The Heywood Foundation Public Policy Prize

COVID-19 has tested our institutions and societies as much as it has our bodies. It has caused massive disruption and forced governments, communities and businesses to respond. In addition to the terrible loss of life and health, there have also been secondary shockwaves. Economies have shrunk, supply chains disrupted, and jobs lost. Societies and communities have been affected. COVID-19, and its after effects, have hit harder those in certain sectors, geographies and ethnicities. 

Yet for all the disruption and horror, there have been at least some positives. In surveys, around 9 in 10 Britons say there are aspects of lockdown they would like to keep, such as getting more time with family or more exercise. Public services and businesses have been forced to innovate, such as bringing forward plans to digitise and personalise customer service. Carbon emissions fell. Three-quarters of a million people volunteered to help the NHS. Previously car-packed city roads became filled with cyclists and pedestrians.

Important innovations often arise in the face of major challenges. Disruptions prompt innovators to find new solutions. Disruptions also trigger behavioural changes that might otherwise have taken years to arise. But the opportunities created can be fleeting. Do you see possibilities created out of the challenges of COVID-19, that society, citizens and policymakers should think about and seize? The Heywood Foundation* has created this two-part Challenge Prize to stimulate this discussion, and to create an additional channel of ideas back to UK policymakers. 

The first challenge prize was for spotting key opportunities or possibilities created by the COVID-19 crisis:

  1. What is a key challenge or opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences?

Short answers are encouraged (no more than 300 words). Your answer might capture a seemingly simple detail of public or private sector practice that you think doesn’t make sense or could be made much better. Or it could describe a big change in how we could live – or are living – our lives, or how our economy or society works. You don’t have to have a solution: sometimes just identifying a problem or opportunity is an important insight in its own right. As such, we are setting prizes for the most innovative, surprising, or incisive identification of a challenge or opportunity created by the current crisis.

The second challenge prize sought to find innovative answers to the challenges or opportunities presented:

  1. In the case of a problem, how might we fix it? In the case of an opportunity, how do we capitalise on it?

This could be a solution to a challenge you have identified, or it could be an idea in response to the challenges identified by others (click here to browse).  Your idea might be a quick plan for a fix of a frustrating but ubiquitous piece of bureaucracy, or a process linked to handling the current response to coronavirus. It could be an idea for a better way of getting the economy back on its feet faster, or reducing the social or economic impact on a particular group or sector. Or perhaps it is an idea you have had for a while for improving our society, or environment, and that you think’s time has finally come.  Credit will be given for the originality, practicality, and impact of ideas. Perhaps even more importantly, the winning submissions will put on the desks of leading policymakers, will attract wider debate, and perhaps will be enacted to make the world a better place. Submissions are limited to 1,000 words, with a short summary at the start.

The Heywood foundation believes that sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected people and places, and this is one of the many reasons why our institutions and public dialogue needs to be as open and inclusive as possible.

*The Heywood Prize has been created by the Heywood Foundation.  Jeremy Heywood served many Prime Ministers, and was Cabinet Secretary – the UK’s most senior Civil Servant – from 2012 to 2018. Jeremy was extremely open to new ideas, and actively sought out alternative perspectives. He was much more interested in the quality of the 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 jobcentres to charities, to seek out innovations and unusual perspectives. The Heywood Prize seeks to continue that spirit of inclusivity and innovation.

Prizes Available

  • Question 1:
    • Top Prize: £5,000
    • 10 Runner-ups: £500 each
  • Question 2:
    • Top Prize: £25,000
    • Second Prize: £10,000
    • Third Prize: £5,000
    • 15 Runner-ups: £1,000 each


Submissions will be processed by the judging panel. At no point will any personal information be released unless selected for a prize, in which case the winners’ names will be published with their consent. The Heywood Foundation reserves the right to use and anonymously publish the answers to both questions for the purpose of stimulating further thought and discussion about challenges or opportunities that the current situation may present.