FAQs

Who’s behind this programme?

The Finance Innovation Lab is a catalyst for a more sustainable and socially just financial system. We connect people and organisations disrupting the system and we build their capacity for impact. We work with innovators creating new business models, civil society organisations advocating for change, and individuals inside mainstream finance who want to repurpose their profession. The Lab was founded in 2009 by WWF-UK and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, and became an independent charity in July 2015.

Toynbee Hall is a community organisation that pioneers ways to reduce poverty and disadvantage. Based in the East End of London, it has been a catalyst for social reform in the UK for almost 130 years. Toynbee Hall’s Financial Health Exchange is a network for professionals and organisations working on issues around financial health and inclusion. We work to identify the root causes of financial difficulty and work in partnership with multiple sectors to tackle them effectively.

Why are you doing this?

Current approaches to financial health often result in products designed from the top-down, with a focus on providing access to products that don’t work for the reality of many people’s lives. We want to support innovations that work from the bottom-up, with a focus on what people need and want, and an understanding of the wider factors that drive financial ill-health.

Genuinely disruptive innovators – those who put financial health at the heart of their work – face real challenges in growing their businesses. These include resistance from existing players, regulatory challenges, a lack of understanding of the drivers of financial ill-health and a lack of public engagement with finance.

If we don’t support these new businesses to thrive, we won’t see the improvement in financial health that we desperately need. So we want to empower the next generation of pioneers in financial health to make the biggest possible impact.

There are lots of fintech incubators. What’s different about the Financial Health Fellowship?

Unlike other fintech or financial incubators, the Fellowship programme is:

  • Designed for financial health innovators with the potential to change the wider financial system
  • Focussed on leadership, peer coaching and engaging with influentials
  • Delivered in partnership with Toynbee Hall, widely recognised for its pioneering work in financial health, and offering opportunities to collaborate with those with lived experience of financial ill-health
  • Not limited to fintech – we accept applications from across the financial system
  • Based on real-world experience – monthly sessions enable you to put your learning into practice and test your new leadership skills.

What’s your experience in running incubators?

We piloted the Fellowship model in 2016 with a cohort of 16 pioneering financial entrepreneurs. You can read the results here. We’ve previously run:

  • An incubator to build the leadership, strategies and networks of ten social businesses, in partnership with UnLtd
  • A six-month training programme for economic, environmental and social justice campaigners, which to date has developed over 70 emerging civil society leaders
  • A long-term leadership development and community-building group for seven promising innovators and campaigners, including retreats and coaching.

Why are the sessions monthly?

Through our experience of previous incubators, we’ve learnt that intensive classroom-based incubation is not effective for financial start-ups, because of the complexity and barriers to entry in the financial system. Instead, the monthly sessions allow Fellows to apply their learning in the real world and bring live issues for discussion with the group.

The monthly schedule also means you can take part in the programme without working on your business full-time. This enables you to sustain yourself with other employment until your business is generating income for you.

Can you keep my involvement confidential?

No, we can’t – because part of the value of the programme is highlighting your work to influential and investors across the financial system. Within Fellowship sessions, we operate within a framework of trust and neither Fellows nor Lab staff will share commercially sensitive information about your work outside of this group (unless you agree to this).

Where will the sessions be held?

All sessions (except for the retreat) will be held in a central London venue. We’ll use the same venue for each of the monthly session, but we plan to hold the launch and closing events in a different venue, donated by our partners.

The retreat will be held outside of London, in a location accessible by public transport. We use a peaceful location where you can reflect on your work and connect with yourself, your peers and nature. Full details will be confirmed when you are accepted onto the programme.

We hope to offer travel bursaries for people who may not be able to afford the cost of regular travel to our venue. This will be subject to funding – please get in touch if you’d like to discuss this.

How much work will have I to do in between the sessions?

The more time you can dedicate to applying the lessons learnt and reflecting on your development, the more value you will get from the programme. We will ask you to spend half to one day a month preparing for the next session and following up from the previous session (this will vary depending on the content of each session).

What happens if I have to miss a session?

It’s very important that you can attend all of the sessions, for your own learning and that of the wider group.

We recognise that in exceptional circumstances you may not be able to attend a session. If this happens, we will arrange for you to attend the session via Skype/Google Hangouts or speak to a Fellow who attended the session, so that they can share their learning.

Will we have an opportunity to pitch for investment?

The closing event will be a ‘Demo Day’ in which you will have the opportunity to explain your work to a range of influencers, investors and potential partners. We also arrange two ‘Pitch Practice’ sessions for you to get feedback on your business idea and pitching style from a group of friendly investors, entrepreneurs and Lab associates.

For more information, please download the course structure.

Is the status of Fellow permanent?

No – you are a Fellow while you are taking part in the programme, but we will recruit a new group of Fellows in future years. You can see our 2016 alumni here.

Where an individual has made a significant contribution towards a sustainable finance system and has a history of engagement with The Lab, we may confer the title of Senior Fellow. This is a permanent title which reflects outstanding achievement and is awarded at the discretion of The Lab. You can find out more about our Senior Fellows here.

How is the programme funded?

The Fellowship programme is funded through a mixture of participant contributions and charitable funding. You can find a list of our programme supporters here – we’re extremely grateful for their help. The Fellowship also draws on the Lab’s core resources, which are supported by a number of funders – you can see a full list here.

We’re keen to speak with funders, individuals and organisations who would like to support this programme in future. We aim to run Fellows programmes across the UK and beyond, as well as sector specific incubation programmes (finance for housing, finance for community energy, etc.). Please email us if you’d like to discuss this.

How much does it cost?

We ask you to contribute to the cost of the programme depending on your ability to pay. This helps to cover the cost of:

  • Staff time to design, deliver and evaluate the programme (Finance Innovation Lab and Toynbee Hall)
  • Venues and catering for six full-day monthly sessions
  • Accommodation and travel for two weekend leadership retreats
  • Guest speakers and outreach work
  • Materials and resources, both online and in print.

Contribution levels are based on the size and type of your organisation – you can download a list of expected contribution levels here.

We don’t want to exclude any participants from the programme on the basis of ability to pay, so if you’re concerned about your ability to contribute, please contact us. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we’re able to offer some places completely free of charge.

We also hope to provide some support for those without the funds to travel from outside London – please contact us if this would affect your ability to participate in the programme.

Can I speak to someone about the programme?

If you have any more questions, please email fellowship@financeinnovationlab.org. Please note that we are a small team and may not be able to respond to your query immediately.

“I am better able to take initiative and communicate purpose and vision, while inspiring, coaching and developing others to co-create.”
- 2016 Fellow

Find out more:

Meet the Fellows

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Advisory Group

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Our Supporters

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