Tech vs Abuse 2019


12 noon BST on 4 July 2019


Applications of up to £50,000 over a period of twelve months. Bids in partnership or consortia can apply for up to £75,000.

Further information on the Tech vs Abuse research can be found at

Checking if you're eligible for this opportunity? 

Take our eligibility quiz

Over two million people experience domestic and sexual abuse in the UK. This number has shown little change over the past decade, and includes 1.4 million women. 21% of people have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, which accounts for 7 million people (ONS, 2018). Domestic abuse takes many forms: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional, with control and coercion at its heart. Its impact on individuals and families is profound and long-lasting. 

Many people in abusive relationships are looking to use technology to proactively access information and support, yet they are unable to find what they are looking for. We know that many services are looking to harness the opportunities offered by technology to increase their reach and improve their service delivery, but require flexible funding and support to ensure these are developed safely and effectively.

Comic Relief, with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Clothworkers Foundation, is re-launching the UK Tech vs Abuse funding programme (for more information on the 2016-17 research and funding, please see 

The Tech Vs Abuse fund is investing £600,000 into grants for UK not-for-profit organisations, to encourage creative digital solutions to improve the safety of people affected by abuse and improve service delivery. The funding is for digital tools, approaches, services and ideas at very early stages of development, which respond to the design challenges. This round will aim to fund up to 12 organisations with grants of up to £50,000 over a period of twelve months. Bids submitted by two or more charities or not-for-profits in the domestic and sexual abuse sector in partnership or consortia can apply for up to £75,000. 

This funding is backed by a collaborative research project, (accessible here) commissioned by the funders and undertaken by Think Social Tech, Snook, and SafeLives. The researchers interviewed practitioners and co-designed this fund with organisations in the domestic and sexual abuse sector with a keen interest in developing and delivering digital services.

This identified a range of common priorities, problems, and opportunities across key stages of abuse: Unaware; Aware; Leaving; Staying and Recovering. 

Overall, the research concluded that these organisations are looking to make better use of technology to deliver services, whilst mitigating the risks in order to help people identify abuse sooner (including friends, family, professionals and perpetrators), connecting them to support, and helping them to rebuild their lives.

On the basis of this research, Comic Relief, together with the research team and in consultation with a number of organisations in the domestic abuse sector, have updated the key design challenges that were set out in Tech vs Abuse 1.0.

These have been prioritised on the basis that if addressed effectively and safely, these solutions would make the most immediate difference to people affected by domestic abuse. The design challenges are intended to support organisations to develop their early stage ideas for innovation in the design and delivery of digital-first services for people affected by domestic abuse. 

The four key design challenges are:

Realising it’s abuse

People have a better understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like, realising when they are experiencing abuse in their relationship and/or when they are abusive towards others. Friends, family, co-workers and professionals they interact with are also better able to identify this and know how best to support them.

Finding the right information at the right time

People are able to find the right information at the right time. Using different platforms, they can access relevant, trustworthy, and safe sources. Key tools and resources are easy to find, simple to navigate, and quick to interact with. People of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities can easily find resources relevant to them.

Effective real-time support services 

People can find and access services for support (including referrals, if required) seamlessly and with minimal logistical and emotional burden, in a format that works in the moment, context, and time people have. Real-time support is available when it’s most needed, including in the middle of the night or during the weekend. People of all ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and abilities can easily connect with services relevant to them.


People have access to advice, information, resources and tools tailored to different situations to help rebuild their lives. This includes support for mental health issues, confidence building, practical needs, families affected by abuse, and understanding healthy relationships.

The research also generated a number of supplementary resources to help address these challenges:

The full research report can be found here

The full report on the design challenges can be found here

Funding available

The funding is for digital tools, approaches, products and services at early idea and concept stages of development. We will support ideas which directly address, overlap, link to, or cut across the above design challenges.

