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Reflections on Round One

16.09.21 By Jill Cornforth

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Ahead of the announcement next week confirming the successful projects from the first round of The Ideas Fund, Chris Manion, Head of Grants at the British Science Association, reflects on what we’ve learnt from the process so far.

The Ideas Fund was launched as a new and different way to support communities to work with researchers on ideas around mental wellbeing. We were interested to uncover exciting partnerships that were already in place, but we also wanted to work with groups who perhaps had never thought about working with a researcher before, to understand what the opportunities and challenges were with doing so.

We didn’t really know what to expect! Here are some reflections on some of the positives so far, as well as some of the learning that we need to take forward into future rounds.

What went well

  • There was significant interest in the Fund and some fantastic ideas came forward. We awarded £1.6m in grants and we’re excited to see what happens with the projects that will be announced next week.
  • We reached a wide variety of organisations, from small grassroots groups to larger, well-established charities, across a real mix of project themes and ideas.
  • Many applicants have commented on how much they valued the support they received from our Development Co-ordinators, and that the application form itself was clear and straightforward.
  • We know that the matching process sparked a number of new relationships between groups and researchers, some of which have progressed into other funding opportunities.

Learnings for next time

  • As with many grant programmes, the level of competition meant that many good projects could not be funded. This is always a challenge – we are looking at how we can reduce the amount of time involved in putting together an application for future rounds.
  • We saw from the applications that came in, and feedback that we’ve had since, that the criteria of the Fund was in some places difficult to understand. We hope that, by sharing examples and case studies from the first round, this will become clearer for future applicants and it’s something we will continue to reflect on.
  • The importance of flexibility, and 1:1 support has come through strongly. Having that time to build a relationship with the Fund, talk through an idea in detail and get feedback may also help as applicants are putting together their proposal. We’re looking at how we can enable this in future rounds whilst being mindful of the time commitment involved.

We’d like to thank everyone who registered an interest in the Fund, or took the time to apply, and also to our Development Co-ordinators who have worked so hard to support applicants. We look forward to continuing to develop and improve the process into the future.

We do intend to run a further open round next year, and expect to announce plans for this in the spring. Until then, our Development Co-ordinators will be working with the first round of projects as they get started, and will also be offering local opportunities to share learning with groups who may want to apply in future.

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