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This week in my team has been a microcosm of what I imagine is happening every day, every hour, out there somewhere in the world. One of my team lost their Mum this week, one of my team buried their Grandad, and one of my team got married. On Thursday evening I also bit all my nails down to the bone.

What I’ve been doing

  • I’ve been in 14 hours of internal meetings this week. And supported some assessment papers through panels. I was especially glad that we’ve funded Landworkers Alliance and Healing Justice London.
  • I’ve had some great conversations this week about ‘infrastructure’ and what that means and looks like for communities – care, healing, creating slack and space, enabling collective action, connecting things up, building capacity and capability. The next round of the Digital Fund is focussed on infrastructure – we’d got that signed off before COVID-19 but it definitely takes on a different meaning now. Thanks Zarah!
  • We had the 6th talk and workshop in our series on futures, foresight, strategic design, narrative practice and longterm thinking. This week it was with Anab and Jon at Superflux on embodied futures and Imagination as a Public Service. I especially liked the questions we were left with as a team, to think how we will haunt people in the future with what we do today.
  • I caught up with my Year Here mentee. So many people have had disruptions to their learning experiences during this time and it’s a very strange and difficult time to be making plans about what to do next.
  • Lots of people in civil society are preparing ideas and papers for Danny Kruger in light of this Tweet. I’ve been in several different meetings and events about it this week and wonder what a better way of doing this kind of idea gathering might be, especially to ensure some collective sensemaking too.
  • Alice and I hosted our first ‘Funders Learn’ meeting, where we had 16 different people from a community of 58, come together to start to discuss funder practice. What we’ve done differently, what we’ve avoided, what we want to keep doing going forward. We’re doing these fortnightly and will be publishing what we find regularly. This feels like a moment for so much to change in how Trusts and Foundations work, from how we support and learn from each other, how we adopt better practice, through to how we achieve more coordinated effort.
  • The next morning I also hosted the second ‘Funder Strategies’ session with the Edge Funders Europe community. This is focussed on sharing ways we are all developing funding strategies during these times of even greater uncertainty. Anyone would think I’m interested in Funder practice 😉
  • We had a half-day Peer Review Panel for the Emerging Futures Fund, where we’d gone from 1156 applications to 160 to 82. In a week’s time we’ll be taking those into an assessment panel for the final selection.
  • I attended the first of an 8 week programme I’ve signed up to on Equity Centred Design by these folk. I’m Interested to understand how it links to ‘design justice’ , the work of Rooted by Design other design practices like this and this.

What’s been important this week

  • We hosted our last session at the Dept. Of Dreams festival and Immy reminded me of the below, and how that’s what is required of us at this time.
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  • I caught up with someone I know that works in one of our huge art institutions this week, where they’ve made 200 redundancies, 80% of staff have been furloughed and even with the government’s announcement this week, there’s so much uncertainty. It reminded me of the scale of loss that is being held at the moment (alongside such the tragic loss of human life) and wondering where that will lead.

What I’ve learned this week

  • I’ve learned how much I need to reset. I have a week off now so no Weeknotes next week, and I hope to come back with some new boundaries and balance in how I’m spending my time. Goodbye emails, Teams, Slack, Google Drive, Zoom and hello friends, nature, rest and time to think, feel and process.
  • I’m leaving you with my objectives – all teams had to complete them this week, and I’ve been doing them with each of my direct reports. They are in the Fund’s language of course.

Objective one

Lead the UK Portfolio so that it delivers on the funding programme commitments already set out between now and April 2021 — Climate Action Fund, Digital, Evidence + Insights, Leaders with Lived Experience, Emerging Futures, International, Growing Great Ideas and Bringing People Together.

  • Ensure each of these programmes is delivered in a way that aligns with our Strategic Framework, Corporate Plan, our commitment to equity and racial justice, meet any legal and budgetary constraints, and do justice to the ambitions of the UK Portfolio team.
  • Ensure that each programme has dedicated teams who feel empowered to lead and deliver each programme, are clear of their roles, and feel responsible for the quality of the work being done, and able to articulate the desired change it can have in the world.
  • Ensure that each funding programme is designed through the following lens’ — innovation (is this drawing on the latest practice and thinking?), ecosystems (what is the best role for TNLCF to play? Can we fund more than individual projects / organisations?), foresight (do we know what is coming ahead?) and equity (are we centring equity and anti-racist work?)
  • Ensure that for each programme the team is equipped and empowered to generate, synthesise and distribute learning and insights across the Fund and wider sector. Including developing materials that can be used to spread good practice and new knowledge in the wider Fund and sector.
  • Ensure that the UK Portfolio has all the operational systems in place to work as effectively and efficiently as possible — problem-solving and finding new ways to do things where it makes sense to.
  • Ensure that the UK Committee is drawn on appropriately and effectively in terms of governance for all of our UK funding programmes, and that they are equipped to do their roles well, and that they are engaged in, and inspired by our work.

Objective two

Renew the role of the UK Portfolio in the wider Fund, so that it adds value to all the country portfolios, other teams in the Fund and the wider sector.

  • Build up knowledge and understanding of each of the country directorates in the fund, so that I’m familiar with the political, social and cultural context that each country directorate is working in.
  • Establish good and effective working relationships across the fund, building up knowledge of different teams across the Fund and there purpose — this will ensure the UK Portfolio is regularly collaborating with other teams, and also draws on different teams in the right way and at the right time.
  • Develop a clearer offer and new narrative about the UK Portfolio, and what it’s uniquely placed to do so that both the team, the wider Fund and the different country directorates are clear about the purpose of the UK Portfolio, its role, how it can create value, and how to work with us. Including who to go to in the UK Portfolio for what.
  • Ensure that this offer is well designed, well communicated and adapted as needed, so that the UK Portfolio remains relevant and vital in the Fund.
  • Develop reciprocal relationships with all of the different teams and directorates in the Fund so that there are strong feedback loops and mutually beneficial relationships.

Objective three

Lead and build a team that is engaged, effective, ambitious, diverse, continually learning and feels supported and cared for.

  • Invest in the culture of the team so that we emphasise the importance of learning, reflection, equity, criticality, wellbeing, acknowledgement, courage, trust and honesty.
  • Model behaviours for the team of good leadership that isn’t hierarchical, holds a vision, has the team’s back, works with people’s strengths, balances care, kindness with quality, and is accountable to the public money that we distribute.
  • Be present for the team, make time for the team, connect up the work of the team, create opportunities for everyone in the team and regularly connect the team to the sense of a wider purpose.
  • Be a supportive, enabling and challenging line manager, that builds in accountability, stretch, feedback and celebration of achievements.
  • Keep developing my own capability as a line manager and a leader.

Objective four

Co-lead the Funds work on our sector support and civil society strategy, so that our approach to this is agile, responsive and able to continually adapt to the wider context — in perpetual beta.

  • Continue fortnightly meetings with the CEO, and wider regular engagement with SMT, Board, Advisory Group, Committees etc.
  • Hold monthly sessions with the group that has been established to draw on across the Fund (from each of the countries so that it reflects the different contexts and countries of the UK).
  • Design the approach to be one that is continually fed in to and stays relevant to the wider context (not a fixed strategy)– figure out how we do this as the Fund, and how it translates into being operationalised.
  • Regularly engage with the wider sector through the Scanning + Sensing Network, the Pockets of the Future series, the Futures Digest newsletter, events — and share back open content with the wider sector so that we are demonstrating a listening approach, quick feedback loops and that we regularly publish something for the sector to respond to.
  • Establish foresight and culture practice as being vital in the fund, especially for longer-term thinking in relation to sector support and grant making.

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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