Digital Fund Weeknotes 20(1st-5th April)

Wah, it’s April! I have been in this job 5 months now!

It’s been a short 3 day week as Thursday and today I’m on Annual Leave, doing a training course in Compassion Focussed Therapy. Not related to my role at the National Lottery Community Fund though maybe I will become a more compassionate funder?

It’s been great to see some useful insights and moves come out of the Funders community this week, with Paul Hamlyn announcing some new commitments to long-term funding and Esmee Fairbairn publishing their insights about core funding.

I love this beautiful essay by Rebecca Solnit because it recognises the importance of operating in a more collective way rather than enabling lone hero’s. I think this applies to organisations too. It’s relevant to Strand 1 of the Digital Fund where we are very committed to ensuring that those who are successful are also bringing value to the wider ecosystems in which they are a part.

Lastly, there are exactly 4 tickets left for the event I’m hosting on Monday morning (with my fellow Point People) — we’ve got Edgar Villaneuva joining us. Edgar is the author of Decolonizing Wealth, which looks at how to remove the colonial mindset from philanthropy and social finance.

What we are doing

We’re running more of our Learning Events this week, alongside writing up the first drafts of our papers for the UK panel on 29th April. Even though it’s still 4 weeks away the papers have to go through various people and drafts.

I think we have about 12 papers from the Digital Fund going through the panel this time, 6 of those are ones I’m working on.

What we are learning

It’s been interesting to understand people’s motivations for coming to the Learning Events. At the start of the event we ask people what they hope to get from the session and the responses in Cardiff and Manchester (the two places we’ve been so far) have been pretty identical.

Why people are coming

People want to hear about what good looked like and understand the design of the success factors in more depth, learn about where to go for support and community, and to hear about what other funding will be available. Probably the most common thing we’ve heard is “I want to know how to improve my application for next time.”

This last one has been quite awkward because when the Digital Fund open agains much later in the year, it will look very different, with a different focus and criteria. However, the learning we are sharing in these events is meant to be useful *way* beyond the National Lottery Community Fund’s Digital Fund. We’re hoping to use some of this learning to shape and support how the wider sector (and other funders) think about and fund digital. In addition, over the course of the next 12 months part of my role is to normalise “digital” applications to be accepted into other funding streams in the organisation.

What people are finding useful and not useful

Some of the feedback we’ve had so far about what’s useful in the sessions are learning about what good looked like in more detail — this has also caused some frustrations though as people wished we’d set these things out more clearly *before* we launched the Digital Fund. In the “what wasn’t useful” feedback, this was 90% of the comments.

People have left with “ideas and inspiration for what to do next” and with “useful links to other organisations that can help us.”

Janet’s sessions on how to recruit a Digital Trustee have been really useful and I’ve done a poor job of trying to do one of CAST’s “design hop” sessions, so I am looking forward to them joining us for all the rest of them. Something that I have really emphasised in this part of the workshop, which is framed as “good digital practices” has been to pull out the idea of the 3 strands of value — social, economic and user — and the need for the social sector to get *much better* at understanding the idea of user value and how it differs from social value. This single point seems to be the real “a-ha” moment for people.

Generally people are also finding it useful just to meet us in person and feeling able to express their frustrations and disappointments. Apparently it’s pretty unusual for funders to turn up in person and talk with applicants who haven’t been successful in their applications.

What people are left with

People said they leave with much more understanding of what “digital” means — I set this out at the beginning of my slides, breaking digital down into about 7 different things and sharing my frustration about how unhelpful it is that they all get conflated.

People leave wanting more of a community, the ability to connect with others asking the same questions as them. It reinforced what we already know (and need to do more about) that peer networks are so important in the sector.

People also want more regular information about how digital is relevant to the sector and also changing the wider sector and society. And help with knowing who to work with, what to procure, what to pay for things and how to better share costs and services related to digital.

On a personal level I have been reminded about how much my view of things is influenced by the London bubble in which I live and I need to be much more aware of that. Some of the things and organisations I assume would be known, just aren’t — not everyone has heard of CAST or the Digital Principles, or “tech for good” meet ups etc.

Next week we will be doing the same in London, Newcastle, Belfast and Glasgow — phew!

What we’re celebrating

I loved this Tweet, because it shows a journey that one participant went on. She arrived frustrated and then learnt enough about the fund that she realised why they hadn’t been successful in their application this time, and then also went onto make a local connection.

Working with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, EarthPercent, P4NE, Policy Fellow IIPP, Co-founder Point People, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.