The funding will include a three-month discovery stage where you can develop your idea further and undertake user research, before development and delivery work commences in full over the remaining nine months to develop a solution. 

It is also open to organisations looking to build significantly on an existing, early stage prototype of a product by following a supported process of discovery, definition and development. This is suitable for organisations where more investment might be needed to re-design an early stage product effectively. The funding structure and support will be shaped specifically around discovery phase, so you will need to provide strong rationale in your application as to why your prototype would benefit from, more thorough user research and testing. 

This initiative will provide the opportunity for organisations to prioritise what to develop and how to develop it, by following best practice in user-centred design ( The fund will include scope to explore what solutions already exists (and whether a new solution is needed), collaborate with sector partners and to find the right digital partner throughout the duration of the funding. 

For these reasons, it is not appropriate for existing digital products and services. Please do not apply with a product that is past early prototype stage, as it will be ineligible for this fund. 

The Tech vs Abuse programme will provide an intensive package of support. This has been shaped as an opportunity for successful organisations to engage, collaborate and share their learnings around their use of digital technologies, addressing the design challenges as a cohort. 

Projects will be expected to:

  • Attend a one-day pre-assessment workshop for those shortlisted in July 2019
  • Attend a start-up workshop around the soft development and hard development phases 
  • Present their new digital product/service at a public wrap-up event in 2020
  • Actively take part in regular online peer learning webinars
  • Maintain an open and collaborative relationship with their grant manager and programme evaluators
  • Fully engage with any external support they are provided with and proactively share learnings

Download the proposal guidance here.

The projects will last for twelve months and will likely include the following stages of delivery:

  • A three-month Discover phase from Oct 19 – Dec 2020 (at this stage, organisations will  explore their problem definition, undertake user research, and ending with validated user need)
  • A four-month Definition phase from Jan 2020 – April 2020 (at this stage, organisations will have created a tested/validated prototype/way of solving the problem)
  • A five-month Development phase from May 2020 – Sept 2020 (creating and making live an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

We anticipate making up to twelve grants from a total grant funding amount of up to £600,000: 

  • Grants can be for amounts up to £50,000 over a period of one year from October 2019 to November 2020
  • Bids submitted by two or more charities or not-for-profits in the domestic and sexual abuse sector in partnership or consortia can apply for up to £75,000  (Please note this amount is not available for charities or not-for-profits applying as a single applicant with a digital or commissioning partner helping them deliver their project.)We are happy to support projects with and without a digital partner in place at the point of applying. 
  • The grant will include additional support from social-tech development experts and advisors, which will include a start-up workshop at the start of the grant, connections to tech experts, on-going mentoring and two peer learning days. This will also support you to undertake a solid ‘discovery’ phase and follow ‘agile’ development processes.

Who can apply

  • We will accept proposals from experienced organisations from all sectors with proposed solutions targeted at anyone affected by abuse. This includes all survivors (female and male and LGBTQ+ groups), friends and family, professionals and perpetrators. For this fund, we are referring to abuse as defined by the UK government.
  • We are actively encouraging cross-sector partnerships and collaborative proposals, particularly those with specialist organisations taking a lead role, or those which address sector barriers that prevent the delivery of effective services.  
  • As above, we welcome proposals from the women and girls sector and beyond, including unusual collaborations, such as those working together to develop new solutions alongside design or digital agencies.

What we are looking to support: 

  • We will support ideas which directly address, overlap, link to, or cut across the design challenges. We would encourage organisations to prioritise their own users’ needs (whether these users are victims, survivors, professionals, perpetrators or other organisations), in light of these design challenges.
  • We are interested in supporting:
    • Ideas at the earliest, concept stages of development
    • Early stage prototypes that require significant re-design and development in response to user needs, or to enable other organisations to adopt the solution. In these cases, organisations must show a commitment to as well as a strong rationale for following a similar process of user-testing and responding to user-needs, as well as following the same supported process of discovery, definition and development. 
  • We are happy to support projects with and without a digital partner in place at the point of applying. We encourage applicants to find a digital partner once funding is in place and can provide support to ensure that they are the best ‘fit’ for you.
  • To this end, your team and your organisation need to be committed to you following an ‘agile’ way of working in line with the Better Digital Services principles, including significantly shifting your original idea and solution in response to user research findings.
  • We will support new technology development as well as low-technology solutions and any training and resource publications required to meet these design challenges. However, we are particularly supportive of innovative approaches ensuring these solutions have high immediate impact or a lasting legacy beyond the life of the funding. 

