Why, what and how? Nesta after 20 years.
This month we celebrate Nesta’s 20th birthday. Here I share some thoughts on where we’ve come from, where we are now, and where we’re headed.
When people find out what Nesta does they tend to be surprised. Here are just a few of the things our 250 staff have been working on in 2018:
- Finding alternatives to wheelchairs to showcase at the Tokyo Paralympics
- Running experiments to improve maths in secondary schools
- Shaping future uses of drones in English cities
- Training innovators in government, business and charities in more than 40 countries
- Showing how individuals can control their own data through pilots in Barcelona and Amsterdam
- Helping Europe navigate its way to the next generation internet
- Helping to design and then spread digital democracy tools now being used in over 90 cities
- Using experimental methods to find out which business support policies actually work in the world’s largest programme of experimental economics
- Backing new services to help SMEs manage their finances using open data
- Running the world’s first arts impact fund
- Testing new tools to fight the spread of antimicrobial resistance
- Reinventing what ‘good help’ means in healthcare.
There are many others. All are examples of using innovation methods to achieve a common good. And all are meant to spark and catalyse change on a bigger scale.
Although we have good reach, whether through our many dozens of investments; the 850 plus grants we’ve made to more than 680 recipients this decade; or the one million plus people each year who visit our website, we’re still a relatively small organisation – certainly far smaller than the biggest UK funders, let alone the US foundations, and we’re a small player in the struggle to put right a huge imbalance in how the world organises its brainpower – an imbalance which means that innovations are far more likely to be funded if they’re in the military, or marketing, or finance than if they’re for a social purpose.