Digital Fund Weeknotes 17 (4th — 8th March)

Dawn at the awards.

So what’s new this week?

Dawn was at the Digital Agenda Impact awards yesterday where she presented the Social Transformation award and spoke about the Digital Fund. It was good to hear that Annika Small picked up the Individual Impact Award, and the brilliant 360Giving team picked up an award too.

On March 22nd I will be in Brussels speaking at the European Parliament at a Nesta event, in collaboration with Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake. 30 years of the web — where do we go next?

On Thursday I’m hosting the next in the series of breakfast events with Paul Hamlyn and Comic Relief — Funders Learn Tech — which you can sign up for here, if you work as a funder.

The Point People have started a new series on Social Leaders — what are the challenges social leaders face? What are the tradeoffs they find themselves needing to make? And what keeps them going? The first one was with Anna Laycock from the Finance Innovation Lab and a new one will be published on Monday.

What we are doing

Next week is the UK Panel meeting, and we have 3 full proposals going forward to the panel — the April panel will have about 12, and then more going through in June and September. This means some of the team are spending time this week gathering further evidence needed and writing up the full proposals for the panel. An aspect of this process that I particularly love is how we ask organisations who else they’d like us to speak to in order to find out more about them — other funders, partners, wider stakeholders etc. I really like the transparency of this, because of course this always happens informally in some way.

We’ve also been doing the last few Sift meetings, making final decisions as a team about the last few organisations we take forward. And I’m starting to put into action some of the other plans that were on hold whilst we got through the mountain of applications— more soon about Strand 3 of the Digital Fund, designing collective responses to need, and the dissemination of learning content.

What we are learning

This week one of the main things I learnt about was Big Advice, through a meeting with Angela who heads up the team. Ideally we’d have had this meeting in my first week! Big Advice are a small team, all with previous experience as Funding Officers, and now make up a team working on the frontline of the NL Community Fund — the first point of contact for anyone, with any query, about any one of our funding programmes.

The Big Advice Team, who are based in Newcastle — and a huge thank you to them.

In relation to the Digital Fund, they received 601 enquiries in total. 410 of these enquiries were phone calls and 191 were emails.

Out of those enquiries, 332 enquiries were about general programme information and 75 were eligibility queries.

The Big Advice team know a lot about our “users” — so are a valuable resource for insight — and through this first round of the Digital Fund I’ve learnt a lot about how we can work better together next time. For a start, we may have been able to reduce the number of applications we received (1200) had we worked more closely and effectively with Big Advice prior to launching the Digital Fund.

In this conversation, Angela, Joel and I talked about how teams can work well with Big Advice across the fund — designed it as an end-to-end service. Following the conversation I sketched out what that might look like.

My rough sketch — and as our grant management systems become more responsive and intelligent the data that the Big Advice team receives, will be able to continuously improve the content design of a funding programme.

What we’re celebrating

Some great news for the team this week that Kamna Muralidharan from the Development Team will join us on a secondment for 2 days a week. She brings some brilliant experience having set up her own “tech for good” organisation whilst part of Campus For Mum’s a few years back, as well as lots of policy experience.

This was some lovely feedback we had from someone we had turned down for funding. The recognition in this, really buoyed the team. Thank you applicant!

Lastly, this was due to be posted yesterday on International Women’s Day so I’d wanted to give a special mention to Fran Perrin. I’ve met Fran briefly a few times, but this week we managed to have lunch and I felt very lucky being able to draw on her expertise and experience in grant making and ask for her thoughts about the wider funding sector. Thank you Fran!



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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.