We will assess projects based on their ability to work towards the set of design principles set out in the design challenges report, as well as giving further support on these as part of the grant.


Proposals to this initiative must meet Comic Relief’s general eligibility requirements (see our policies). Please note that for this Tech vs Abuse initiative, the lower income limit for organisations applying is £75,000, as opposed to the £250,000 lower limit for UK organisations stated in Comic Relief’s general eligibility requirements.

Please check these carefully along with the information below before starting your proposal.

Organisation criteria:

  • Applicants must be based in the UK
  • 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
  • Organisations with an existing Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, or The Clothworkers Foundation grant can apply, as can holders of previous or current Tech vs Abuse grants, if they apply with a new idea, and provided they meet other eligibility criteria
  • Organisations can submit more than one proposal to the initiative 
  • Tech development partners can be associated with more than one bid. Once again, we do not expect organisations to have a tech partner at this stage. 
  • Development partners can include service design and user research agencies
  • As highlighted above, proposals must either be at the concept / idea stage, or an early stage prorotype
  • All applicants must identify a project sponsor at senior level i.e. CEO
  • The work to be delivered must take place in the UK

Key dates and application process

All applicants must submit proposals consisting of:

  • A short form including organisation and compliance information as well as a short project summary
  • A video application (2-3 minutes long), explaining your idea, and how it relates to one or more of the design challenges. 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 - and it helps us better understand your ideas and approach.
  • To showcase this, we gave ourselves the challenge of making a video about how to make (and why we like) video applications, in 2 hours. If you’re still unsure about video applications, or want to hear more from us, you can watch it here: 
  • More detailed guidance about what to include in the video can be found in the Guidance Notes, which is available at this link. Videos will be kept private 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 -  if you are an organisation applying alone alongside a digital or commissioned partner, please still use the Financial template for projects without partners. As noted above, the £75,000 funding amount for partnerships and consortia is not available for charities or not-for-profits applying as a single applicant with a digital or commissioning partner helping them deliver their project.).
  • Please ensure you submit a 12-month budget. Please submit a detailed budget for the initial 3-month discovery phase. We recognise and understand that the next phase of the budget will then be developed in further detail on the basis of work done in discovery, and so the rest of your budget can reflect this and be less well defined and detailed.

Next steps

We will be open for proposals from 5th June to midday on 4th July 2019. 

Once we receive proposals, we’ll ensure they are eligible and shortlist the strongest proposals to go through to an assessment. 

We’ll aim to notify all applicants of our decisions at this stage by the end of July 2019. 

If shortlisted, you will be expected to attend a pre-assessment advisory event in July and may need to submit additional information and documents to support our assessment. 

Assessments will take place over July and August 2019 and final decisions will be made by our Social Impact Committee and Trustees. We aim to inform all shortlisted applicants of the final decision in September 2019. If your proposal is unsuccessful at this stage we’ll write to you explaining the reasons why and may offer further feedback by phone.

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. If you have any questions or you need to discuss your project in further detail, please contact us at

To answer these additional questions or queries specific to your application or this funding round, we are creating a Slack channel accessible on the 17th and 18th  June.

To join, email (please include 'Tech vs Abuse' in the email subject line). We will send you the link by email and further guidance on registering and using the Slack Team.

For more information about this research and findings please see  

The research report can be found here and the design challenges report can be found here

The Clothworkers' Foundation
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Logo