Innovation charity Nesta has named the ten charity projects that are looking to see their technology ideas to combat social exclusion turned into reality.
An augmented reality device to help people with autism to build their confidence in social situations is among ten projects in the running for a £100,000 tech for good prize to tackle social exclusion. The Tech to Connect competition is looking for ways technology and digital products can be used to combat social isolation in England. The winner will be announced in March 2020 and receive a £100,000 cash prize, with a £75,000 prize each for the two runners up. For the next five months all ten finalists will receive expert help from competition organiser Nesta as well as £25,000 to develop their ideas. This includes helping them create prototypes. The finalists have been chosen from 130 applications from charities and social enterprises UK wide.
Among the finalists is a project by the charity Pals Society to use augmented reality technology to help build the confidence of those on the autistic spectrum in social situtaions. The aim is to use the technology to mimic social events, such as a football match, to prepare those on the autistic spectrum for real life situations. Anxiety around social situations can affect a number of people on the autistic spectrum. “Social isolation affects people of all backgrounds, age and locations.
We were looking reflect this in the applications we received and the finalists chosen.” said Tris Dyson, Executive Director of Nesta Challenges. Tech can offer powerful ways to bring people together, and we are excited to start working with these innovators to develop their concepts. “By supporting and scaling these ideas, we can ultimately work together to help reduce social isolation.” Another finalist is the Proud Trust, which is looking to develop an app that will help young LGBT+ people in isolated areas to link up with mentors.
A digital platform to encourage inter-generational flat sharing among the elderly and young adults is also among the finalists. This is a project being developed by Two Generations. Schemes to improve information about local events and community services, a proposal to boost the Chatty Café Scheme to encourage café’s to combat loneliness, and online support for sexual assault victims are also among the finalists. An online health and wellbeing support project from Marie Curie is another vying for the main prize. Funding for the competition has come from the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport. Minister for Civil Society Baroness Barran said: "Loneliness and social isolation is one of the biggest public health challenges we face today. Nobody should feel they don’t have anyone to turn to. Yet this is a reality for far too many people." "Harnessing the power of technology is an important way to tackle this issue and I am excited by the potential of these innovations to make a real difference to people’s lives.”