Tech for Good Build 2021

We are accepting proposals to define, develop or re-purpose digital tools, platforms and products that meet a social need or challenge

Applications open online

12 GMT (noon) on Friday 8th January 2021

Closes

12 GMT (noon) on Friday 12th February 2021

Eligible Countries

United Kingdom (Work can be aimed at local, regional, national, or UK-wide level)

Eligible applicants

Income of between £75,000 and £10 million

Funding Available

Applications for up to £70,000 over a period of nine months (June 2021 – Feb 2022)

Apply now(opens in new window)

Further information on the Tech for Good programme can be found at techforgoodhub.co.uk(opens in new window) 

Pre-application support: Comic Relief and CAST (Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology), our support partner for this programme, will be running Q&A webinars and providing additional guidance over the application period. Sign up using the links below.

Tech for Good 2021 Programme Q&A - Thurs, 21 Jan (14:00 - 15:00)(opens in new window) Tech for Good 2021 Programme Q&A - Thurs, 28 Jan (10:00 – 11:00)(opens in new window)

You can read our fund FAQs here(opens in new window).

The Build programme

Comic Relief with Paul Hamlyn Foundation will launch the next round of their joint UK Tech for Good funding programme in January 2021. This is the final round of funding in our 3-year Tech for Good partnership. 

The Tech for Good programme was developed in response to the need for charities to use technology to explore different approaches to delivering better services. 

The COVID-19 crisis has since increased the need for organisations to explore how digital and design approaches can be used to create more impact for the people they work with. 

The Tech for Good 2021 ‘Build’ programme will enable organisations or partnerships to define, test and develop digital solutions over nine months that meet a social need or challenge.

Applications that want to adapt or re-purpose existing technology to increase impact in their service delivery are also actively encouraged; we know that re-use of tools which already exist can be just as important and effective as building something new.

The programme will aim to fund a portfolio of digital projects at different stages of development. Build is suitable for both organisations at concept stage who are at a very early stage of scoping their idea, as well as for those who have already done some digital development.

This round will fund up to 18 digital projects with investments of up to £70,000 over a period of nine months. This funding is for a combination of supporting your internal delivery costs as well as contracting support from external digital and technical development agencies.

We are also interested in applications from partnerships or consortia between multiple not-for-profits that aim to work together to address or improve a service delivery problem in their area of work.

Applicants should be seeking to work in one or more of Comic Relief’s four core issue areas: Children Survive and Thrive, Global Mental Health Matters, Fighting for Gender Justice, or A Safe Place to Be. Comic Relief would also welcome applications addressing challenges related to disability and inclusion outside of the themes specified above, as we understand the critical potential of digital technology in tackling these issues. 

This is the fifth Tech for Good programme run by Comic Relief. Details of all past funded projects can be found at can be found at https://techforgoodhub.co.uk/funding(opens in new window). You can also find in-depth case studies of previous projects at this link(opens in new window): you can find out about stem4’s teenage mental health tool(opens in new window), Bipolar UK’s digital chatbot service(opens in new window), and AVA’s webtool(opens in new window) to help survivors of gender-based abuse. 

Further information around our theory of change, learning summaries and previous evaluations can be found at https://techforgoodhub.co.uk/funding/tech-for-good-learning(opens in new window) 

What and how we will fund 

This programme aims to provide the opportunity for not-for-profit organisations to take their digital projects forward.

This funding is most suitable for organisations or partnerships that have undertaken a small amount of early stage discovery work(opens in new window). Discovery is the process of exploring and surfacing a problem area, for example  through consultation with the people affected by that problem, before moving onto developing and testing solutions. There will still be space to do further discovery and exploration work to validate your approach as part of your initial progress on the programme.

We have previously supported discovery work(opens in new window), e.g. through our Explore fund(opens in new window) in 2020, but it is in no way a requirement to have been funded by Comic Relief before. 

We know that ‘good’ digital development does not only signify innovation; we welcome applications that explore how you can use technology to create more impact in the work you’re already doing. This could include but is not limited to:

  • Using your existing idea, research or discovery you’ve completed so far, to define and develop an MVP is the earliest functional version of your digital solution or tool that you can get ready for testing with your users.

  • Adapting or re-using an existing tool, platform or product for you or your sectors’ needs. For example, this could be an off-the-shelf piece of technology that you need funding to adapt to your context to create a meaningful impact on your service delivery.

  • Innovative back-end solutions for staff or practitioners. By this, we mean products that your beneficiaries do not necessarily see or use; but data-led or design ideas for your internal systems that could lead to significant improvements in service delivery

  • Further testing, building, or scaling of an existing MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that you have developed. You will need to be clear in your application about how you will use this funding to take a significant digital step forward.

