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The story so far

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We want to connect communities with research professionals so they can work together to bring their ideas to life.

Why The Ideas Fund?

Back in January 2021, The Ideas Fund set out to test a new way of supporting communities to work with researchers on ideas related to mental wellbeing. We were aware that for many reasons, including how grants are awarded, these types of community-researcher partnerships can often be led by the research or researcher agenda. We wanted to test out a different approach to applying for the funds, with individuals, community groups and charities being supported to lead the applications themselves, develop their ideas and focus on what matters most to them and their community. We were keen to fund in a way that supported genuine partnerships to develop, so that both the community and the researcher could benefit from each other’s expertise.

The Fund was designed to reach individuals and communities who are often overlooked, such as people in rural communities, young people, or people from minoritised ethnic groups. Working in four specific areas of the UK allowed us to put in place more local support for applicants who may be new to this, specifically in the form of our Development Coordinators who were on hand throughout the application process and helped to match many applicants with researchers for the very first time.

How did it go?

The Fund is supported by The Social Change Agency and The Liminal Space, who have come together as an expert learning partnership helping us gather insights and document learning from the projects. This is helping to inform the Fund’s future approach and is also part of our commitment to share our learning from the pilot with others.

In Round One our funding panel awarded our first 42 grants, totalling £1.6m, in July 2021 and it’s great to see those projects well underway! You can read more about how the projects are progressing, and what we’ve learned so far, here.

One thing you’ll see is that community-researcher partnerships have suggested they would have benefited from more time to build their relationship, understand each other's work, and clarify their roles before starting the project. Noting that the Round One process didn’t allow for this as well as it could have, we decided to use a different approach for Round Two, with a shorter, expression of interest form, followed by a small grant to allow time for groups to be matched with researchers and explore the potential partnership opportunities.

We trialled this new approach towards the end of 2021 which resulted in further projects being supported – you can read more about how that went here, and more about Round Two here.

What next?

The support from Development Coordinators has continued through local Communities of Practice, where funded projects come together in each area, allowing people to share their successes and challenges as things progress. This will continue throughout 2023, and we will keep sharing what we learn each time projects share their progress updates.

We are also looking at what might be needed to embed and sustain this way of working in the future, and are looking at how we might support change at a more systemic level to enable this to happen. More details will be shared on this later in the year. We are really keen to share what we have learnt so far through our work with other funders, community groups and academic institutions. If you are interested in this or finding out more about the Fund please do get in touch!