Policy innovation contest looks to youth for ‘unheard insights’

Successful proposals for Heywood prize are given up to £25,000 and support with turning ideas into implementation

Credit: Pixabay/Michal Jarmoluk

A competition dedicated to seeking out and supporting and innovation in policymaking is looking to young people for ideas to improve life in the UK, with up to £25,000 on offer.

The Heywood prize – set up in memory of the late Jeremy Heywood, former cabinet secretary – was set up last year to reward impactful and innovative public policy ideas. In its second iteration, the competition has put extra focus on encouraging entries from younger generations. 

The Heywood Foundation’s top pick will receive £25,000, with runner-up awards of between £1,000 and 10,000 also up for grabs. 

This year’s round includes a separate youth prize for under-21s, worth between £500 and £5,000. Young entrants will also be eligible for the £25,000 prize.

The winner’s suggestion will also be passed on to government policymakers, with the foundation’s full backing for fast-tracking.

“Building on the success of the inaugural Heywood Prize in 2021, in 2022 we also want to tap into the often unseen and unheard insights and creativity of our younger generations,” said Suzanne Heywood, chair of the Heywood Foundation and widow of Jeremy Heywood. “Never has the need to bring their bold, new ways of thinking to the attention of policymakers been more important than it is today.”

Last year’s top prize was a proposal to establish an NHS Reserve Force, a reserve “army” of medically qualified volunteers to support the UK’s health service, especially in times of health emergencies.

The idea was shared with the government and has since been implemented by NHS England. Launched in March 2022, the NHS Reserve Programme has more than 4,100 reservists who are providing tens of thousands of hours of care in UK communities.

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“This is an amazing example of how our contestants can see their ideas rapidly translated into substantive policy and real-world actions that can change many people’s lives in the UK for the better,” said Suzanne Heywood, who is also a former civil servant.

Another award-winning entry in 2021 proposed that the support disabled students receive during their studies should be extended to help them find their first job on leaving higher education. 

The Department for Work and Pensions is now piloting an “adjustments passport” to support a smoother transition into employment for disabled people.

All UK citizens can enter the 2022 competition until the 31 December deadline, with entries in audio, video or text formats all accepted. Both individuals and groups can apply.

The judging panel, which is still to be finalised, includes Zamila Bunglawala, director of international education at the Department for Education; Suzanne Heywood; and BBC political journalist Laura Kuenssberg.

Others on the panel include, Baroness Minouche Shafik, director of London School of Economics and Political Science; Behavioural Insights Team chief executive David Halpern; and an as-yet unnamed Prince’s Trust ambassador.

Jeremy Heywood, who died in October 2018, was the UK’s most senior civil servant from 2012 to 2018. The Heywood Foundation was set up in his memory to support innovation in public policy and diversity within the public sector.

Explaining how the Heywood Prize fits with his mentality, the foundation said: “Jeremy was extremely open to new ideas and always sought out alternative perspectives. He was more interested in the quality of an idea than the rank or seniority of the person who proposed it. He would make a point of regularly getting out of Whitehall to spend time in ‘frontline’ settings, from job centres to charities, to seek out innovations and unusual perspectives. The foundation seeks to continue that spirit of inclusivity and innovation.”


Sam Trendall

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