest show on earth?  Of course they are and there’s nothing wrong with that.

These people are literally making the games possible by giving up their time to do everything from directing the flows of people at tube stations to mopping up the sweat on the badminton courts.  It’s social action on a massive scale.

What’s even more striking is how the rest of us respond.  We smile at them in the street and say hello, I’ve seen people stand on crowded trains to offer their seats to weary looking Games Makers on their way home and they’ve even got battle-hardened commuters like me having conversations early in the morning as we eagerly ask them what venue they’re at and what it’s like.

A few months ago I was in Cambridge town centre on what happened to be the day of Race for Life.  That’s another huge display of collective social action, as hundreds of thousands of women run 5k to raise much needed funds for research into cancer.  It is though, much more than a fun run.  The runners dress in a uniform of pink and wear on their backs the names of the mums, aunties, sisters and friends who have suffered that disease.  It is a collective act of solidarity with intensely personal motivations on display.  Too easily taken for granted, it is a remarkable thing.

That morning we went for brunch and again I was struck by the way that the “rest of us” reacted to the runners as they started to arrive for some well-earned food.  As each woman in pink arrived, the owner of the restaurant welcomed them with a glass of fizz on the house and a little cheer went up across the dining room.

So what do the Games Makers and Race for Life have to tell us about social action and what are the lessons for the many innovators that are trying to find ways to get more of us to give our time and money to causes we care about?

First, we need to look at the potential for collective action to engage new people in giving their time for causes they care about.  It’s a reasonable guess that many of the Games Makers and Race for Life runners were first time volunteers (if anyone’s got the data, let me know) and now that they’ve taken some social action, it’s more likely that they’ll go on to do something else.

The catalyst that got them giving might have been the excitement of being part of the Olympics or the pain of losing a loved one, but the effect is the same: they have taken social action and that will have changed their perceptions of themselves (see Timothy Wilson’s excellent book on how this happens).

And you don’t need an event as big as the Olympic Games to harness the power of collective civic acts.  New York didn’t win the Olympics and it didn’t stop them mobilising an army of volunteers through Mayor Bloomberg’s City of Service initiative.  They famously called on citizens to paint over 1 million square feet of the cities roofs white to help reduce carbon emissions from air conditioning.  Now hundreds of cities across the US regularly mobilise an army of ordinary people to take social action together.

Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t happen here.  Team London has been around for a few years now and is building a British version of the US Cities of Service in our capital.  Perhaps it is time we created Team Swindon, Team Leeds, or Team Calderdale?

Alongside mobilising people to do some good together, we need to think more creatively about how we make giving visible and celebrated.  Games Makers and the Race for Life deploy the very simple technology of clothing – a uniform that signals to the world that you are giving your time for others.  It’s an incredibly powerful mechanism, but it’s not the only one.

Increasingly we all define ourselves to the world through social media.  Innovations like Givey and Blue Dot are exploring the potential for these new social identities to capture information about our giving habits and make it part of the story we tell to the world.

Is there a possible future where alongside telling the world about our education, jobs and favourite films, social media platforms like facebook prompt us to say what social action we’ve taken?


Innovation in Giving

Who wants to own a start-up?

Edward Whiting

The following is an extract from a blog by Edward Whiting. You can read the full blog here:

If crowdfunding was the next big thing in 2010-11 (with Nesta estimating that €1.5bn was raised for crowdfunding projects in 2011 alone), then equity crowdfunding is making a strong case to follow suit for 2012-13.

The concept is pretty simple – take the concept of getting lots of people to give a little bit of money to help make your project happen, and instead of offering them kooky rewards (like your name weaved into the side of a bus) you offer them a stake in your company. If your business idea takes off, your backers- from £10 upwards – get a share of the return. The vast majority of equity offered in this space so far has been non-voting, so if you’re a crowd-investor you’d have to sit tight and cross your fingers to hope your company does well.


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Posted by Lynette on July 20, 2012

Innovation in Giving

Learning by doing

Jen Lexmond 20.07.12

Last month the Innovation in Giving team held an event bringing together our portfolio of awardees for the first time since the programme launched. Alongside wanting to provide an opportunity for them to come together and share their progress, key successes and challenges, we were looking to our awardees to help us answer one key question: what will lead to a step change in giving and exchange across our country? As exam questions go, this is probably not one that many would be relieved to find upon turning over the page – it’s a tough one.

Nesta has a few ideas about how this might happen based on our knowledge and experience in the field, and we’re pretty convinced that innovation has a big part to play. For example, we can use technology and a deeper understanding of donor motivations to make better asks of people, at the right time and about issues they care about. Our identities and activities online say so much about who we are and what we care about. Harnessing this information about habits, interests, and causes can be used to more effectively target people with opportunities to give.

