Throughout the year people have asked me “How’s JRF going?” or “How’s Power to Change going?” — I’m not sure people have realised the way I’ve been spread out this year. What I’ve loved is being able to work on the same set of things all year, even though they have been across multiple organisations. When I left TNLCF I really didn’t want to take on lots of short-term consulting work — for various reasons — some of which I shared here, but the main reason being it would have felt too similar to the 15 years I previously spent doing that when I had a ‘Portfolio Career’.
So I’ve been lucky to have quite a few long-term working relationship throughout this year, which I’ve shared below.
Active Philanthropy — Transformative Wealth Redistribution
Active Philanthropy is a charitable organisation working with philanthropists, wealth holders and philanthropic organisations across Europe. They describe where I come in here — “About two years ago, Active Philanthropy started working with Stefan to define and shape his giving. In our collaboration, we soon recognised that Stefan wasn’t the type of funder who defines his giving along traditional strategic philanthropy building blocks. To deeply explore the transformative work he wants to promote, Active Philanthropy brought in additional expertise from its network and introduced Stefan to Cassie Robinson.”
I’ve been working with Stefan and the Active Philanthropy team since Spring of 2022. What I’ve been doing -
- I started off by landscaping and scoping out potential opportunities or at least territories that linked to Stefan’s interests and values.
- I worked with Stefan to develop his narrative and in doing so we all became clearer on what we meant by ‘transformative redistribution’ — I mean, it’s still a work in progress, but we definitely have a better understanding of what it isn’t. The narrative — which you can read here — shares more about Stefan, his motivations and some initial plans for what we are doing.
- I’ve been co-developing an initial programme of experiments, creating an Accountability Circle, recruiting a mini team, and in January we start the work. Who we are so far is here, and next week Stefan and I are interviewing people for the Documenter and Learning Lead roles we advertised for. We had so many good applicants from across the globe.
- We’ve also started to plot out where else to connect this work into and broaden it — there are a growing number of wealth holders who do want to do things differently. Stefan is one of the Co-founders of Resource Transformation which is the German-speaking version of Resource Generation (US) and Resource Justice (UK). It’s interesting to think about how these kinds of movements intersect with some of the communities that Active Philanthropy is part of.
I’ll be working with Active Philanthropy and Stefan throughout 2023. If you are in Berlin or Switzerland (Geneva or Zurich), let me know so we can hang out! I am in those places pretty often.
Partners for a New Economy
Partners for a New Economy is a pooled international philanthropic fund focused on transforming our economy for nature and all people to flourish. We were founded in 2015 by the MAVA, Oak, Marisla and KR Foundations, to address the root causes of environmental degradation that lie within our economic system. In 2020 we were joined by Laudes and Ford Foundations and by Omidyar Network in 2022.
“The initiatives we fund show a deep understanding of planetary boundaries and an urgency for transforming our economy to live within them. They push the frontiers of alternative economic thinking, and work to change the rules, goals and mindsets underpinning our current economic system.” — A sneak peek of text from our new website which will go live at the end of January.
In our roles as Co-leads of Field-building and Strategic Comms, Sophie and I have done the following this year —
Curating — Curating a monthly ‘Roundup’ of highlights from the new economy field, with the aim of illuminating work and ideas across different aspects of the ecosystem, bringing more coherence to the field as a whole, as well as expanding ideas about what’s ‘in’ the field. There seems to be an appetite for this — over five editions we’ve gained 500 subscribers from 21 different countries.
Horizon scanning — Running monthly sessions with P4NE Grantees to experiment with ways to scan the horizon. The intention for these sessions can be found in the introductory slides. They aimed to find ways to spot opportunities, pay attention to what is changing, and ideally build competency around horizon scanning to help us stay on the front foot. We’ve consistently had 15–25 people at each session.
Sense-Making — Bringing grantees based in Germany together online, to make sense of opportunities brought by the political and economic landscape, and start to collectively analyse the new economy field in Germany. This was also a way of testing if there is value in bringing a place-based approach to our role.
Mobilising (partners and resources) — Engaging with funder networks to connect more resources into the new economy field, by giving talks, taking part in workshops and initiating meetings etc. We are about to launch a new European-wide community of practice for funders who want to learn more about the ‘new economy’ and apply it to their strategies.
Capacity Building — Supporting the development of a pilot ‘New Economy Leadership Academy’ — an intergenerational peer learning, mentoring, and leadership development programme, launching this coming year.
