We're semi-finalists in the Rapid Recovery Challenge
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8 Min read | By NESTA

NESTA press release: people seek more secure work to cope with financial hit of covid-19

  • Three in ten forced to change jobs because of declining opportunities in their sector and nearly half look for more stable work with finances impacted across the UK.
  • A quarter feel like they are living on the breadline during the pandemic and many say the upcoming festive period is putting an added strain on finances right now.
  • Nesta’s £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge aims to improve access to work and financial support for those impacted by COVID-19, by helping organisations, including charities, to quickly scale solutions to reach even more people in need.
  • Fourteen semi-finalist solutions focus on various vulnerable groups and range from tools that help people identify and develop transferable skills to find new work, to digital and personalised support to navigate benefits, bills and personal finances.

New research finds people are leaving their current jobs and sectors in unprecedented numbers in a desperate bid to reinstate their regular income.

Three in ten (29%) polled by Nesta say they are being forced to switch to an alternative sector because of declining job opportunities in their current one, with one in ten (10%) having already moved.

A key factor behind this is people wanting to move into a sector that is more stable and that would not be impacted by the pandemic or recession (47%), with many people suffering financially due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Yet, 50% say they’d be starting at the bottom if they changed careers and 43% say their income would likely be impacted by this move.

People’s finances are already precarious with three in ten (30%) saying their finances worsened during the most recent lockdown. Over a quarter (26%) of people in the UK currently say they feel like they’re living on the breadline, with 18% saying they’ve borrowed to get by and 30% say money worries are impacting their mental health.

Nearly a third (31%) say the looming festive period is putting an even greater strain on their finances with one in five (19%) saying they can’t even pay their bills, let alone pay for Christmas.

Millions are facing severe threats to their job security and household finances, both immediately and in the longer term, and particular groups of society – including low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 – are being hit hardest. In fact, 35% of gig economy workers, freelancers, and people in temporary or zero hour contracts said their finances suffered in the latest lockdown, as did 41% of 18-24 year olds – both higher than the 30% national average.

Nesta launched the £3m Rapid Recovery Challenge in September to improve access to jobs and financial support for those impacted by COVID-19. As a result of the challenge, today, 14 organisations, including several not-for-profits, have secured £125,000 each in funding to further develop and quickly scale innovative solutions that will improve the job prospects and financial situation of people who fall into these groups over the months and years ahead.

Tris Dyson, Managing Director, Nesta Challenges, said: “As we continue to feel the economic impact of the pandemic, people up and down the country are facing severe threats to their job security and household finances, and it’s clear some are suffering more than others. There are a range of ideas out there that could make a real difference to those whose jobs and money have been impacted by the current crisis but organisations need to move at pace to get these tools into people’s hands in their moment of need. That’s why we launched the Rapid Recovery Challenge, to help organisations reach even more people and ensure that millions more do not find themselves out of work, out of pocket and out of prospects.”

The Challenge is funded by Nesta with support from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), JPMorgan Chase and, most recently, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The additional money provided by DWP, via MaPS, enabled Nesta to increase the number of semi-finalists from 12 to 14, and help even more innovators reach even more people across the UK.

Seven of the semi-finalist solutions use innovative techniques, such as algorithms and data analysis, to help people to find new jobs. Ideas include a tool to match graduates to micro-internships, tailored support to reach more of those in marginalised groups including disabled people and homeless individuals, and online careers portals that use new methods to identify skills and match people to current vacancies. The other seven are focused on helping people cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic. Solutions include budgeting tools based on behavioural science, help to access affordable, responsible credit through digital solutions including open banking, and automated benefits calculations.

All solutions have previously been tested with at least 1,000 users and, through the Challenge, Nesta’s goal is to grow and scale these ideas to reach one million people by 2023. The 14 semi-finalists are:

Job stream

  1. Beam – Beam supports marginalised and homeless individuals into stable work by crowdfunding their job training and providing 1-2-1 support from a dedicated team of caseworkers. It aims to scale its impact by increasing access to its digital job-support platform where individuals will be able to access custom video-guides, CV builders and up-to-date employer lists.
  2. City & Guilds – the ‘Skills Bridges’ solution aims to ensure that unemployed people and those looking to reskill for new careers are given support to identify and link their core transferable skills to job opportunities in more sustainable careers.
  3. Evenbreak – this not-for-profit solution will enable all disabled people looking for sustainable work to have access to relevant and appropriate support, either by being signposted to existing sources or through tailored support from careers consultants with lived experience of disability.
  4. Prosper 4 Business & Resume Foundation – the “Careers Portal” will showcase thousands of live jobs with inclusive employers such as Tesco, Wates and UPS, finding employment for hundreds of marginalised people. Partners Resume Foundation will provide tailored and supportive training for candidates.
  5. Sort – Sortyourfuture.com is an online platform providing young people with personalised skills-to-job matching and career support and a transferable skills matching system, that helps them identify skills they have and skills they might need to develop, showing them jobs they can apply for right now or short online courses and training they can access to help them quickly upskill.
  6. One Tech at Capital Enterprise Jobs – TryTech enables young people in insecure or low-paid jobs to access free support to secure knowledge-based roles in tech startups. Its innovative online platform provides access to curated content and intensive support through ‘Learn’, ‘Apply’ and ‘Work’ phases, and matches individuals to live roles.
  7. Udrafter – Udrafter is an online platform where businesses can access student and graduate talent on-demand and students are paid to complete degree relevant micro-internships which provide them with crucial work experience. Udrafter removes the ‘who you know’ barriers to work experience and provides equal opportunities for all students.


Finance stream

  1. Hastee – Hastee allows workers access to a portion of their pay as soon as they have earned it. Hastee is a holistic financial health platform that gives workers a complete view of current earnings and provides personalised financial wellbeing content, which will be free for 16-24 year olds.
  2. IncomeMax – the new IncomeMax Digital platform will reunite low income workers, insecure workers and young workers with sources of income available to them through unclaimed benefits, grants and other financial support such as help for utility bills.
  3. Money Dashboard – Spending Plan is a “cash survival tool” for vulnerable people. The tool helps people to spend less and save more by nudging them towards better money management. The tool automatically builds a personal cash flow taking into account any necessary bill payments before prompting the user to budget effectively.
  4. Nestegg – a financial health app that makes it easy for low-income workers to access affordable credit from responsible lenders and to start saving for a resilient future. The app combines data from a user’s credit file and bank accounts to help them set financial goals and improve their chances of being accepted for a loan.
  5. Policy in Practice – My Benefits Calculator is a personalised app to help people navigate the complex benefit system. It will give people access to the widest possible range of support, help them plan from month to month, and put them in control of their money, so they can take steps toward financial independence.
  6. Turn2us & Lightning Social Ventures – a digital grants delivery platform which will enable users to receive quick financial support by improving the grant process and dramatically reducing wait times for financially vulnerable applicants. Leveraging identity verification, open banking and anti-fraud technology, applicants can safely, but swiftly, apply.
  7. UK Youth & Snook – an innovative range of digital tools to educate young people on budgeting, borrowing, banking and avoiding scams. The solution will also link young people with a trusted youth worker in their community to provide wrap-around support.

For more information, visit rapidrecovery.challenges.org/



Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges exists to design and run challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions. We shine a spotlight where it matters and incentivise people to solve these issues. We are independent supporters of change to help communities thrive and inspire the best placed, most diverse groups of people around the world to take action.

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