  • Applying with other organisations in your sector to develop a digital response to a problem that affects your service delivery area as a whole

We take a flexible approach to funding social tech: we know the importance of creating space to pause, reflect, learn and adapt in developing social tech solutions. Pivoting your work based on what data and evidence is telling you is a positive. Equally, while we will not fund external evaluations as part of this project, we will support you to give consideration to how you will monitor progress throughout the project and consider what success will look like at certain points along the journey. 

A wide range of digital interventions will be considered and our aim is to fund projects and organisations that:

  • Are focused on specific and clear user needs in their design, delivery and development

  • Demonstrate a clear purpose for the use of tech and why it would be meaningful in your organisation

  • Must be able to demonstrate resource and buy-in at senior and organisational level to manage and deliver the project you are proposing

  • Must have adequate time budgeted for your project lead to participate in the programme

  • Demonstrate the enthusiasm to engage with a collaborative cohort of funded partners.

  • Make best use of existing technology

  • Are sharable with other parts of the not-for-profit sector

(See the applicant Guidance(opens in new window) for more detailed information on our expectations. and you can find fund FAQs here(opens in new window))

Wrap-around support and cohort engagement

At its heart, the Tech for Good fund is about supporting change and growth in the sector. The magic ingredients in this are organisations and their people, which is why organisational learning, and improving the digital capability of not-for-profits, is a central component of the Tech for Good programme.

The Tech for Good programme has been shaped as an opportunity for successful organisations to engage, collaborate and share their learnings around their use of digital technologies and how this could increase social impact with the rest of the cohort. 

We know that digital development requires distinct working practices and for this reason we are working with CAST(opens in new window) (Centre for the  Acceleration of Social Technology) to provide an intensive package of support for the cohort of funded partners, which will include 1-1 support, collaborative workshops with your peers on the programme, online learning sessions. 

You will have access to a diversity of experts in digital design and development to help you with your work, as well as access to an interactive learning and development plan tailored for you that links to relevant and flexible support.

We also know that a commitment to sharing learning is important to contribute towards building a third sector underpinned by strong, purpose-led, digital infrastructure. Comic Relief are also committed to share learnings from this programme with the wider sector, for example through Catalyst initiatives such as Service recipes. 

The nine-month programme, supported by experts in research, design, and development, will help participants to achieve key milestones in their digital journey: 

  • Discovery: builds on existing user research presented to Comic Relief at application stage and helps applicants define the problem from the perspective of their users

  • Definition: using insights gathered from discovery to define a specific problem to solve, test new ideas, and gather inspirations for solutions

  • Development: using everything learnt in the first two stages, to develop a new digital solution or build on an existing one, with a plan for how participants will test this with real users.

We are expecting to fund a diversity of work at different stages of development so we know how you engage with this structure will vary. We will work with you to tailor your programme experience to your stage of development. 

We also know organisations at different stages of digital maturity and development experience these stages differently and at varying pace; we also know that digital development can cause unexpected delays as you explore and iterate on the best possible solution for your users. We will be offering be a flex period of 1-2 months at the end of the original 9 month period should you need to extend your projects further at that point.

You will present a ‘playback’ with what you’ve learnt after the key programme milestones above, and will receive templates and advice to support you to do this. 

This will build in a natural reflection point, build confidence and accountability, help you think about your next steps, as well as create an opportunity for you to engage other colleagues and senior stakeholders in your organisation and think about next steps.

If successful at application for Tech for Good, you will:

  • Attend a kick off workshop in June

  • Present your new digital product/service/ findings at a public wrap-up event in 2022

  • Fully engage with any external support you are provided with and proactively share learnings

  • Programme playbacks as mentioned above

  • Actively take part in regular online peer learning webinars, as well as the interactive learning and development plan

  • Maintain an open and collaborative relationship with your contact at Comic Relief, CAST coach, and programme evaluators

To get a flavour of the support package, you can read CAST’s main take-aways from last year’s programme here(opens in new window).

Eligibility 

Proposals to this initiative must meet Comic Relief’s general eligibility requirements (see our policies). Please check these carefully along with the information below before starting your proposal.

Organisation criteria:

  • Applicants must be based in the UK, for work to be carried out in the UK

  • Applicants must have an income of between £75,000 and £10 million

  • Applicants must be not-for-profit organisations. Additionally, we do not accept proposals from NHS trusts, hospitals, schools/colleges, statutory bodies including local authorities, and non-registered organisations without constitutions

  • Applicants do not need to have a tech development partner on board at the time of application. If you don’t have a tech partner, make sure you ring-fence some of your budget to be used for this for when you need to contract a development partner. You will receive support for doing this once the programme has kicked off (See the Guidance document(opens in new window) for more details).

