Funding Ideas and Pioneers for Social Change: A Paul Hamlyn Foundation Initiative

Prototyping the world’s first Braille eBook reader. A Liverpool flyover that becomes a community cultural space on weekends. A museum of homelessness curated by people who have experienced homelessness. Good ideas can lead to positive social change if they are given the chance to develop and thrive. All three of these ideas have received investment from Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) under our Ideas & Pioneers Fund, along with 26 others since 2015.

PHF’s mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives. One of the ways in which we do this is by nurturing imaginative people with good ideas that have the potential to achieve positive social change.

The Ideas & Pioneers Fund was set up to support individuals with unusual or radical ideas at the earliest stage of development; to enable scoping, exploration and the necessary development work prior to launching and testing a new approach or venture. The Fund supports individuals, partnerships and small organisations with grants of up to £10k (£15k in exceptional circumstances).

Funding ideas is rare in the philanthropic world, especially those at an early stage of development. Many grant-makers are also shy away from funding individuals. However, PHF realises that risk-taking in grant-making can yield great results. We know that unexpected outcomes can be as exciting as envisaged successes and we are eager to learn from the entire range of our grantees’ experiences.

The fund draws upon the expertise of field leaders including trustees Charles Leadbeater, Michael Hamlyn and Tim Bunting and panel member, Ruth Ibegbuna. In addition to the financial support provided to grantees, we offer a programme of wrap-around support: monitoring, coaching and learning events. Our interest is in our pioneers as much as their ideas, and we want to nurture talent as well as facilitate a network of peer support.

One of our first grantees, Jessica and Matthew Turtle, had the idea of developing the Museum of Homelessness in 2014. Their vision was to create a museum where the untold story of homelessness in the UK was curated by those who have experienced it. With PHF funding, they refined a method of how the museum could be thoughtfully and sensitively co-produced. They developed partnerships, consolidated their governance structure and went on to secure further funding. For Jessica and Matthew, our grant represented their ‘tipping point’. The museum now has its own momentum and is driven by a strong partnership with the homeless community. Over the next two years, they will take the Museum to its next stage of development: building a national collection and archive for homelessness, recruiting volunteers, expanding the board and progressing their fundraising plan.

We are currently accepting applications to the Ideas & Pioneers fund. To find out more and to check our eligibility criteria, please see here.


Blog written by Jonathan Price, Grants Manager at Paul Hamlyn Foundation.