I’ve never worked as hard in the year between April 2020 (when I took on my previous role) and March 2021 (when I started my new/current role as Deputy Director Funding Strategy, Innovation, Policy + Practice). Over the course of that year, I started work on a number of different projects, partnerships, and infrastructures which are all now out in the world. I’ve written a bit about some of these projects below — partly as a way to close a door as some new ones open, and partly because all the initiatives are generating interesting things out in the world now.

Ten Year Grants — Growing Great Ideas

At long last, we have announced the first cohort of recipients of Growing Great Ideas (GGI) grants — a UK funding portfolio programme that provides significant, long-term funding (over a period of up to ten years) to organisations working closely within their networks and ecosystems to build generative, transformative infrastructure for the public good. This is infrastructure to support a transition from now to next.

This model was decided upon in our Growing Great Ideas Advisory Group session where people brought to the table The Power Shift Framework from Systems Sanctuary, Alt/Now’s Systems Innovation work, and the work that the RSA and Alt/Now did in partnership.
One of the things we shared with the UK Funding Committee — “This table summarises how the programme might look and feel different to other funding programmes that you’ve made decisions about: we’re not looking for things like ‘co-design’ or ‘people in the lead’ in the same way that we might in our standard product grantmaking. Many of these initiatives are working at multiple levels, and whilst they will all contribute to stronger and thriving communities, they won’t all be things that communities know they need or would directly ask for. Much of what they are doing might currently be unimaginable or inconceivable to the general public.”

Our Partnership with IKEA

Emerging Futures Fund

The Emerging Futures Fund was a funding stream we established at the National Lottery Community Fund to invest in communities to bring forth their collective imaginations to seed and centre new narratives and projects that could pattern entirely different futures. It was launched in response to Covid-19, which irrevocably transformed the ways we live, work, travel and connect with others. The Fund sought to go beyond an emergency response to the devastating effects of the pandemic on individuals and communities, opening up a space for change, for healing and for new possibilities to take root.

Imagination Infrastructuring

We’ve been doing a lot of work over the last 6 months on the idea of imagination infrastructuring, with a growing community of people and organisations — writing, events, and more — so much work, in fact, that we’ve created a new website to house it all: https://www.imaginationinfrastructuring.com/.

Other infrastructures

We’ve started work on a range of other infrastructures, too, including:

  • Narrative Infrastructure — a piece of scoping work being led by On Road Media, and which you can read more about here.
  • The Funders’ Collaborative Hub — which is currently seeking input on a survey to inform its post-pandemic refresh, including updating the Hub’s look, feel, tools, service and activities.
  • Collective Tech — an investigation into how tech can support communities to carry out collective decision-making, design and collective action. We’ll be doing an event about this work in September and I think there is something very practical and newly useful about what the project team have come up with.
  • Linked to the above but starting from a wider lens, we gave Beatrice Karol Burkes a brief — see below — to look at the role of collective intelligence in grantmaking and how that might progress towards collective wisdom. In particular Beatrice has been looking at different types of wisdom/intelligence that might have a transformative impact on how we do grantmaking (e.g. machine intelligence, embodied intelligence, relational intelligence, etc). The work will be shared in September, alongside an event and I’m especially excited about the direction of travel this work suggests.
Beatrice’s brief and some of her slides from a recent show & tell about the work.

Tech and Impacted Communities

Pre-pandemic our UK Funding Committee signed off us exploring how we could direct some of the Digital Fund resource towards tech and impacted communities. Initially we’d proposed to focus on race and technology, and this was before last Summers Black Lives Matters uprising. It now feels more important than ever. We commissioned the brilliant trio Ade, Tracey and Edafe to take forward the work— they led an exploration on the impact of data and technology on Black communities in the UK. So far what they’ve learned was that:

  1. It’s important to understand who we, as funders, need to work with to improve the ways in which data and data centric technologies are used in our lives;
  2. It’s important to foster an environment of psychological safety;
  3. Challenging tech power requires a whole system approach; and
  4. Data and data-centric digital technologies also support greater inclusivity.

Developing new seeds

Alongside the funding programmes mentioned above we’ve also been able to fund other great work through our UK funding budget. Some I’ve been personally involved in and am excited by include:

Deputy Director at National Lottery Community Fund, Co-founder of the Point People, Policy Fellow IIPP, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.