  • Where present, the tech partner cannot be the lead applicant or investment holder if successful i.e. they will act as a support function but should not have responsibility for managing the investment and the project

  • Organisations with an existing Comic Relief investment can apply as can holders of a previous Tech for Good or Tech vs Abuse investment, although proposals must clearly outline how they significantly build on work previously funded

  • Organisations can submit more than one proposal to the initiative and tech development partners can be associated with more than one bid

  • All applicants must identify a project sponsor at senior level i.e. CEO, who will participate in check-in sessions and workshops throughout the programme

  • People Centred: our partners should demonstrate a commitment to putting the people they seek to serve at the heart of their decision making. This means that we work with organisations who can evidence input from, and accountability to those they work on behalf of.

Project criteria

  • The work to be delivered must take place in the UK (the work can have a local, regional, national or UK-wide reach)

  • Funding is available for up to £70,000. This is intended to be used for a combination of:

    • Paying for existing core costs that are supporting the delivery of this project, plus any eligible new costs associated with it (e.g. backfilling salaries for project leads)

    • Sourcing external support from a digital partner

    • Funding can only cover expenditure incurred and activity delivered during the funding period (i.e. June 2021– February 2022), I.e. not any discovery work prior to applying or follow-on work beyond the 9-month funding period

    • The project duration is 9 months. We know that digital development can cause unexpected delays as you explore and iterate on the best possible tool for your users, so there will be a flex period of 1-2 months at the end of this should organisations wish to extend their projects further.

What we will not fund

These are the activities we will not primarily fund through Tech for Good, although these activities can form part of a wider proposal: 

  • Upgrading of internal IT such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems

  • Large scale capital costs

  • Hardware development

  • Updating websites and routine social media campaigns

  • Exploration events or hack days

  • Staff or volunteer training

  • The development or purchase of monitoring, evaluation or project management platforms for the benefit of your organisation’s wider work

  • Buying equipment to get people online

  • Digital inclusion, digital literacy or computer skills training

Funding process

All applicants must submit proposals consisting of:

  • A short form including a 250-word project summary, explaining what the project is setting out to achieve and how.

  • A video application (maximum of 3 minutes long), explaining your idea. This is simply a visual version of a traditional written application form making a strong case for funding. We hope the video provides a great opportunity to bring your team together (if virtually) - and it helps us better understand your ideas and approach.

  •  The content of the film is more important than the quality. We are very happy with films created on phones or using basic software, by teams working remotely.

More detailed guidance about what to include in the video can be found in the Guidance Notes, which is available at this link(opens in new window). Videos will be kept private, only viewed by staff at Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and will not be shared further without the permission of the applicant.

  • A project budget (the budget template can be found at the bottom of this page)

  • Some brief additional information about your organisation, safeguarding processes, as well as information about the team involved in your project

We will be open for proposals from Thursday 7th January to midday UK time Friday 12th February. We will not accept late proposals and strongly urge that you address any questions you have in order to complete your proposal and submit it in advance of the deadline. 

Timeline 

Applications open: Friday 8th January – Friday 12th February (12pm) 

You’ll hear back about whether you’ve progressed to the next stage: 19th February 

Assessments: 1st March – 19th March

You’ll hear back about the final outcome: By the 30th April

One month preparation (this will include onboarding activities and the kick off event): May 2021

Investments start: June 2021

For this initiative we are not asking for evaluations, monitoring, evaluation and learning plans or business cases. If shortlisted, you may need to submit additional information and documents to support our assessment. Assessments will take place over March 2021 and final decisions will be made by our Social Impact Committee in April 2021.

We aim to inform all shortlisted applicants in the last week of April 2021. If your proposal is unsuccessful at this stage we’ll write to you explaining the reasons why and may offer further feedback by phone.

Pre-application support

What can you really expect from the programme? Are you ready to apply for Tech for Good? What are we going to be looking for at application? Want to hear from past participants?

Comic Relief and CAST will be running Q&A webinars and providing additional support over the application period. 

Tech for Good 2021 Programme Q&A - Thurs, 21 Jan (14:00 - 15:00)(opens in new window)

Tech for Good 2021 Programme Q&A - Thurs, 28 Jan (10:00 – 11:00)(opens in new window)

You can read our fund FAQs here(opens in new window).