This week I came across Suriya’s work and the Colours Youth Network, who have a crowdfunder you can give to here. Our vision is to ensure that across the UK every LGBT+ young person of colour has access to a local provision and support that is led by LGBT+ people of colour.” I’ve seen a lot during this crisis in terms of who and what we fund, how important specialist infrastructure is.

This week Farzana from Healing Justice London and Maia came in to do a session with my team, organised by Hannah prior to Covid, on racial justice, inclusion and allyship. They covered topics like deepening our understandings of whiteness and how that contributes to perpetuating racial injustice in the sector, exploring and developing a healthier relationship to power and how to start designing an organisation to be in solidarity with racial justice movements and intersecting struggles. I couldn’t make the session due to a long-standing commitment but have seen the slides, the feedback and am looking forward to our follow up session.

What I’ve been doing

  • We put out a press release sharing that, since lockdown began, we have distributed £200 million in funding to over 7,100 small and medium-sized organisations across the UK to help communities respond to the impact of COVID-19.
  • I wrote two more assessment papers to go to panel as part of this crisis response. I also read 68 other assessment papers.
  • The new weekly Futures Digest that the Uk Portfolio has set up internally has 224 readers now — and contributions from colleagues across each of the 4 countries, as well as the staff networks (LGBTQI, Disabled, BAMER)
  • This week I have been in 14.5 hours of internal meetings. I know it may seem strange recording this but I really want to make sure it never tips over to too many internal meetings!
  • A large proportion of my week has been dominated by the Emerging Futures Fund and the 1156 applications we received. There is a team of 7 of us reading them, but I have still read 500 myself, which I finished on Saturday. Part of the work for this has also been prepping information for the cross-fund team we’ve pulled together to help with assessments. This information is to help steer them around what good looks like and familiarise them with the criteria we set out in the funding call. Once we had prepared all the material, Ariana and I did a briefing with the assessment team.
  • I am now part of a Funding Policy group that is meeting fortnightly to consider funding policy questions arising from our delivery of the COVID-19 response in a timely manner which enables a balance of flexibility and consistency across our work in the four different countries. These kind of policies include things like what we can fund in relation to PPE and how that could be considered additionality.
  • On Tuesday I did a session with Kristin Ward Diaz, Director of the Community Development Unit in the Government of Alberta, Canada. Kristin got in touch with me, interested in the Stewarding Loss work, and had convened a group of other commissioners and funders from across Alberta to join the call.
  • I caught up with the Climate Action Fund team who had their decision-making panel on Tuesday and will soon announce £15 million of grants.
  • I set up an internal workshop to explore, with Hilary Cottam, how the ideas in her book ‘Radical Help’ could become mainstreamed, linking up communities and local government more effectively.
Radical Help turned into a programme called Radical Way.
  • As many teams and organisations are needing to do at the moment, the UK Portfolio is also planning and adapting what it does for the rest of this year. As part of this (and because I’m newly in this role), I’ve been thinking of ways for the different teams within my larger team to think strategically about their work going forward. This week I designed some canvases for them to use in their teams: to map out the purpose of each of their funding programmes, the kinds of change they want to see, what progress looks like, how they’ll share learning and insight, and what support they need from me and the wider fund to achieve all these things. I then also created a second canvas encouraging the teams to consider how elements of the work they are each doing can be translated into product and service offerings for other directorates in the Fund.
The Workstream Strategy canvas on the left and the Product/Service Offering canvas on the right.
  • On Friday, we had our second design workshop for the Funders’ Collaborative Hub. Fourteen different foundations sharing how they are currently setting future funding priorities in relation to the crisis. The biggest tension of this work at the moment is trying to do something immediately useful because setting funding priorities is happening right now, alongside holding the ambition of fundamentally shifting deeply entrenched funding practices and behaviours, and knowing that is long, deep work. For me this is the ‘trojan horse’ of strategic design

“ In strategic design what we make is not what we hope to accomplish. We never just make a website, we do it to change an organizational culture. We never just make a building, we do it to bring focus and urgency to regulatory change. We never just publish a book, we do it to illuminate an opaque network of actors and interests around a given topic. In these examples the material becomes a trojan horse for the immaterial. Strategic design involves the task of matching up the ambition for change with the appropriate vehicle that makes change concrete and visibly apparent. We reorganize material to unlock the potential for change in the immaterial aspects of life — the cultures, institutions, systems and governance structures that shape our world.”

The Miro board from the design workshop — so much rich learning!
  • We had the 9th meeting of the Fund’s Scanning + Sensing Network where we used the time this week to reset the questions that we want to use for the scanning work going forward. We are in a different phase of the crisis now and the questions we go out with each week to communities and grant holders with, should reflect that. We also made a renewed commitment to having more external conversations so that we have more data again for the sense making sessions each fortnight.
  • Yesterday I was up at 4.30am to speak alongside Rowan and Thea on a panel about the Future City, for the City Government in Melbourne, Australia. I used this Miro board for my presentation instead of slides — I went a bit Prezzi and apologise in advance that I actually used some things that look like clip art!
My 6 main points on the left and the Miro board on the right.

What’s been important this week

  • The richness of learning and insight we have gathered through the Emerging Futures Fund is phenomenal and over the next few weeks, once we’ve made decisions on the funding, we will also start to share some synthesis of the data across 1156 applications. The main thing I have been struck by so far though, is that communities across the UK really want to process and share what they’ve been through. I think this will be incredibly important before we can move to a different future.
  • It was good to see this exchange on Twitter about the programme too, which I think is a great analysis of this kind of grant making — used for asking questions, and gathering insight for policy/strategy. Another draw on strategic design practices — ‘stewardship’ and legible practice.’

What I’ve learned this week

Generally at the moment I am looking for the longer-term imagining, and the ideas and language that feel unfamiliar or challenge me. I do believe we really need to reimagine so much, and I am not sure where that is happening at the moment. I love this speech by Grace Lee Boggs.

“The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves. It’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.”



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Cassie Robinson.

Cassie Robinson.


Working with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, EarthPercent, P4NE, Policy Fellow IIPP, Co-founder Point People, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.