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What have I been doing this week?

  • Half of my day every day is doing external calls with grantees, working out how we can best support them or calls with external stakeholders, listening to what they sense is happening.
  • I’m involved in a small leadership team working across England and UK to distribute Government funds. This is time consuming, complex, and important. We are shouldering a lot of responsibility. This means attending England Senior Management meetings twice weekly.
  • A meeting with Jane and Scott in our policy and public affairs team, who have been doing some great thinking about involving the views of the wider sector in how we distribute funds.
  • Working with the RSA to design a 3 part event series we start next week about ‘assembling together and bringing coherence to fragments of the New Normal.’ I’m looking forward to Dawn being in conversation with Matthew Taylor to introduce the series.
  • A call with Michael Jarvis from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative — always enjoy connecting with people new to me in the philanthropy world.
  • Ran a Funders Who Tech session with Tom, with about 18 other funders present from different UK Trusts and Foundations.
  • Attended a session for an update on the work Catalyst is doing.
  • Designed and set up a horizon scanning and sense-making function across the Fund with my colleague Hannah.
  • Alongside all this, I’ve been in various team calls, trying to keep them informed and supported.

What has been important this week?

Getting this statement up on our website has been really important this week — I can’t take any credit, it’s been the work of some colleagues, but I’m fully supportive of it. I’m going to be working with my colleague Shane and some of our staff networks over the next weeks to speak with a group of organisations Dawn pro-actively reached out to who are best placed to address inequalities around ethnicity, disability, age, gender and sexual orientation. This will be part of us making sure we distribute funds through an equity lens.

This week we launched Glimmers — a collaborative research project led by Careful Industries and Plot. Whilst commissioned prior to Covid-19, it’s just as relevant, perhaps even more so, given the recent rapid digitisation of our lives.

“More of life than ever is now lived through, monitored and enabled by data and digital technologies. What does this digital shift mean for civil society — and how could civil society be in a digital world?”

There is also a short survey to fill in, asking for civil society organisations to reflect on what they’ve experienced because of any digital shifts.

“This research aims to spot some of the second-order consequences of these changes: what care, support, infrastructure and organisations will be needed as we settle into a more digital future?”

What I’ve learnt this week

In a previous blog I referred to a metaphor I’ve been using to think about the different types of funding that is needed at the moment, and the different kinds of roles Trusts and Foundations need to play.

This is in part because whilst I’m still mostly head down in our immediate response, the UK Portfolio is also starting to think about the longer-term — the renewal and the rebuild. It could be hard for us to focus on the longer-term when we are hearing so many stories about the devastating impacts of Covid-19 in the present. I found Frameworks newsletter this week helpful in terms of how to talk about what comes next, and shared it with the team in my weekly Friday update.

“Because these are hard times and we’re all experiencing high levels of distress, fear, and uncertainty, any talk of opportunities and silver linings risks backfiring and causing harm. Avoid talking about “bright spots” or “upsides.”

Instead of talking about the strategic advantages of the current moment or about competing to advance or “win” on our issues, use language that expresses solidarity. We’re not “seizing the moment”or “leveraging the opportunity.” We’re connecting, rebuilding, and moving forward together, based on what we’ve experienced, how the world has changed, and what we all need.”

They also shared three ways to approach talking about the future.

  • Show that you’re responding to the moment — — — not taking advantage of it.
  • Show that bold, collective action is the only response that makes sense.
  • Help people see this time as a moment when change is possible, necessary, and desirable.

And some other examples they give -

“Let’s work together to get the future right”

“Every policy and funding decision should lead us to the future we want: a fair and just society where every one of us can thrive. As we rebuild, let’s redesign our economy and systems so that they work for all of us.”

‘The way we talk about time — the past, present, and future — can either increase or decrease public will for policies and actions that will make a difference. When we use catastrophe terms like “wake,” “aftershocks,” or “aftermath,”we leave the impression that the issue is an impersonal natural disaster and impossible to control. If we suggest that there will soon be a time “when things get back to normal,” we send people toward the comfort of nostalgia — — — rather than keeping them engaged in a conversation about change. If we suggest that “we can never go back to the way things were,” people may feel overwhelmed and tune out.

We’ll need to strike the right notes when talking about what and how we learn from this moment. If our tone invites people to think and reflect with us, many will. But if we come off as telling them they’ve had it wrong all along, they’re unlikely to think we are right.

Connect the past (the conditions created — or revealed — by the pandemic) to the present (what governments, citizens, and societies can and must do now) and the future (possible outcomes that matter to us all).”

I’ve also been thinking how so many of the UK Portfolio’s programmes — Lived Experience Leadership, Bringing People Together work, improving the use of Evidence + Insights, the Digital Fund — all on pause just for now — are so relevant to the world and where it is heading.

We will need leaders with lived experience to be fully at the centre of any renewal. We’ve seen how people coming together is so important and how much we need each other, and strong communities. We’ve seen how much civil society has needed better evidence and insight to make its value visible at this time and how the capabilities needed to do that are not very common. We’ve seen how digital has been vital in the crisis, and how much of civil society was unprepared for that.

Lastly, a milestone for me was completing the Couch to 5K last weekend. I’ve been trying to do that for nearly a decade. Here I am after the final run.

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