Rapid Recovery Challenge

Improving access to jobs and money in the wake of COVID-19

What is the Rapid Recovery Challenge?

Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge will find and scale tools and services that improve access to jobs and money for people within the UK, focusing on those hardest hit by the economic shock resulting from COVID-19.

The £2.8 million Challenge is funded by Nesta, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Money and Pensions Service.

Nesta will fund three to four Community Outreach grantees to support our Rapid Recovery innovators to expand their reach, by connecting them to three key audiences who have been impacted by the economic fallout from COVID-19:

  • Younger workers
  • Those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid work
  • Those in (or who have recently lost) insecure work

Find out more about the Community Outreach Grants.

44% of people...

feel less financially secure than before the pandemic, and this uncertainty is particularly felt in the younger generation

Just 35% of vulnerable workers...

are confident they would be able to find another job in three months if they were made redundant, compared to 48% of workers in a stable job

Over a third of workers...

feel their job is less secure than before the pandemic, rising to 63% of those on furlough

The Challenge combines Nesta’s research on skills, jobs, labour market innovation and data science with our expertise in running challenge prizes. The Challenge has two streams.

  • Job Recovery Stream – this stream supports solutions that connect younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work into open jobs that match their skill sets. To help make these connections to live jobs, we expect solutions in this stream may also provide tailored learning, training, or advice to people seeking work.
  • Financial Recovery Stream – this stream supports solutions that help younger workers or those in (or who have recently lost) low-paid or insecure work access financial assistance more easily, manage their cash flow or, where necessary, access affordable, responsible credit.

Covid-19 has created a huge economic shock, laying bare and exacerbating pre-existing problems for people on low incomes and in precarious work. Millions face severe threats to their job security and household finances, both immediately and in the longer term, and low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 will be hit hardest.

With the UK officially in recession, economic recovery is now a major challenge. There is an urgent need to support people at risk of losing their livelihoods and financial security so that millions do not find themselves out of work, out of pocket and out of prospects.

The Rapid Recovery Challenge aims to find, inspire and accelerate innovations relating to jobs and financial recovery that will support one million people across the UK.

The semi-finalists

UK Youth has teamed up with Snook to transform our previously face-to-face financial education programme into an innovative blended learning model.

Harnessing digital tools and working through the UK Youth Movement, we’ll scale to reach over 100,000 vulnerable young people over 3 years with the skills and support they need to be financially stable – from budgeting, borrowing, banking to avoiding scams.

We know that knowledge alone is not enough, so crucially our programme will link young people with a trusted youth worker in their community to provide wrap-around support.

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.

Covid has changed the employment market dramatically and young people leaving education will continue to face its negative impact. UK businesses cannot financially support full-time graduate roles at present but they are able to conduct smaller and affordable pieces of work.

Digital grant delivery will enable Turn2us to deliver practical and fast financial support from our various grant programmes to larger numbers of people who are in financially vulnerable circumstances efficiently, effectively and at scale.

The new digital grants delivery platform will enable those in need to apply online with a few simple steps and be verified and to receive instant financial support on the same day. This rapid response to the many challenging and difficult personal income shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic will enable people in financial hardship to cope more quickly and effectively.

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.

Employers continue to report a shortage of talent and skills, in both technical and non-technical roles. This generation of young people are ‘digital natives’ and, with personalised support, they can secure roles in tech and contribute to an economic recovery post COVID-19 and Brexit.

Sortyourfuture.com is an online platform with a mission to support over 1 million young people from all backgrounds and regions of the UK to get into work they want over the next three years.

How? With our transferable skills matching system, that will help young people identify skills they have and skills they might need to develop, and show them jobs they can apply for right now or online courses and training they can access to help them quickly upskill. We will also provide support on a personal level via our network of 1-2-1 professional careers advisors, experts and mentors.

Prosper 4 Business CIC is piloting an inclusive “Careers Portal”, https://www.bridgeofhope.careers/, showcasing thousands of live jobs. Our solution is to improve access to jobs for people who are marginalised – and to do it inclusively.

We want to work with young people, women, BAME participants and those experiencing unemployment. We will bring our innovative solution to thousands of people to find employment. We can implement at scale, using leading-edge technology, and offering this service free for end-users.

