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Suffolk Libraries shortlisted for funding to develop ‘Happy Place’ project

A Suffolk Libraries project has been announced as one of ten finalists in the Nesta Challenges Tech to Connect competition.

Tech to Connect seeks new ways to use technology to reduce social isolation and loneliness in England. The ten finalists have been selected from 130 applications from charities and social enterprises, with each being awarded £25,000 to develop their project over the next five months.

Our project is 'Happy Place', a new website and app being developed in partnership with Suffolk Mind and the University of Suffolk. Happy Place will recommend content, experiences and activities on offer in libraries and from other community services with the aim of connecting people with opportunities which are designed to meet their emotional needs.

Nesta Challenges will provide support to Suffolk Libraries over the next few months and in February a judging panel will assess the ten finalists’ progress, selecting a winner and runners-up. The winner will receive £100,000 and the two runners up will each receive £75,000.

Suffolk Libraries chief executive Bruce Leeke said: "Through the work that we do, we see more and more people that suffer from social isolation and we want to help them understand the importance of the library as a space they can go in order to meet their community and enjoy what it has to offer. This project will help to develop a unique tool to help suggest personalised events and experiences in libraries and other community settings."

The £1 million prize is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as part of a wider package to support the growth of Tech for Good, while supporting cross-government work on Tackling Loneliness.

Nesta Challenges executive director Tris Dyson said: "Social isolation affects people of all backgrounds, age and locations. We were looking reflect this in the applications we received and the finalists chosen. Tech can offer powerful ways to bring people together, and we are excited to start working with these innovators to develop their concepts.

"By supporting and scaling these ideas, we can ultimately work together to help reduce social isolation."

Minister for Civil Society Baroness Barran said: "Loneliness and social isolation is one of the biggest public health challenges we face today. Nobody should feel they don’t have anyone to turn to. Yet this is a reality for far too many people.

"Harnessing the power of technology is an important way to tackle this issue and I am excited by the potential of these innovations to make a real difference to people’s lives."