ShareLab has a mission to grow evidence and understanding of how collaborative digital platforms can deliver social impact.

ShareLab will support and incubate new collaborative platforms that create social impact. We want to work with the very best ideas and initiatives that can show how collaborative platforms and models can support public services and deliver social impact. We are offering funds of between £10,000 and £40,000 plus non-financial support to stimulate experimentation and collaboration.

Nesta’s work suggests there are particular opportunities in addressing the following areas:

  • support and care for young, old or vulnerable people
  • housing and homelessness
  • community cohesion and resourcefulness
  • education and skills
  • environment
  • poverty

However, we are seeking your ideas on these or any other area where you see an evidenced public need.  

Anyone may submit an idea to ShareLab, even if you are not in a position to develop it yourself.

We are also open to exploring partnerships that advance the ShareLab mission and are interested in hearing from policy makers, local authorities or governments who have specific questions or challenges they would like ShareLab to tackle.

Why are we doing this?

Typified by the likes of Airbnb, TaskRabbit and JustPark, collaborative economy companies have transformed business models in areas as varied as transport, accommodation, finance and asset sharing. While definitions vary, these models enable access instead of ownership, encourage decentralised networks over centralised institutions, and make visible new, previously untapped resources.  

Yet while the collaborative economy is becoming well established in the private sector, the third and public sectors lag significantly behind in exploiting its potential to create social impact. The aim of Nesta’s ShareLab Fund is to address this gap.

Inspiration can found in a small number of examples of this idea in action, including:

  • GoodSAM: an app that augments the capacity of 999 response services by alerting a volunteer community when someone in their vicinity is suffering from cardiac arrest. When every second counts, getting a volunteer responder to the scene quickly is proven to save lives.
  • Wheeliz enables peer-to-peer rental of adapted vehicles for those with reduced mobility in France. There are approximately 100,000 privately owned adapted vehicles in France, however, not all are in constant daily use. Wheeliz allows owners to directly rent out their adapted vehicles to those who require one. By pooling together adapted vehicles, Wheeliz has made them more accessible and affordable to those who need them, while also creating a new way for owners of such vehicles to earn extra cash.
  • GoodGym is a social enterprise that connects runners with community tasks of different kinds. It uses a simple online dashboard to complement the face-to-face activities that runners take part in and to encourage ongoing participation in regular runs, particularly to socially-isolated older people who motivate the runners to keep up their routines.

For citizens, models like these could increase flexibility, availability, choice and competitive pricing. For those offering their time, money, assets or services, they could provide new avenues to apply their resources, skills and time to support people at a scale that was previously not possible.

These ideas could be considered as complementary to traditional public services, but also as an opportunity to think more creatively about how communities can build coalitions of citizens, charities, businesses and public sector bodies to address social needs.

What do we mean by 'collaborative economy models'?

Nesta defines the collaborative economy as having five traits: enabled by internet technologies, connecting distributed networks of people and/or assets, making use of the idling capacity of tangible and intangible assets, encouraging meaningful interactions and trust, and embracing openness, inclusivity and the commons. Building on these traits, the collaborative economy can be understood through four overarching types of activity:

  • Collaborative consumption: gaining access to goods or services through bartering, renting, lending, trading, leasing, exchanging, re-selling and swapping.
  • Collaborative production: groups or networks of individuals collaborate to design, produce or distribute goods and services.
  • Collaborative learning: learning experiences that are open to anyone and where people share resources and knowledge to learn together.
  • Collaborative finance: funding, lending and investment services offered outside of traditional financial institutions.

Nesta is interested in understanding how one or a combination of these approaches could be a used to address a social/public service challenge.

Visit the website for application details:


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