Our partners, Resume Foundation, provide tailored and supportive training for candidates. Our aim is to increase this to 50,000 job seekers by end-2022.

The My Benefits Calculator app by Policy in Practice gives you a free personalised way to navigate the complex benefit system.

Covid-19 has made many more of us financially insecure and in need of social security, sometimes for the first time. Often, we don’t know the full range of help we could get from the benefit system, and £10 million goes unclaimed each year.

Our app will help you to access the widest possible range of support, keep track of Universal Credit as your payments change from month to month, put you in control of your finances and help you take steps toward financial independence.

This will help all of us to recover faster from the effects of Covid-19.

NestEgg is 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, and transforms them into three Financial Health Indicators: borrowing, spending and saving.

If someone is turned down for a loan, the app provides tips and advice so the user can make the changes necessary to be accepted next time. Users set goals against these indicators to help them recover financially from Covid-19.

Spending Plan is a “cash survival tool” for vulnerable people. The tool helps people to spend less and save more by nudging them into effective money management.

The tool uses machine learning technology to detect regular upcoming payments enabling a forecasted cashflow to be built with minimal user intervention. People know exactly how much they have left to spend, after they’ve paid their bills. The tool further prompts people into budgeting effectively so they can spend on the things most important to them, whilst avoiding any unnecessary spending.

People access Spending Plan for free via the award-winning personal finance application Money Dashboard Neon.

IncomeMax Digital will assist UK citizens to find vital sources of new income, including unclaimed benefits, grants and help for utility bills. Billions of pounds go unclaimed each year in the UK. IncomeMax digital will reunite people with these funds, helping them take control of their finances.

Every year, millions of people miss out on things like universal credit, council tax support, and help for utility bills. Essential funds for families with children, disabilities and caring responsibilities also go unclaimed. IncomeMax Digital will provide a human-centred and personal digital journey to help those most in need.

Hastee was founded to improve the financial health and productivity of workers. Our solution allows employees to withdraw a portion of their pay as soon as they have earned it, breaking the outdated monthly pay-cycle that forces many into debt and financial stress.

We will use the Challenge’s semi-finalist grant to build on this solution, launching a bespoke financial education platform, free for a year to all 16-24-year-olds in the UK. During the future rounds of the Challenge, we plan to make earnings on demand accessible to an additional 97,000 people in the Challenge’s target segments through industry partnerships and develop a comprehensive financial management offering within our app.

The current provision of support for disabled people looking for work is not available or appropriate for everyone. Eventbreak will fill the gaps in provision so that every disabled person looking for work can access relevant and effective support tailored to their needs, regardless of where they live, or what their disability. This support will be delivered by trained careers consultants with lived experience of disability, and there will be a moderated online platform for peer support.

The ‘Skills Bridges solution aims to ensure that unemployed people and those looking to reskill for new careers are given support to link their core transferable skills to job opportunities.

The solution will allow people who have been displaced from their roles to access potential career changes. Signposting people engaged in insecure job roles to more sustainable careers. The solution will also support young people studying in a sector or academic discipline that has been hardest hit by Covid-19.

Upon completion of our online learning programmes, individuals will receive a City & Guilds digital credential, enabling them to access job boards and showcase their talents across social media platforms.

The tools in the Beam Hub will empower marginalised individuals to take charge of their own job search, helping them to feel prepared and confident in their applications. Designed for a post-Covid job market, tools will improve digital literacy, demonstrate how to navigate online application portals, and provide employer lists for in-demand sectors such as healthcare and logistics. By answering a few basic questions (on location, skills, career goals), beneficiaries will be able to personalise their Hub to see tools and opportunities that are most relevant to them. Individuals with specific financial barriers to work, such as vocational training, can launch a crowdfunding campaign on the Beam website to cover the costs.

Related content

£230k in grants available to improve access to jobs and money


A rapid economic recovery for those who need it most


Rapid Recovery Challenge has launched: meet the judges


Recovering Jobs and Finances During COVID-19 - virtual event


The team

Andrea Richardson

Senior Programme Manager

Kathy Nothstine

Head, Future Cities

Olivier Usher

Head of Research

Karmel Edmonds

Programme Manager

Gary Fawdrey

Assistant Programme Manager

Hannah Picton

Assistant Programme Manager

Lucy Hawkins

Programme Coordinator