Men’s health charity Movember is issuing a £1.86 million call out for innovative digital and tech ideas addressing the mental health challenges that stem from social isolation.
The Social Connections Challenge, through crowdsourcing, aims to find and develop ideas for new digital or technology initiatives that maintain or strengthen social connections and address isolation in groups of at-risk men.
As many as 75 ideas across the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand will be shortlisted, with up to five UK projects selected for a co-development investment of between £52,500-£131,600.
A timely debut, the Social Connections Challenge comes amidst increased feelings of isolation and uncertainty many are facing as a result of the global COVID-19 crisis.
In May, Movember launched a global survey whose results indicated that nearly a quarter of men globally (23%), reported their mental health had worsened in the first six weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, while almost a third of men (30%) noted increased feelings of loneliness with the highest percentage (71%) among young men aged 18-29 years.
Movember Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Brendan Maher, said strong social connections were a key protective factor for men against anxiety, depression and potentially suicide.
“It’s concerning that in the midst of this pandemic, Movember research tells us that 33 per cent of men admitted they felt lonely more often. 1
“We’ve been isolated from our usual support networks and coping mechanisms which can have a huge impact on mental health and wellbeing,” he said. “There is a critical need to ease the anxiety and strain resulting from being physically apart.”
“In this COVID-19 year, the way we connect is evolving. We see Movember’s Social Connections Challenge as an opportunity to shake things up and leverage the amazing ways that people have been keeping men connected using technology.
“In addition to funding, being part of the Social Connections Challenge includes support and expertise from the Movember team in order to maximise potential and impact. We test, learn and find out exactly what works for men, so that the most promising programs can be scaled to reach more men, more quickly. Finding ideas that have been started in the community and are showing promise is a really exciting opportunity.”
Anthony York is the CEO of Boxing Futures, which delivers the Brothers Through Boxing (BTB) project. Earlier this year, BTB – a unique project which connects young socially-isolated men through regular boxing training and group discussion – was one of six projects globally chosen to go through to the third round of Movember’s original Social Innovators Challenge.
Anthony said: “It’s been an incredible journey partnering with Movember for the past five years. Their innovative funding model allows creative social ideas to be piloted and tested. Movember has backed BTB in a huge way, supporting us both financially and non-financially, creating a lasting, sustainable impact in the lives of young men.
“BTB is about friendship, connecting people and supporting each other through tough times which is really what we’re here for. These projects are vital to create a support network for socially isolated men.
“I would certainly urge anyone with an innovative idea, no matter how unusual it might seem, to apply for the Social Connections Challenge. This is an opportunity to turn those wild ideas into a reality which might just save lives.”
Submissions for the Social Innovators Challenge 2.0 open on August 17. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of Movember. For more information, or to apply visit movember.com
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