4 weeks in to my new job and 4 days left until the Digital Fund closes. The applications are now up to about 700.
What we are doing
In short we are doing what I have sketched out below— though you might not be able to read it! We are still sifting through applications, sending out emails to let people know we aren’t progressing their EOI (expression of interest), or that we’d like to have a 45 minute call with them to explore their proposal more fully. Following the call we then make a decision about whether we invite them to start a full application. One of the hardest things at the moment is we’re now doing both phase 1 (sifting through EOI’s that are coming in 40 a day) whilst simultaneously doing phase2 (taking phone calls with applicants to go deeper in to their proposals).
Amongst all of this we’re also designing in good governance — ‘Sift’ meetings to talk through instances where there’s a difference in opinion, ensuring at least two people read notes from each phone call, and always making sure that where there’s a conflict of interest those people aren’t involved in discussions or decisions about applications. And good learning — as mentioned in my last post, part of my role is about building the confidence and understanding of the wider Big Lottery Fund team to do make good choices when it comes to digital.
Co-ordinating all of this is no mean feat and wouldn’t be possible without the help of Laura.
What we are learning
I’m starting to notice where we might be making trade offs. Making the application process more user-centred e.g. shorter initial applications (or EOI’s) means a potential increase in applications. This can then make it harder to do personalised feedback (just because of the sheer volume) and it can take longer to get back to people.
Another trade off is balancing working at speed to get through the applications, whilst wanting to ensure good governance and that we create enough time for reflection, learning and shared sense-making.
Tom posted this article in Teams which was helpful for people to understand what kind of awareness we are looking for, especially from Strand 1 applications.
As the economic historian Paul David has argued, electricity triumphed only when factories themselves were reconfigured. The driveshafts were replaced by wires, the huge steam engine by dozens of small motors. Factories spread out, there was natural light. Stripped of the driveshafts, the ceilings could be used to support pulleys and cranes. Workers had responsibility for their own machines; they needed better training and better pay. The electric motor was a wonderful invention, once we changed all the everyday details that surrounded it.
When I was sketching out the journey above, it made me consider the emotional experience I’ve had at different stages of the process so far, and of course what it must feel like for applicants too (and having been on the other side I have direct experience). We have thought about how to let people know we’re not taking their application forward — making sure we highlight other things that might be helpful (funding, meetups, research etc) and pointing out other Big Lottery funding that might be more appropriate. We’re also trying to be respectful in terms of people’s time and being timely with follow up information.
It’s still impossible though to avoid people feeling disappointed, frustrated, misunderstood (and too many other feelings to name) and so I might do an emotional journey map next week. Sometimes just some acknowledgement can make things better.
What we’re celebrating
David (in Birmingham) and Cath (in Newcastle) are now part of the team too, and in the next Weeknotes I’ll introduce everyone properly — we have our first proper “Digital Fund Team” day next Thursday.
A huge thank you to the rest of the Digital Fund team this week — Tom, John, Joel, Billy, Amy — we are all working our little socks off!
On a personal note I had my first one-to-one with Dawn (the CEO of Big Lottery Fund) this week. It was lovely to talk with her about how I was settling in and about the Digital Fund and its ambitions. I met Dawn for the first time back in 2014, over a glass of wine, when my dear friend Roanne Dods (who sadly died in January 2016) connected us. I’ve barely seen Dawn since, except at a few events, but I’m looking forward to working with her, and I think Roanne would be pretty happy too.