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The Ideas Fund announces first insight report

26.07.23 By Beth-Louise Sturdee

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We have published the first insight report for The Ideas Fund, which captures our learnings and reflects on the progress we’ve made since launching the grant programme in January 2021.

What is The Ideas Fund?

The Ideas Fund aims to enable the UK public to develop and try out ideas that address problems related to mental wellbeing, by working in partnership with researchers.

Run by the British Science Association (BSA) and funded by Wellcome, the grants programme has offered an exciting opportunity to test out a new approach to community-led collaboration with researchers.

Individuals, community groups and charities in four regions of the UK where the programme operates – Hull, Oldham, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and North West Northern Ireland – were invited to apply for grants to bring their ideas to life, and were offered wraparound support to help build relationships with researchers on their own terms. There has been a particular focus on reaching communities who are traditionally overlooked by this work, such as young people, rural or minoritised ethnic communities.

The Ideas Fund is one of a number of initiatives looking to understand what happens when you shift power to communities in how they engage with research and researchers, enabling them to develop projects and partnerships more equitably, and by starting with what matters to them. More than £3m has now been awarded in grants to more than 70 projects in the four regions where we operate. This funding focuses on community projects working with researchers to develop and try out ideas that address problems related to mental wellbeing in their communities. We are also funding projects that seek to address the systemic challenges that community groups and researchers can face in working together. Funded projects feature a broad range of topics from sport, nature and nutrition to issues faced by disabled, refugee, LGBTQ+ communities, veterans, vulnerable young women, cancer survivors, and those living with experiences of addiction.

Our first insight report

Our insight report shares some of the key lessons we’ve learned so far, including how we needed to adapt the funding approach to better enable strong, trusting relationships between communities and researchers to develop; the breadth of roles that researchers have taken in projects; and the impact we’re seeing for both communities and researchers so far. It also makes recommendations for others who might be looking to take similar approaches.

We produced this report in partnership with our learning partners, The Social Change Agency and The Liminal Space, who helped capture insights and reflect on our progress.

We would like to thank all the community groups, researchers and projects, as well as our dedicated Development Coordinators, whose contributions have helped to bring this report to life and demonstrate the meaningful difference the Fund has made to community mental wellbeing .

You can read the insights report in full here - please note that the report is best read on a laptop/desktop computer screen.

What we learnt overall

Keeping the process simple
Overview of the insights report - this slide highlights the importance of keeping it simple
Create time and space to innovate
Overview of the insights report - this slide highlights the importance of creating time and space to innovate

Insights community groups

Community group insights
Overview of the insights report - this slide highlights the key community group insights

‘’Our project has allowed us to think bigger when it comes to our outreach and engagement work.’’ Community group, Highlands and Islands

Insights from researchers

Insights from researchers
Overview of the insights report - this slide highlights the key insights from researchers

‘’I find the work to be inspiring and meaningful. I love being so close to actual change in my local community.’’ Researcher, Northern Ireland.’’

Insights from partnerships

Insights from partnerships
Overview of the insights report - this slide highlights the key insights from partnerships

Where next?

The Ideas Fund is still evolving and we’re keen to continue testing new ideas and developing innovative ways of working, and learn from others who are supporting similar approaches.

We are particularly interested in measuring the longer-term impact of this work on both communities and researchers, and exploring how to support these partnerships to go on to gain further funding.

Further insights and learnings will be shared over the coming months, and we are currently planning a series of events, bringing together partners to discuss different aspects of this report.

At a more strategic level, we have started to explore how we might support more systemic changes within each of the four areas, looking at how these ways of working might be embedded. To do so, we are now supporting a number of collaborative projects looking at the ‘infrastructure’ that sits around these partnerships, in consideration of, and building on, the indicators listed in this framework.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss any elements of the report or how we can work together, please contact