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Digital Fund Weeknotes 24(29th-3rd May)

I’m writing this on my way to the airport to head off to Australia 🇦🇺 …wish me luck, as I’m oddly nervous!

The main news this week is we’re hiring for someone to join the Digital Fund team. Read more here and please do pass around your networks. We are looking for someone amazing!

Also, do you have anything to input into this work that Nissa Ramsay is leading on for CAST? It’s looking at how to (and I would ask if it’s even useful to) assess digital maturity in social sector organisations.

This publication, Finding Ctrl, from Nesta this week is worth a read. It links to the event I spoke at in Brussel’s last month about the future of the internet and includes a range of contributors from all over the world reflecting on the internet’s past and present.

What we’ve been doing

On Monday we had our second UK panel for the Digital Fund, to which we took 10 proposals this time. The team did a brilliant job and the panel asked great questions.

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The UK panel with colleagues and external people based in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

On Tuesday we did our last Learning Event of the UK tour, in Birmingham. It was a full house again and we had some great feedback, as well as some frustrations from people — similar to those we’ve heard at other events.

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A full house in Birmingham’s workshop and feedback from Tuesday’s event from one participant.

On Wednesday we met the group of people and organisations we’ve commissioned to deliver the support contract for the Digital Fund grantees. I’ll will write more about this in a future post, but I love how we are approaching it and thinking about an “ecosystem of support” that can start to be the foundations of something that can be available to the social sector longer term.

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Some of the “ecosystem of support” — Doteveryone, CAST, Snook, Dot Project and Shift.

We’ve gone back and made contact with all the hospices that applied to the Digital Fund. We said no to all of them as we could see there were many common needs that we believe might be better addressed in a collective way. Over the next few months Kamna and I will be working with the hospice community to scope this out. I’m keen we ask the question — is there a wiser way to fund and resource such common digital infrastructure needs? And how can this kind of work also create more of a culture of generosity?

On Thursday I met with my colleague Elly, who works as Senior Head of Funding for the England team to start working more closely together on how the Digital Fund links to our Civil Society Strategy. Of course, I see it as linking everywhere, as really so much of “digital” is about strengthening the social sector to be fit for the future — it’s a trojan horse for all kinds of other change.

I also spent a lot of the day on the phone to the 6 new organisations I am now supporting towards July’s panel.

What we’re learning

Although I had already been in a UK Panel meeting before, Monday’s panel was the first time I’d had proposals from organisations I’d been working with that I needed to present to panel. It was a completely new experience, carrying that kind of responsibility — because it does feel like you are there to make the case for them to be funded, and of course you hope you do their proposal justice. Each proposal presentation and discussion takes about 10 minutes so there is not a huge amount of time, and even though panel members have read the papers beforehand, it felt important to rehearse over and over again in advance the key points I needed to make about each.

Before we started going through all the proposals I went through some slides based on the cafe analogy I wrote about last week, just to remind the panel what the Digital Fund is looking to invest in and what we are not.

Once you have presented the proposal, the panel go around and ask questions, either to gain clarification or to raise any concerns. This is where discussion happens, followed by a vote. I’ll use one Weeknotes over the next few months to try and script what is said during panel discussions, obviously obscuring names of organisations, but as another way of being transparent about the process.

One last thing I was struck by this week was at the Birmingham event, that in a room of 40 people and organisations, when asked if anyone had heard of Typeform, not a single hand was raised. I highlight this not because Typeform is world-changing but it does show just how much work there is to do in the social sector to help organisations even know what good, basic free digital tools exist out there.

What we’re celebrating

Beth Bell, based in Belfast, has joined the team and that’s a thing to be celebrated! I’ll properly introduce Beth next week by doing a mini feature on her but she’s a Portfolio Manager which will be incredibly useful to have on board, plus she brings 8 years of experience working at the fund. Welcome beth 😃

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

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