Good Help

22nd January 2020

View the Good Help website at



How we help each other matters. Some help – what we call ‘good help’ – supports people to feel hopeful, identify their own purpose and confidently take action. Other help – which we call ‘bad help’ – does the opposite, undermining people’s confidence, sense of purpose and independence.

Whether people want to find work, improve their health or get the most out of education, good help involves understanding what matters to each person. It is about supporting people to build the confidence they need to take action. This kind of work is core to many community and voluntary organisations. Yet despite decades of research and good practice, it remains absent from many mainstream services.


The simple truth is that we cannot afford to keep providing bad help. Too much is at stake. Too many people are unnecessarily trapped in negative cycles and lost opportunities perpetuated by bad help. These negative cycles have acute and obvious consequences, such as homelessness or addiction, but also chronic
and subtle effects which erode confidence and mental health, making activities, such as parenting and healthy eating, much harder, and sometimes impossible.

In addition to the tremendous personal and social costs involved, there are the significant financial costs of bad help. For every person trapped by bad help, who believes that they cannot find work or maintain a healthier lifestyle, there are also avoidable ongoing costs. When bad help affects millions of people, as we believe it does, the financial costs are huge.

Good help provides a practical contribution to breaking out of these cycles. It is not the only solution, but we cannot ignore it any longer. We urgently need to make ‘good help’ a priority in how we design and deliver mainstream services and social programmes.


In February 2018, Osca and Nesta launched the Good and Bad Help report.

In August 2018, the government Civil Society Strategy committed to working with the Lottery, Nesta and Osca to support good help.

In September 2018, over 300 good help practitioners applied to receive the Good Help award. 19 finalists were selected and 3 winners were awarded with a top prize.

In 2020 we are developing place-based partnerships to significantly increase the impact of good help practitioners across the country. If you would like to be involved, please get in touch.


The National Lottery Community Fund, DCMS and Nesta


Julia Unwin (Chair)

Adam Lent, NLGN; Danny Kruger, Legatum Institute; Connor Ryan, Sutton Trust; David Knott, Cabinet Office; Dr Albert Bandura, Stanford; Geoff Mulgan, Nesta; Dr Ralf Schwarzer, Freie Universität Berlin; Prof. Kate Lorig, Stanford; Giles Gibbons, Good Business; Kate Stanley, NSPCC; Sam Freedman, Teach First; Tiago Peixoto, World Bank; Jennifer Wallace, Carnegie; Jane Mansour, Labour Market Expert; Anand Shukla, Brightside; Athol Halle, Groundswell; Chris Wright, Catch 22; Louise Mycroft, Northern College; Penelope Gibbs, Transform Justice; Richard Holmes, Barnwood Trust; Cormac Russell, Nurture Development.


Nesta and Osca have been working in this area for many years. In 2017 they decided to pool their expertise to create the conditions for good help practitioners to be identified, better understood and used as a basis for changing mainstream services and social programmes. Since then, Osca have founded a non-profit dedicated to this mission: Good Help.

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