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Nesta funds collaborative economy platforms



Foundation provides £250,000 from ShareLab fund for eight digital projects to support social sharing of services and resources

Innovation foundation Nesta has shared out £250,000 to eight digital projects aimed at supporting public services through collaborative economy platforms.

Distributed under the ShareLab Fund, the initiatives are aimed at sharing goods, services, knowledge and skills to which some people already have access.

Nesta likened the effort to the development of digital business platforms such as Uber and Airbnb but based on dealing with social and environmental needs.

The projects, which will also receive non-financial support from the charity, are:

  • The Milk Bank App (£40,000), under which the Hearts Milk Bank will develop a peer-to-peer platform for the donation of safe, screened breastmilk to premature and sick babies in UK hospitals.
  • TrustonTap (£40,000), with the expansion of its platform that connects self-employed care workers with older people in Oxfordshire, enabling them and their families to directly choose their carer and care timings. This can lower the cost of provision.
  • HappyCT (£25,000), a pilot by Liftshare, exploring how a variety of community transport services in the Norwich area can better collaborate, such as in filling empty car seats and making more journeys available. It could help to reduce social isolation in rural areas.
  • Chatterbox (£40,000) will grow its online language learning service which employs refugees to teach their native languages.
  • Beam (£40,000) will develop its data and technology driven pilot to connect homeless people with skills and training. There are plans to officially launch the full service at the end of the year.
  • ShareSomewhere (£14,000) will develop its model for voluntary and community groups to rent low cost and under-used spaces on a one-off basis. Pilots will be run in Manchester and Cheshire.
  • Social Value Exchange (£40,000), a platform to match local community groups with commercial resources such as office space and IT equipment as part of the procurement process for free. There are plans for pilots with councils and housing associations in the south-east.
  • Driver Co-op (£25,000), under which the New Economics Foundation will conduct research to support the development of an alternative online co-operative platform app, owned by private hire drivers in Bradford and Leeds.

Helen Goulden, executive director of the Innovation Lab at Nesta, said: “The ideas funded through ShareLab show that the collaborative economy has many practical applications beyond just finding a place to stay or getting a cab ride. We see great potential in these innovations to help alleviate some of the pressure on local governments, addressing the real needs of people, families and communities.”

Complementing services

Nesta has pointed to existing examples of collaborative economy platforms that could be considered complementary to traditional public services, as well encouraging communities to get people working together on social issues.

They include GoodSAM, an app that augments 999 services by alerting volunteers when someone in their vicinity is suffering from cardiac arrest; and GoodGym, a social enterprise that uses an online dashboard to connect runners with community tasks.

The foundation defines the collaborative economy as having five traits: enabled by internet technologies; connecting distributed networks of people and/or assets; making use of the idling capacity of tangible and intangible assets; encouraging meaningful interactions and trust; and embracing openness, inclusivity and the commons.

Image from Nesta – Social Value Exchange

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