NULA incubator is a development programme created by the National Foundation of Civil Society (NFCS) to offer support for smart, effective, and innovative ideas that resolve acute problems in the Estonian society. The Good Deed Foundation has been a partner of the NFCS in running the incubator from the beginning. NULA’s sixth season is about to begin in spring 2021.
What is NULA for? We want to make people look further from the ordinary solutions for serious problems in the society. This can be by bringing well-functional models from abroad to Estonia or create totally new solutions. It is not necessary to be a legal person in order to apply for the incubator, but you must have a team who is willing to undergo a six-month intense incubation period to develop the idea into an operational solution.
The idea needs to solve an acute problem in Estonian society. So far, most initiatives have been submitted in the fields of social issues, education, environment, public health, and collaborative consumption.
The offered solution must aim for sustainability with an independently functioning financing model (e.g. social entrepreneurship, partnership with the public sector, or other hybrid model) and must not be based on one-time support.
How NULA incubator works? NULA consists of several stages ensuring that brilliant, but rough ideas are polished into sustainable and effective solutions:
- In early spring, interested parties can take part in inspiration nights in Tallinn, Tartu, and Narva, where they can learn about cool innovative already functioning solutions from the business world and as well as from NULA graduates. It is also possible to look for supporters of your idea or help another enthusiast or develop their team. More information about the incubator is also given at these events.
- Next step is idea harvesting – we are waiting for you to bring your team and idea to apply for a spot at the incubator. When presenting your idea, be sure to describe the problem, target group, solution and its novelty, a potential financing model, team, and expectations for the incubator.
- Up to 10 teams will be selected from the presented ideas to continue the work in the incubator. The incubator is a 6-month intense development programme starting in May; it consists of training days, meetings with mentors, as well as constant work on the solutions from home. Lean methodology is used for developing the solutions. The focus topics are solution design and testing on target groups, measuring impact, budgeting and the preparation of a financial plan, communication activities, team strengths and weaknesses, and preparation of an action plan for implementing the solution.
- After the first half of the incubation period, 5 teams will be selected for the continuation of the whole period (the other teams will benefit from a few trainings and meetings with mentors).
- At the end of autumn, everyone who has completed the entire incubation period – the participants of this year as well as previous years – can apply for a start-up grant of 25,000 euros issued by the NFCS to up to three initiatives. This resource allows testing the solution for a year and a half. The NFCS can only give the grant to a non-profit association or foundation – now is the time to make a decision about becoming a legal person.
A total of 26 teams have graduated from the incubator in four years and the fifth season is currently underway. 12 initiatives have been given the start-up grant so far:
Vaikuseminutid (Minutes of stillness)
The aim of the NGO Vaikuseminutid is to bring mindfulness and self-regulation skills such as the ability to focus and manage stress to all kindergartens, schools and society as a whole. Vaikuseminutid training has reached over ⅓ of Estonian educational institutions. The teachers’ feedback survey showed that more than 90% of respondents noticed better concentration and steadiness in children.
Topsiring (Circle of cups)
Topsiring is working in deposit principle to motivate cups return, offering their services to the public (eg festivals) and also private events. In June 2019 they have expanded their activities to Latvia and also Finland.
Avatud Kool (Open School)
Avatud Kool (active for 2 years as of summer 2019) is an initiative that uses an innovative approach to teaching and sharing it widely. They are operating 50% of the time by service-learning model, carrying out and learning by different projects. Also mixing kids with different mother tongue.
Käpp ja Käsi (Paw and hand)
Käpp ja Käsi NGO has created the 1st prison-shelter dog program in Estonia. They offer an 8-week program for people in Estonian prisons to train shelter dogs 2x a week and participate in a reflection and discussion group 1x week. From May 2018 18 dogs and 16 people in prisons have participated in the programs and by June 2019 12 of the dogs have found a new home. Their mission is to teach both the people and dogs new skills and help them to transform their lives for the better.
Alustavat õpetajat toetav kool ( A school for new teachers)
An NGO that initiates and expands high-impact interventions that support new teachers’ onboarding and strengthen the new generation of teachers.
SPARK Makerlab is a maker space in the middle of Tartu city, where people can share their ideas and make their dreams come true using the tools, materials, space and mentors available at the workshop. They also offer creative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) workshops and welcomes children and the youth to join in. Thanks to NULA, they can now offer hands-on educational experiences to more kids by packing all of their know-how, materials, tools and support into one package called the Inventor's Kit.
Asendusõpetajad (Substitute teachers)
Asendusõpetajad is a social enterprise that is offering a fast and high-quality lesson substitution service to general education schools in Estonia since March 2018. Their desire is to provide a high-quality substitution for each school lesson with as little effort in terms of time and energy as possible. A high-quality substitute lesson can be conducted by a well-trained substitute teacher who is capable of managing a classroom and presenting the subject.
Tugitakso (Support taxi)
The aim of the idea is offering a modern transportation ordering service with an assistance. Using existing mobile apps for taxi service and creating a community of trained drivers we hope to create service to disabled people, patients, children and elderly people depending on their individual needs.
Seniorship is taking action in the field of employment of seniors. Seniorship helps experienced people by facilitating their entry to the labour market. Their main mission is to reduce age discrimination and grow self-confidence among experienced people.
Proovikivi (formerly called the GTL Lab or Glocally Transformative Learning Lab)
Proovikivi is an initiative which aims to bring about transformative change in students, teachers and communities through promoting project based learning where youngsters respond to real-life challenges - locally in Estonia, but also globally. The platform (currently being developed) aims to help with collaboration, creation of challenges and projects, as well as measuring impact, both on students and society.
Andmekool (School of Data Estonia)
School of Data Estonia is a social initiative offering data literacy trainings and data consultations to strategists from the public, civic and private sector, as well as to journalists and anyone interested. The international freeware programme called School of Data is being imported to Estonia by the non-government organisation Open Knowledge Estonia.
Jututaja brings young companions to the homes and care centres of the elderly in order to share moments and stories, play, walk etc and to learn from each other. Jututaja’s idea is to build a bridge between generations and thus end loneliness and break down barriers of social isolation between young and old. Jututaja also trains the youth how to handle different situations and offers guidance in finding relevant topics. The initiative is based on the experience of Generasjon M, an organization that won the Social Enterprise Award in 2016 in Norway (www.generasjonm.no).