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Innovation open call

We're looking for innovative solutions to support people most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The open call

In June 2020, our first ever open call for innovation solutions was launched as a part of our coronavirus (Covid-19) response.

The call was designed to find existing or adaptable solutions, not ideas, that were tackling inequalities widened by the pandemic and were designed with their audiences at the heart.

The challenges we prioritised and why

Through extensive research we identified three coronavirus-related challenges these solutions needed to address, as these were most likely to affect women, people on low incomes, older adults, people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, disabled people or people living with long-term health conditions. 

The three challenges were:

  • Changes in circumstances: when faced with change due to new financial pressures or increased caring responsibilities, we may no longer feel able to invest time and/or money, or may lack the headspace needed to think about, plan, or invest the effort it takes to be active.  
  • Mental health: certain groups of people are more likely to be experiencing new or worsening feelings of depression, stress, loneliness or anxiety, reducing their likelihood to be physically active.  
  • Digital exclusion: faced with a continued period of enforced social distancing or isolation, people who are unable to, or who don't have, access to digital channels, may not have the opportunity to be physically active. 

Our three challenges were selected after our research suggested they were growing problems due to the impact of coronavirus.

  • Changing circumstances

    Some groups of people are more likely to have faced changes due to reduced income, unemployment or additional responsibilities – such as caring or home schooling.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: those from lower socio-economic groups are seven times more likely than high earners to work in a sector that has shut down because of coronavirus.
    • Women: on average, women are taking on more hours of childcare than men, and prior to coronavirus 17% of women worked in a sector that has since shut down, compared to 13% of men.
    • BAME: as a result of coronavirus, 46% of people from a BAME background reported their household income had reduced, compared to 28% of white British households.
    • Younger people: nearly a third of workers under the age of 25 work in an industry that has shut down, compared to one in eight people aged 25+.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less
  • Mental health

    Certain groups of people are more likely to be experiencing new or worsening feelings of depression, stress, loneliness or anxiety.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: research has shown continually higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness among households with an income of less than £30,000.
    • Women: recent data suggests women are more likely than men to be worried about the effect of coronavirus on their lives and are more likely to agree their wellbeing is affected.
    • Disabled or long-term health condition: from evaluation of the We Are Undefeatable campaign, we know that worries about coronavirus are preventing physical activity among this group.
    • Younger people: figures show continually higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness among those aged 18-29.
    • Older people: Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been a 31% increase in demand for The Silver Lines – the helpline for older people.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less
  • Digital exclusion

    Six million people in the UK (13%) are digitally excluded.

    • Lower socio-economic groups: just 51% of households earning £6,000-£10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99% of households with an income of more than £40,000.
    • Disabled or long-term health condition: in 2019, 78% of disabled adults in the UK were recent internet users, compared to 95% of non-disabled adults.
    • Older people: in December 2019, only around 5% of people aged 55+ had done at-home fitness with virtual instruction, compared to around 43% of 16-34-year-olds.

    We've also put together an interactive guidance document containing more information and research that could help inform your application.

    Read less

We also pulled together an interactive document to provide you with more information on these challenges and the data that sits behind them.

See the research

Selecting our cohort

The open call process was designed to be different to our more traditional funds, with a focus on inclusivity and encouraging proposals from different types of organisations – especially those new to us.

We also offered a wider range of support, both financial and non-financial, such as access to our connections, advice and insight.

We really wanted to see innovative solutions that addressed one of our challenges, were targeted for a specific audience and were designed with both of these in mind.

An illustration of the process of the open call

We received an overwhelming response, totalling 840 proposals, that were whittled down to 27 solutions representing the most innovative and relevant to the challenges.

Those chosen were from across the UK and include a mix of technological solutions and non-tech, business-to-business and business-to-consumer, with each solution supporting more than one type of audience.

This resulted in us choosing a portfolio of different organisations to help us to learn more about different types of innovation.

Supporting the cohort

We decided to take a different approach to how we support these organisations over the six months offering that was part of the open call.

We looked at ways to facilitate collaborative working and learning, bringing them together as a cohort and allowing them to access support from us and from each other.

Some of the organisations had never worked with us before, so we held a ‘Freshers’ Week’, consisting of a series of induction sessions allowing the cohort to get to know the project team, as well as being able to meet with the various teams and experts across our organisation. 

Find our more about the organisations and their solutions using our dashboard.

What next?

Over the six months of support for the cohort, they’ll be delivering their innovative solutions to their communities and audiences.

And we’re supporting them with more than just our money, with examples including facilitating introductions through our local delivery pilots and sharing relevant data and insight, such as Active Lives and our ComRes survey tracking activity levels throughout 2020.

We’re also supporting these organisations to not only learn from their solutions, but also from each other.

To enable this, we set up an online hub for the cohort on Microsoft Teams, where they can interact, share updates, ask for help and keep a reflective diary.

We’re also bringing them together on a monthly basis to share and reflect learning, with support from an innovation learning partner. This will include learning about how well we do in supporting innovation to tackle entrenched inequalities in sport and physical activity.

We'll continue to share our learnings on this page.

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