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01 — New Role, New Weeknotes

It’s been a pretty intense week for starting a new job. I do want to keep up my Weeknotes though as they help me reflect on what I’ve been doing and I believe working in the open is more important than ever.

It’s time for some new questions though.

What have I been doing this week? — I still want to cover this, as one of the main reasons I started Weeknotes was to bring more visibility to what happens in the world of Foundations and funding.

What has been important this week? — I think this question will help me zoom in on what I’ve prioritised in terms of my time.

What have I learned this week? — It’s always good to draw out learning rather than just document action. Hopefully sometimes the learning will be useful for others too.

And don’t forget to still read the Digital Fund Weeknotes, that the team are continuing over here.

What have I been doing this week?

  • Worked with Dawn (CEO) and Faiza, ( Director of Engagement and Insight) on the development of a small grants programme in relation to the longer-term and the ‘new normal.’

What has been important this week?

This week I had planned to be doing visits to our Birmingham and Cardiff offices, to go and meet some of my new team — who are spread out across the UK. That wasn’t possible of course, so instead I spent the mornings of Wednesday and Thursday doing one-to-one’s with each of them over a screen, and then in the afternoons brought them together as a group to do a mini workshop. There was so much other work to do this week but I was adamant that the one thing I wouldn’t move for anything was this time with the team.

Even though I know the UK Portfolio team a little because the Digital Fund team sits within it, I don’t know many people well. I had designed a set of questions that I sent them in advance and then we used the time together to talk through their answers.

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  • What are the main things you want me to know about you?

I didn’t use my User Manual For Me because I think that’s more useful when you’re planning in a more practical way how you will work together — this was more about getting to know people.

For the workshop in the afternoon I brought everyone together to do the following —

I drew on a tool from my ORSC practice — Crafting a Relationship Myth —
which is useful when you want to surface and then create a narrative using the myths that a team or organisation is built upon. I asked them to talk about the history of the UK Portfolio up until the present.

I then asked them to use a similar approach for talking about the future — what did they want people to be saying about the UK Portfolio in 5 years time?

We finished by exploring the teams culture and seeing if something different emerged from being in a group rather than what they had each shared with me individually in the morning.

I recorded the Relationship Myths, and the threads of narrative that were created in Birmingham and Cardiff, and once I’ve done Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast, London and Manchester I’ll be making sense of it as a collective narrative and reflecting it back to the team.

I have to say that after the last two days getting to know the team, even amidst the crisis and complexity of the world, I feel very excited and lucky to be working with such a talented and thoughtful group of people. One of the team described them as a group of ‘misfits’ which really made me feel at home.

What I’ve learnt this week

I’ve spoken to several mental health charities again this week, who laid out some of what they’re seeing at this time.

People who are already accessing NHS mental health services, who tend to have much more serious mental health conditions are seeing some of the NHS provision they’d had available to them being moved to work on the Covid-19 response. In some instances this means people who are still unwell, being discharged from acute awards to make space for Covid-19 patients. As priorities for Crisis in the Community teams also shift to the Covid-19 response those with acute mental health needs are being displaced.

For those people who are not currently in touch with the NHS but do have existing mental health issues like anxiety, OCD and mild depression — they’re experiencing a heightened layer of anxiety. Some of this is because ‘protective factors’ are disappearing e.g grandparents finding momentary joy in hugging their grandchildren, whilst ‘risk factors’ are increasing — worries about money, uncertainties about jobs, fears about domestic abuse etc.

Schools, now closed, were often where lots of young people accessed mental health services and resources, so how will young people’s mental health needs get met now?

In the wider general public group, mental health voluntary sector organisations have seen a surge in demand for information about how to look after yourself and your mental health. One charity I spoke to had seen a 600% increase in traffic to their website in the last week, and some of their specific Covid-19 and mental health materials already have 2 million views.

People will be experiencing things they have never experienced before and as a result there is also likely to be a new cohort of people with mental health issues in the general public.

In the medium term there are likely be new audiences that will need a particular focus —

  • Children and young people

In response to all of the above, organisations are trying to set up peer-to-peer support in local communities, increase their phone line support, move services online, expand their capabilities to create new information and content, and extend existing online communities to be available to a wider group of people.

This is all being done as they try and move their own organisations online, so that they are able to work remotely and are able to address new needs, alongside losing lots of revenue — with all charity shops closed, one organisation was going to lose £4 million this year from that alone.

Lastly, I have never done a job before where people have had so many opinions about how that job should be done, but so little curiosity about what people in those roles might have to say. For all those people writing ‘briefings,’ blog posts and tweets about what funders should do — can I suggest that you ask them what they are doing. What they’re thinking, what they’re having to consider, what trade-offs they are aware they are making — and ideally don’t lump us all together as one amorphous blob.

Definitely ask us how we plan to be accountable, but telling us what to do without even knowing what we are doing, feels like a very odd thing.

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

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