Digital Fund Weeknotes 14 (11th — 15th Feb)

Wow, 14 weeks in to my role at the National Lottery Community Fund and 11 weeks since we closed the first round of the Digital Fund. It feels like a *lot* has happened in that time! This is a short Weeknotes as I’m actually exhausted and clocking off for the weekend early.

Also, I am normally very good at staying on top of my emails but that isn’t the case right now. If I owe you one, I’m sorry and I will be back on track at the end of February!

What we are doing

Hmmm… guess?

📞☎️📝💭 ⚖️

📞☎️📝💭 ⚖️

📞☎️📝💭 ⚖️

📞☎️📝💭 ⚖️

We have 68 calls left to do (all will be finished by end of the month).

We’ve invited 32 organisations so far to work with us on developing their proposals.

And I make lots of slide decks each week, with Google Slides, as a way of telling stories, sharing learning etc — and something I am encouraging the team to do too — so this blog post from Projects by IF was super helpful.

What we are learning


I’m closing this week thinking about the trade-offs we’re faced with at the moment whilst we get through the final few weeks of phone calls. For me, talking about these publicly is important as it shows the choices we’re needing to make. I’ve listed them below and I don’t think they need much explanation.

  • Being responsive to people (ensuring people hear back from us in a timely fashion whatever stage of the process) versushaving more time to spend with people on calls, or to reflect on what we’ve heard afterwards, or the detail we go into in our Call Log write ups.
  • Leaving space for deliberation and judgement as a whole team so that it can be a rich learning experience for the team and ultimately build the capabilities of the organisation in digital grant making (which is also part of my role) versusgetting back to people more quickly.
  • Whilst on phone calls, directing the conversation in search of the information we need/ are looking to hear versus letting people tell us the things they want us to hear and for them to feel heard.
  • Supporting the 32 organisations we’ve invited through to the next stage with their proposals (and hoping we can take a few through quickly so that we have something to point at to say “Look! this is what we meant”) versus finishing all the calls we have left to do and being attentive in them.
  • Designing UK-wide events in a timely way so that the 1150 organisations we rejected feel like we’re willing to turn up in person for them and give practical and helpful feedback versus — the Regional offices feeling looped in and involved in the delivery and design of them.
  • Focussing on just getting things done and the delivery of the fund (head down) versuspausing for moments of reflection, clarity, and taking a strategic view of what’s being put through the fund (head up).

Funders’ voice

This week I hosted a monthly breakfast as part of the Funders Learn Tech events I run with Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn. Normally I invite in other speakers but this month (aside from crowdsourcing some “digital trends in society + tech for 2019”) I was the speaker. I introduced the group to the Berkana Institute’s Two Loop model, which I write about here, and asked people to discuss where they thought their funding programmes would be situated. Are we doing the transition work? Are we funding new alternatives to emerge and grow? Are we keeping the dominant system stable? Are we investing in the pioneers? Or are we doing several things?

The Two Loops model.

It was an interesting discussion because I don’t think it’s very common for funders to articulate what role they think they are playing in a system in transition, but what struck me more was how much thoughtfulness there was in the room. As a group we aren’t the CEO’s of foundations — many of the people that come are Funding Officers — and I realised how little we hear from them out in the world (having spent the rest of my life on the other side of the fence). So another mission (in all my spare time) is to gather voices from those hidden away in Foundations about what they are seeing and hearing and sensing through their work. A slightly different emphasis from what the new-ish Grant Givers’ Movement is doing (which I think is brilliant) but it definitely all links.

What we’re celebrating

This week we did a quick scan through the applications we’ve invited to the next stage and it was good to see they tick a whole range of issues and areas where people are trying to affect change. And there’s not too much overlap either. So far we have represented — low-income workers, social isolation, mental health, suicide, addiction, stigma, women’s rights, vulnerable workers, disability, vulnerable consumers, poverty and inequality, low-income families, democracy, active citizenship, care, community cohesion, law & justice, food and farming, supply chains and social infrastructure. Hopefully we can help organisations to continue making a real difference in these areas.



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