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Tech to Connect winners announced

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UK – Nesta Challenges and DCMS back major innovation to support sexual assault survivors

A new initiative which aims to be the world’s largest collaborative resource for survivors of sexual assault has been announced as the winner of Tech to Connect – a prize funded by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and run by Nesta Challenges. The announcement follows an England-wide competition to scale tech-based solutions to reduce social isolation.

Although entrants to Tech to Connect submitted their ideas well before the coronavirus outbreak, innovative tech solutions that bring people together virtually and provide online support will be even more important as people across Britain limit their face-to-face contact to reduce the spread of the virus. Some of the concepts shortlisted will be available for people looking for ways to stay connected and to be supported.

You are Not Alone (YANA), an online platform created by the community interest company Chayn, provides a safe space for people to access details of local shelters, sexual violence units, lawyers and therapists, to build a more connected system of support for sexual assault survivors suffering from isolation.

In the UK, one in five women will experience sexual assault during their lifetime, rising to one in three globally. Findings also show that 646,000 men have experienced some type of sexual assault since they were 16 in England and Wales. Yet not knowing where to go, fear of being judged, and a lack of trust in institutions – especially among migrants – can all contribute to victims not coming forward, or even withdrawing from communities.

YANA minimises the risk of survivors feeling isolated by making it easier for those affected to find out what their options are and who can help.

The platform includes resources to guide survivors through the process of pressing charges, as well as tracking and saving their case information and recovery, reducing the burden of having to repeat things to different authorities.    

More than 130 civil society organisations applied to the DCMS-funded Tech to Connect challenge, putting forward a wide range of innovations to help combat social isolation amongst different groups. 

Following a five-month period of expert support, technical expertise and grant funding to accelerate the ideas of the 10 finalists, DCMS and Nesta Challenges have now awarded £100,000 to YANA to help the platform scale its ambitions across England. YANA’s online platform has already reached audiences in India, Pakistan and Italy, as well as the UK. 

Tris Dyson, Executive Director of Nesta Challenges, said: “Chayn really understands how to help survivors of sexual assault take control of their situation while minimising their risk of social isolation. By providing tailored assistance through You Are Not Alone to organisations that are closest to the problems they are trying to tackle, we can help to scale up and deliver technology that really reflects the needs of its users.”

“The judges were blown away by the commitment and capabilities of all 10 finalists and we are confident that they will all continue to play an important role in reducing social isolation for a diverse range of communities.”

The £1 million prize consisted of £500,000 worth of business and programme support and £500,000 in grant funding and cash prizes, which was split between the 10 finalists. 

Hera Hussein, founder of Chayn, the You Are Not Alone creators, said:   “By using tech to empower survivors of sexual assault, we can help those affected to feel more connected to a supportive community, take informed action, and feel less isolated. Our online survivor-led resources have already enabled us to reach more than 300,000 individuals since 2013. The expert support, tech training and financial backing from DCMS and Nesta Challenges has provided will help us to reach even more vulnerable people.”

Over a five-month period, the ten finalists moved through a series of ‘design sprints’ to further develop their ideas. They also received a wider innovator package as part of their business support, including business planning and impact measurement. 

Two runners-up will each receive a £75,000 cash prize to support them as they continue to make a difference to people across England. The two runners-up are:

Chatty Café, a platform to encourage conversation by helping cafes across England to designate a Chatter & Natter table. From Cumbria to Kent, with more than 900 cafes already established, there is potential to significantly scale up the service through an app, and reach an even greater range of people of all languages, cultures, backgrounds and ages.

Mirthy, a web platform to enable older adults to stay active whilst remaining independent at home, by connecting under-utilised communal spaces in retirement housing schemes with those people looking for social clubs. Mirthy are looking to scale their service in care homes across England.

Charities Minister Baroness Barran added: “Our army of dedicated volunteers and charity workers have a crucial part to play in our response to coronavirus. They are already doing so much to support vulnerable groups across society and tackle the challenges ahead, none more so than loneliness.

“Now more than ever we need to look at innovative solutions to tackle loneliness and connect people in periods of isolation. Harnessing the power of technology is an important way to do this and I am excited by the potential of Chayn and all the other finalists to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

An additional grant of £25,000 from The Pargiter Trust was awarded to Music Memory Box, a kit to support and connect people with dementia and their loved ones. It combines sensors, sentimental objects and photographs to link to songs, helping to unlock and recall memories in a simple and tactile way. 

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Nesta Challenges exists to design and run challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions.


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