Growing Great Ideas

Longstone School

Supporting transformational, long-term change
This is a UK Portfolio funding programme. The UK Portfolio is where we explore new approaches, experiment with how to do things differently, and look to fund work that is more future-focussed.

Our Growing Great Ideas programme has a focus on supporting transformational and long-term change. We’re looking for visionary initiatives that go beyond individual organisations, and instead focus on ecologies, platforms, ecosystems, assemblages, networks and constellations. We expect these initiatives to be generating an infrastructure through which many things are possible.

We're looking to invest in different combinations of people, communities, networks and organisations that demonstrate an ability to seed and grow alternative systems, accelerate the deep transition of 21st-century civil society, and to learn and adapt as they go.

At application stage, we’re interested in hearing about your ideas and plans, rather than a detailed project description. Our funding will reflect the stage of your idea – we’ll discuss this with you if you’re shortlisted to submit a full application.

Suitable for
We’re looking to invest in different compositions of people, communities, networks and organisations over the long term. They might be better described as ecologies, platforms, ecosystems, assemblages, networks and constellations - we’re using different words because at this stage of the funding programme, we’re still testing an approach. We’re also using language to be explicit about how this is different from what we’ve done before. The important thing is that we can see the potential in how they will grow and deepen over time, extending their missions, and adding to the ecology as they go.
Funding size
The minimum grant size is £150,000. The minimum length is two years. Funding can be available for up to ten years in some circumstances.
Total available
We expect to have a total of £25 million available for this programme until March 2022. And more funding beyond that.
Application deadline


How to apply

You can apply via our online application form

The form is asking for only the information we need at this stage. Please answer as fully as possible. We’ll also talk to you about any additional information that we might need for us to make a decision about your application.

If we’re interested in taking your idea any further, we’ll contact you to discuss it in more depth.

If it's difficult or impossible for you to complete an application form

You can contact us if you have any communication support needs or any difficulties with completing the form. We’re happy to talk about alternative ways for you to tell us about your idea.

Apply online

What information you need to apply

We ask for the contact details of the main contact for your application

This should be someone we can talk to if we have any questions about your initiative.

We ask for the legal name of your organisation and its address

Make sure these are up to date and match up with any information or identity documents we may ask for.

We also ask you to read and agree to our terms and conditions

Read our  terms and conditions.

What happens after you apply?

  1. You send us your application we’ll assess your application. Demand for funding is high, so we’ll only take applications to the next stage if they meet our criteria and expectations.
  2. We’ll take some early decisions about the applications that best meet the criteria in What we’re hoping to fund. We’ll aim to let you know our decision within six weeks of receiving your proposal.
  3. If you’re invited to the next stage, we’ll ask for more information about your project – we’ll contact you to discuss your application in depth. We’ll also send you a short form with more details about your organisation and the main contacts for the initiative. We'll use the information in this form to update our records and complete some security checks. (Find out more about the checks we do.) We’ll also ask you about your proposed budget. If you’re not sure about how much you want to apply for, we can discuss this with you.
  4. We’ll make a decision – depending on how much funding you’re applying for, your request will either be considered by our UK Funding Panel or UK Funding Committee. 
  5. If your application is successful we'll contact you with the good news! Once you’ve been awarded funding from us, here’s what to expect. This page will also let you know about the things you need to do.
Who can and cannot apply

Who can apply

We’re looking to invest in different combinations of people, communities, networks and organisations over the long term. They might be better described as ecologies, platforms, ecosystems, assemblages, networks and constellations – things that are generating an infrastructure through which many things are possible. The important thing is that we can see the potential in the work to be able to grow and deepen over time, extending its mission, refreshing its soil and attracting more to the ecology as it grows.

We’re particularly interested in exploring how we can more deliberately invest in ecologies, platforms, ecosystems, assemblages, networks and constellations that are working towards a common purpose and new philosophy. These could be existing ones that want to extend and/or deepen their work, or new ones that emerge. This work can take place at a local or national level.

Your lead organisation also needs to be a:  

  • registered charity  
  • community interest company 
  • Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)
  • community benefit society
  • co-operative society (if it has a not-for-profit clause)
  • voluntary or community organisation  
  • statutory body (including town, parish and community councils) - we’d like them to be part of the initiative but not lead it   
  • company limited by guarantee (if it has a not-for-profit clause).

We cannot accept applications from:  

  • individuals  
  • sole traders  
  • companies that are aimed at generating profits primarily for private distribution  
  • organisations based outside the UK  
  • applications made by one organisation on behalf of another  
  • schools .