Another clear opportunity to increase giving is through more intelligently and accurately matching the supply of time, resources, and money, with demand. Many current volunteering opportunities have fairly high barriers to entry – requiring significant advanced notice, or lengthy training – but if it was easier, quicker, and more instant, the supply could increase substantially. Many resources and assets in our communities lie idle, not of use at a particular time or to a particular person – but if we could more efficiently allocate these resources, it could lead to many positive outcomes from reduced consumption, to cost savings, and greater social connection.

But while we have hypotheses about how this will happen, it is our awardees who are hashing this question out in the real world and in the day to day.

Volunteering database is transforming the way volunteers are connected to opportunities by allowing charities to ‘reverse search’ for volunteers based on their skills and online social profiles. It is intended to foster better connections that make a clear ask of volunteers. OneWorld UK is building and piloting a new online plugin called Re:Act that takes note of people’s browsing habits and most visited sites. When it knows enough about what you care about, it makes targeted recommendations about where you can volunteer your time and make a donation to a charity that you’re likely to care about.

Tyze Personal Networks is an online tool that aims to facilitate more efficient provision of formal and informal care through allowing people to schedule and coordinate care within private online communities. Awardee Ecomodo also connects supply and demand more intelligently through an online resource sharing platform that encourages people to list, lend, or give away stuff that they no longer want or that they are happy to share for a period of time.

As expected, when you move into practical settings, the kinds of issues that end up affecting success become more practical too. For many of our awardees it is not just the internal logic of their concept or idea that matters. The daily concerns of cash flow and financial management loom large for our fledgling innovators. Communications, PR and marketing rise up the priority list and become critical factors to gaining new clients and credibility. Gaining a good understanding of user acquisition and experience both on and offline and learning to improve it quickly become critical to achieving growth. These are the practical issues and concerns being aired and shared amongst our awardees, and one clear outcome from our event in June is that sharing insights and lessons on these topics is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to learn and improve.


Posted by Lynette on

Innovation in Giving

What’s Mine That Could Be Yours?

Helen Goulden 20.07.2012

Last week I met with the brilliant Streetbank , who have developed a platform for people to give or lend stuff to people who live nearby. Sites like Streetbank, that focus on giving stuff away at a hyper local level are blossoming and there’s a strong trajectory of growth in active Street-Bankers.

Ecomodo, another Innovation in Giving Fund recipient, has developed a great model focussed on the lending of things; either for free or for a fee. And across the globe, there is a flurry of innovation around platforms which focus on renting out assets, goods and products.

We’ve seen it done to great effect through the rise of the ‘anti-hotel’ (e.g. Wimdu, Airbnb), car sharing (e.g. Zip Car, WhipCar, BlaBlaCar) and through making different use of our time through Task Rabbit. Now, there seems to be a big rise in the model which focusses on renting anything and everything to people who live close by – epitomised in sites like Ecomodo in the UK, NeighborGoods in the US and Anyhire in Australia.

Some of these rental platforms focus on peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, and some involve existing businesses renting their products in new or different ways (B2C). Some, such as Anyhire and Rentoid , incorporate both business and peer lending on their platforms.  But the common trend when you look at look at P2P lending sites is that they accommodate – and seek to service – the P2P lending of pretty much anything; from tent poles to tiaras. And what they don’t have in many cases (just yet) is critical mass in any given geographical area. Bid and borrow and ThingLoop closed down precisely because of this issue.

This presents a very steep challenge. Platforms like these rely on us shifting the nature of our attachment to the things we own and collectively building a deep pool of things to lend to others. This is a tough enough hill to climb. But they also need to build demand; to grow a pool of people who want to borrow what you have to lend – who also happen to live close by. This is a tough gig and hats off to all those making it work even in small geographic areas.  It feels like those platforms which focus on publicising the demand rather than the supply (Help, I live on Cheshire Street and need a ladder!) might cultivate more supply, more quickly.

Of course, the platforms which focus on business to consumer lending can crack the supply side of things pretty quickly; they generally have lots of stock. Californian platform Getable is a great example of this, which offers a portal for existing independent rental stores to offer their products on line. Which works well for some things…On my wandering through  Getable, I saw some great, quite high value stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily want to own but might want to make use of. But a lot of what was on offer was cheaper to buy if I was going to use the item more than once.

Which raised a big question about motivation for me. What makes me want to rent rather than own something if  – if – I can afford to buy the thing? How far can we be motivated to remodel and re-pattern our lives towards sharing more and buying less? Where are the incentives? What motivates us toward collaborative consumption of everyday items when ownership can often be (cost per use) cheaper and let’s face it, a lot easier?

Talking to some of those innovators who are focussing on free peer-to-peer giving away lending and exchange in local communities, they’re often quite clear – the motivation is the feeling of doing something good; offering something that’s needed, to someone who doesn’t have it. It’s driven by a motivation to be kind. To feel like you’ve helped someone out.   And intuitively, it feels like platforms that focus primarily on the free lending and giving away of anything and everything in local communities might get more traction more quickly than local rental sites…

In any event, it feels like there are some gaps, just waiting to be filled. It’s probably reasonable to suppose that business-to-consumer lending markets will trend toward higher value or infrequent lends (because the value of the product is higher or because ownership just makes less sense) and I suspect these innovative platforms will rub along in parallel with the peer-to-peer  services that focus on lending and giving away of a whole mish-mash of stuff at a community level.

