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14 Organisations win £125,000 to Develop Solutions to Support Workers Impacted by Covid-19

Fourteen organisations, including several not-for-profits, have secured £125,000 each in funding to develop innovative solutions that help people access jobs and financial support during the Covid-19 pandemic, in part due to additional funding from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge is funded by Nesta with support from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), JPMorgan Chase and, most recently, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The additional money provided by DWP, via MaPS, enabled Nesta to increase the number of semi-finalists from 12 to 14, and help even more innovators reach even more people across the UK.

The challenge is focused on supporting and scaling solutions from organisations and charities that will improve the job prospects and financial situation of people across the UK, from young people to marginalised groups. These range from helping people identify and develop transferable skills to find new work, to digital and personalised support to navigate benefits, bills and personal finances.

The economic impact of Covid-19 is hitting some groups of society particularly hard, including those in low paid work, younger workers and those in insecure roles, such as gig workers or those on temporary contracts. In fact, new research from Nesta reveals 35% of gig economy workers, freelancers, and people in temporary or zero-hour contracts said their finances suffered in the latest lockdown, as did 41% of 18-24-year-olds – both higher than the 30% national average.

The research also reveals three in ten (29%) are being forced to switch to an alternative sector because of declining job opportunities in their current one, with 47% wanting to move into a job that is more stable and that would not be impacted by the pandemic or recession. Yet, 50% say they’d be starting at the bottom if they changed careers and 43% say their income would likely be impacted by this move.

Tris Dyson, Managing Director, Nesta Challenges, said: “As we continue to feel the economic impact of the pandemic, people up and down the country are facing severe threats to their job security and household finances. The Rapid Recovery Challenge’s goal is to ensure that millions more do not find themselves out of work, out of pocket and out of prospects.

“There are a range of ideas out there that could make a real difference to those whose jobs and money have been impacted by the current crisis but organisations need to move at pace to get these tools into people’s hands during their moment of need. I look forward to working with the fourteen semi-finalists over the coming months to grow and develop their solutions at pace, helping reach even more people across the UK and fast.”

The finalists

Seven of the semi-finalist solutions use innovative techniques, such as algorithms and data analysis, to help people to find new jobs. Ideas include a tool to match graduates to micro-internships, tailored support to reach more of those in need in marginalised groups including disabled people and homeless individuals, and online careers portals that use innovative methods to identify skills and match people to current vacancies. The other seven are focused on helping people cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic. Solutions include budgeting tools based on behavioural science, help to access affordable, responsible credit through digital solutions including open banking, and automated benefits calculations.

Sarah Porretta, the Money and Pensions Service Strategy and Insights Director said: “We’re looking forward to seeing how these initiatives, including the winners from the financial recovery strand we are supporting, will help meet the financial wellbeing needs of those hardest hit by the pandemic, especially young people, women, BAME communities and workers on lower or more uncertain incomes.

“Ultimately, these pioneering ideas will contribute towards the ambitious goals we have set for our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing through engaging children and young people in financial education, building savings habits and considering alternatives to using credit for everyday expenses.”

Hang Ho, Head of Global Philanthropy EMEA and LATAM, J.P. Morgan said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has re-shaped the way we work and impacted the financial health of families across the UK. At JPMorgan Chase, we are committed to supporting an inclusive economic recovery by helping people in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 become more resilient, improve their financial lives and access the skills needed for stable, well-paying jobs.”

The semi-finalists were chosen out of a pool of 148 entries. All solutions have already been tested with at least 1,000 users and, through the Challenge, Nesta’s goal is to grow and scale these ideas to reach one million people by 2023. Over the next five months, the semi-finalists also receive training and capacity-building support to develop their solutions such as strategy and service design and marketing and communications. Six finalists will be announced in May 2020 receiving an additional £150,000, with two final winners securing £200,000 in September 2020.

The 14 semi-finalists are:

  • Beam
  • City & Guilds
  • Evenbreak
  • Prosper 4 Business & Resume Foundation
  • Sort
  • TryTech
  • Udrafter
  • Hastee
  • IncomeMax
  • Money Dashboard
  • Nestegg
  • Policy in Practice
  • Turn2us & Lightning Social Ventures
  • UK Youth & Snook


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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