As I’ve written about before in Weeknotes, we are scoping out the next round of the Digital Fund and the different areas we might focus on. One of those is the climate crisis — this feels especially apt given that we’ve launched a £100 Million Climate Action Fund. I’m not a tech solutionist so I don’t think tech can solve the climate crisis, I do however, and as this Climake KIC report shows, believe it has a role to play.

It’s a smaller fund this time around, so we need to use the money in a different way, and across a few different themes — climate being just one. It’s also part of the UK Portfolio’s role (where the Digital Fund sits) to experiment with new approaches. For this reason, and because I have an assumption that a lot of the tech we need in relation to the climate crisis is already out there, I wondered about focussing the fund on what I’d call the “enabling environment.” Other words for it could be “systems readiness” or investing in the “systems conditions” — what I mean by this is if the tech is already out there, what is getting in the way of it being adopted and implemented, and how can we fund ideas that address those barriers. This feels like a new approach because mostly funding exists to create new things and to strengthen the supply side of “solutions” — what does it look like to fund ideas that are trying to create a better environment to land them in?

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My very quick sketch of the space in between the new and existing tech — the enabling environment.

In (another) great meeting with Eirini today, we started to map out what might need investing in within an “enabling environment” — what might change the conditions for climate tech to be more widely adopted, implemented and maintained? Some initial ideas we had are below —

  • Networks and relationships that need changing or building
  • Gatekeeping organisations that are blocking progress or compromising quality that need to adapt (or get out the way)
  • New frames and narratives that need creating
  • New models of governance that need designing
  • Policy and regulatory barriers that need addressing
  • Standards and incentives that need creating
  • Other skills and capacity that need acquiring

We are meeting again in a few weeks time to work out a taxonomy, to define what we mean by climate tech in this instance and especially in relation to The National Lottery Community Fund’s strategic objectives. This is likely to focus us around individuals, groups (on and offline) and geographic communities.

If you want to join in, please get in touch, but more than that, I’m looking to find out more from foundations how people have made sense of and then funded “enabling environments.” It doesn’t have to be climate specific — I am more interested in the approach that’s been taken and how criteria for a funding programme was developed.

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

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