If you’re not sure if you can apply

Contact us. The team will be happy to help. You can also check what other funding programmes you might be able to apply to.

What we’re hoping to fund

What we’re hoping to fund

At this stage, we’re looking to fund things that may look quite different from each other but will likely have in common some of the following:

  • They’re likely to be starting with a new philosophy, frame, logic or narrative that guides the work, like a new philosophy about how the economy could work or how society could be organised.
  • They consider equity in everything they do - equity for people and for the planet. We are looking for initiatives that are creating new patterns of who has power and what is valued.
  • They’ll be generating an infrastructure through which many things are possible.
  • They can show that the things that are created underpin genuine transitions away from/towards the relevant focus.
  • They’ll be able to show that they’ve been consistently asking and exploring good questions about how things need to change in the present, and can imagine and articulate what alternatives looks like.
  • They’ll be operating from a set of principles that show how they’ll get there, even if they do not know what the final result might be (because it’s experimental).
  • They can show an ability to continually adapt as they go. We want to invest in how people are enquiring.
  • They will be able to describe what progress looks like for their work, how they are committed to that progress, and to have some ideas about how they will measure and show progress.
  • There is momentum to what they are doing. They can point to how they are making ripples as they have been growing and deepening their work, and show that they are attracting others to it.
  • They are unlikely to be a single organisation or project, already working with multiple partners and enmeshed in many relationships. They can also show that they’ve had real engagement with other parts of the landscape that are key to things being different.

We’ll be looking to explore longer-term funding commitments that show us investing in those involved for seven to ten years. This is not about ‘core costs’ - we want our funding to be used in a more adaptive, vital and regenerative way than the term ‘core costs’ suggests.

In such a long-term, emergent approach, we know we’ll need to also have flexibility in where the funding goes, and to enable groups and organisations to come in and out of the ‘ecology’ as it deepens and grows.

We’ll continue to prioritise applications that work across the UK, although we recognise that this may not always be appropriate.

We understand that this is an experimental programme, testing new ideas. We’re comfortable with uncertainty - we want to understand what we can do to build capacity in communities and learn from your experiences.

What we’re unlikely to fund

As this is a new programme where we’re exploring new approaches, we think it’s important to be clear about what is not likely to be suitable, as well as what is. We’re unlikely to fund:

  • applications that are about furthering the agenda of a single organisation
  • applications that are about supporting services to be delivered or to move things online
  • applications that only involve a single approach to change – one set of actors, one theory, one scale, for example – we expect to fund applications with ecologies that will evolve over time
  • organisations, communities or networks that cannot demonstrate the rigour they bring to being emergent and adaptive in their approach
  • applications that are about efficiencies or improvements within the existing system, as opposed to a re-imagined vision and approach
  • applications that are linear or traditional project delivery approaches, and that focus on specific outcomes.

Delivering your project in Welsh

If you receive funding from The National Lottery Community Fund for a project in Wales, you'll need to deliver it in Welsh as well as English. Read our guidance on managing your project bilingually.

What you can spend the money on

We can fund things like:

  • staff salaries
  • development work (testing new ways of working, staff training and development, developing governance, tech or IT upgrades/purchases, sharing learning)
  • transport
  • utilities/running costs
  • volunteer expenses
  • equipment
  • capital costs (we may consider funding capital costs if you can demonstrate how they can benefit the ecology in the longer term).

We can also support organisations with funding over longer periods, potentially seven to ten years, depending on how long their idea might take to evolve.

If you’re invited to the next stage, we’ll talk to you to agree what the funding will cover.

We cannot fund:

  • religious or political activities, including lobbying
  • statutory activities
  • loans, endowments or interest
  • paying someone else to write your application
  • profit-making or fundraising activities
  • VAT you can reclaim
  • alcohol.

Feel free to contact us if you want to chat about this, including if you might need capital funding for buying or refurbishing buildings.

UK's international obligations on subsidy control

As a result of Brexit and the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union (EU).

From the 1 January 2021, the funding that the Fund distributes is now subject to the UK’s international subsidy control commitments. A subsidy can only be awarded where strict rules are followed.

When developing your application, it's important that you consider UK’s international subsidy commitments and how to make your project compliant. If you have concerns, you should seek legal advice.

You can find more information about the UK’s international subsidy UK’s international subsidy control commitment from 1 January 2021.

If you’re ready to start your application

Apply online