But I guess my call-out is, what’s the next wave of innovation in this area? What kinds of things can be shared, loaned or rented regularly and easily that could have a real impact on our everyday lives?


Posted by Lynette on

Innovation in Giving

Giving against the grain?

Nick Webb 12.6.12

A striking characteristic of many round 1 innovations is the effort put into getting the mechanics of giving right – that’s to say how to successfully tap into giving motivations, ‘onboard’ users in large numbers and make the process of giving simple and efficient. As a supportive funder, Nesta certainly wants to see the projects it backs succeed in a tough and well-trodden marketplace.

The challenge of getting this right makes me think about a deeper test: how to create innovations that go with, not against, the grain of contemporary culture. A cynic might say that the act of giving suffers from connotations of ‘worthiness’. A deeper criticism, I think, would be that it is somehow ‘on the margins’, an ‘add-on’, an ‘afterthought’ in the hierarchy of everyday concerns. The ‘chugger’ invading your personal space, disrupting the familiar flow of your journey from A to B, the work colleague asking politely for sponsorship to run yet another marathon (or even triathlon!), the act-of-God disaster that tugs us only momentarily towards a bigger drama.

This test is just as much about engaging givers on their home turf (go to where they already are online at Facebook!) as it is about fitting in with people’s core activities and concerns. A good example is payroll giving. I think this is powerful because it embeds the act of giving firmly within one of the building blocks of life – work – rather than leaving it sitting uneasily on the margins. It makes giving habitual and structural, not occasional or incidental.

My reflection is really that a great deal depends on the cultural and social place of giving, both now and in the future. Giving has always been part of the public imagination and social fabric of this country. Think of the vast sums raised by charities every year (estimated at £11BN, yet dwarfed by the estimated monetized value of volunteering time), or the incredible acts of individual giving that have helped to shape our public realm and preserve our rich heritage (National Trust). How far are we able to insightfully describe the place of giving in modern culture?

Perhaps much current innovation in giving is coming from ideas that tap more effectively into age-old human motivations; specifically, the evolutionary urge towards cooperation and reciprocity. There is now a burgeoning of successful innovations that support sharing rather than one-way direct giving, or that involve clear return for the giver, for example in social recognition and stronger social networks. If this is true, then we might have cause to be optimistic that giving will flourish as an ingrained element of our personal, social and civic identities, going with the grain of how we want to live and work.

But, of course, I’d be interested in your views!

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Posted by carrina on June 12, 2012

Innovation in Giving


Philip Colligan – 01.06.2012

The search is on for more potentially game-changing innovations in giving.  Last week (29 May) we launched the second open call for ideas for the Innovations in Giving Fund.

You can find details of the call here, including a short note with some reflections and feedback on what happened in the first open call at the end of last year.

Why publish feedback in this way?  We had two objectives.

The first was to share our experience and reflections with innovators that might be thinking about applying to the Fund.  We received 448 applications to the last call for ideas, which involved a huge amount of effort by the people who applied as well as the Nesta team that had to sift, score and select them.  In that process, lots of knowledge was generated. Rather than attempt to give feedback to all those that didn’t make the shortlist individually, we decided to try to pull together common themes and messages and share those more widely.

If you’re thinking of applying to the Fund, I hope that you find the note useful.  Please let us know either way.

The second reason is a more general shift towards openness – or perhaps more accurately, legibility – which we’re trying to make in the work of the Lab.  The excellent Bryan Boyer from our Finnish sister organisation Sitra puts it far more eloquently than me in his blog post on the subject, but it’s about going beyond openness and sharing what we do in a way that can be understood, interrogated and improved by others.

Our work to support social innovation is necessarily emergent and evolving.  This is still a relatively young field and often, we’re designing entirely new ways to find and support innovators through our programmes and funds.  Wherever we can, we build on experience and knowledge – both our own and from others.  We want others to do the same and that puts a responsibility on us to be legible. 

It also relates to another change that we’ve made to our approach to programmes recently.  When you apply for a Nesta programme now – you’re likely to be asked to do so in public – whether through a video or summary of your idea posted online.  I know that some people have found that difficult, but generating and orchestrating knowledge is one of main ways in which we think we add value to the world.  Getting innovators to share their ideas helps build a body of knowledge about where the energy and focus is in a field, as well as inspiring others and leading to new collaborations. 

It also means that we have to work harder to explain how and why we take decisions to back one idea and not another.  That has to be a good thing.

Click here for more information on the Innovation In Giving Fund


Posted by carrina on June 7, 2012

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