Action Planning and the Stephen Lloyd Awards – incubating brilliant ideas

27 March 2024

Now in its 10th year, the Stephen Lloyd Awards is an invaluable catalyst for bright ideas. Since 2015, when the Awards were launched by Bates Wells Foundation in memory of Bates Wells’ former managing partner, they have provided the sort of hard-to-come-by seed funding that can catapult a start-up charity, social enterprise or entrepreneurial business from dining table to worldwide recognition.aking”.

Entries have been truly ground-breaking. Winners have included R;pple, a digital solution that can intercept web searches related to suicide or self-harm, Real Ice a technology for restoring Arctic ice, and RefuAid, the UK’s first loan scheme for refugees with international professional accreditation. The youngest (and the first) winner was 22 years old when she won, founder of Go-Forward Youth, a charity set up by care leavers for care leavers. She has gone on to secure close to £1million from a range of grant funders.

For the last five years, Action Planning has supported the Stephen Lloyd Awards with pro bono mentoring for finalists and a presence on the judging panel. Each year the Awards receive between 80 and 100 applications. Each applicant is reviewed four to six times by a community of over 100 reviewers, made up of personnel from Bates Wells and the Awards’ partners.

 “We’re looking for projects that stand out, are distinct and offer sometimes simple but ingenious solutions to problems in ways we can’t imagine,” explains Mona Rahman, Bates Wells Foundation Projects Manager. “We ask our reviewers to step back and think deeper about the idea, rather than how it is articulated on paper. Can the idea actually make an impact and can they, with the right support, potentially convert that idea into transformative change?”

Ten finalists are given £2,500 to build their pitch, which they then deliver at the finals event in July. The winners receive £25,000, but it’s not all about winning.  

“Even if they don’t win, they can form important connections on the evening, offering what could be that golden opportunity they are after,” says Mona. “We had one finalist who admitted applying not for the cash prize, but to gain access to the exclusive and friendly network. Another unexpectedly went on to raise millions through a simple introduction.”

Winners and finalists are eligible for moral and technical support towards their project.

Last year, five Action Planning Associate Consultants volunteered support to Awards finalists. Shalini Jain provided fundraising research for LivedHealth, a free online video resource that shines light on difficult long-term health challenges. She created a pipeline of fundraising prospects and helped them to strengthen their impact measurement work.

Kate Griffiths worked with The Haven Wolverhampton, which provides support services to women and children who are vulnerable to domestic abuse and homelessness. Kate offered advice on how they think and talk about impact, to increase engagement with key stakeholders.

David Saint worked with Just Farmers, which brokers media requests and gives media training to farmers to articulate their issues, and Ms Independent Careers, which helps girls and young women with their career aspirations – both one-woman start-ups requiring some mentoring to help define their ‘why?' and where they're going.

Anja Batista Sonksen worked with four different finalists (Real Ice, The Wheelchair Skills College, The Vavengers and Ms Independent Careers) in varying degrees of intensity. From just introducing and connecting someone who might be useful, to in-depth strategic review sessions and fundraising advice.

Simon Claridge also worked with Real Ice, applying the principles of Appreciative Inquiry to help build support for the project.

In some cases, the work took just a handful of hours but left the recipient in a much stronger position, with a clear path to follow. In the case of Just Farmers, founder Anna Jones had found herself in a role she didn’t really want. “While I had complete confidence, and heaps of passion, about our aims and vision, I felt out of my depth with organisational leadership and management. It did not play to my skills or strengths.”

With two conversations, David Saint helped her to see that there was a way in which she could step back. Anna followed his advice and made a big difference to both herself and her Project Editor by handing over the managing role. Both were delighted. “David opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities,” said Anna. “He legitimised and professionalised the ideas and feelings that were in my mind about what to do about Just Farmers.”

This year’s awards are currently open for applications, with a closing date of 5th April. If you’re working on a brilliant idea that needs a little funding or some well-considered moral support, you know what to do.

Sign Up

Sign in to continue reading

Access all our articles and search the provider directory for free.