Convening — Bringing together more than 90 people for our 3-day Gathering in Cambridge — an extraordinary group of thinkers, funders and changemakers working across different parts of the new economy field internationally.
Reflecting on all the above, Sophie and I took a new strategy for the field-building and strategic communications work to the Board for sign-off in November, setting out plans for 2023. If you are interested in more detail, we’ve reflected quite extensively on what it means to do field-building work well — what it is as a practice, which we published openly for feedback from our grantees and wider partners after the Board meeting.
In summary for 2023, beyond grant-making, we are exploring how we can best use our curation and convening power, our networks, and our skills and resources to:
- Strengthen the new economy ecosystem, understanding and supporting the shared needs of the field and strengthening the ‘connective tissue’ between organisations and actors.
- Grow the field, encouraging new and expanding lines to be drawn around who and what is part of it, and building bridges with other social and ecological movements.
- Enable alignment, coherence and collaboration as the new economy field grows and changes, supporting others to situate themselves within a wider ecosystem, valuing different routes to change and unlocking collective power.
- Mobilise resources, introducing new funders to the field and encouraging existing funders to keep looking to the edges of new thinking and practice.
Obviously this means I have signed up for another year in my role with P4NE. I love working with this small team, who are super smart, ambitious for the mission, pragmatic and also very grounded. It’s also great to be working in an organisation that is focussed far beyond the UK. We fund in Europe, Latin America, New Zealand.. So far…
Oh, and you can sign up for our monthly round-up here.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation *
JRF hasn’t traditionally moved many of their resources out to others — they’ve mostly used their funds to do important and effective policy and research work on current issues in relation to poverty — though this is all changing as you can read in Paul Kissack’s new blog. I’ve been working on the development of the Emerging Futures ‘unit’ — this is very different to the work you’d mostly recognise them for. However, it’s complimentary as they start to work out what it means to be both an organisation that truly operates across all three horizons and what it means to more actively distribute resources through funding, commissioning and investments. I’ve spent the last year helping design and develop the strategy for the Emerging Futures work with Sophia, some of which we’ve begun to enact, but much more is coming in 2023.
Specifically the work I’ve done is -
- The landscaping, interviews and workshops to develop the new strategy, which initially helped shape this document — setting out where we see opportunity for the Emerging Futures work to sit within a wider ecology of foundations in the UK.
- The initiation and then co-curation of the New Frontiers conference. The ambition of which was set out here and with very intentional curation to bring different types of approaches, horizons and theories of change together. We shared some reflections after and even 6 months on we still get really positive feedback about that event. We will be doing it all again in 2023 on July 11th. A date to save in your diaries. There’s also a really rich library of all the talks, panels, content and further reading on this site.
“We cannot afford to keep getting stuck in the binaries — relational versus evidence-based, power-shifting versus strategic — there are so many more of these binaries that we spend hours debating in philanthropy and yet what we need most of all is plurality. That’s why this conference is also looking at the whole funding ecology — bringing together different kinds of capital because we need all of it and for it to play different roles.” — from the framing blog post for the conference.
- Developing a programme of work around Imagination Infrastructures. I recently wrote a summary of where we are with this work here. Just before Christmas I was interviewing for the role we’d advertised in that post — someone to host a Community of Practice for Collective Imagination practitioners with a £100,000 fund attached to it for the community to use for different activities they want to undertake. We’re excited by who’s accepted that role and will be announcing them in the next few weeks. I’ve been working with Keri Facer and Gabriella Gomez Mont on the design of a new one-day event on March 15th. It will be a follow up to the 2021 Imagination Infrastructures event. I’m also working with Matt Golding to further our ambitions around mainstream narrative work, with a workshop in February on ‘The Stories we Need’ with a group of narrative practitioners. That will be a springboard for a range of commissions and content creation we hope to do throughout 2023 that awakens the public to what else might be possible.
“Currently under-represented in the mainstream are positive stories of possible futures that people can get behind and act to support — as well as just have as a way to orient them and hold on to a sense of hope..
In the face of the polycrisis, stories that show people the alternative future systems we could live in so they can imagine themselves living differently, are needed more than ever. What are the features of these stories we should be telling more of? How do we differentiate the stories that are perpetuating broken systems, or just plaster-sticking, from those that could change the systems we live within?”
Our summary of the workshop for participants.
- I’ve also helped with the initial ideas for a Visionaries programme, which you can read more about here. It includes an invitation to tender for an organisation or individual to help us scope out the details, frame, tone etc for the programme and fund.
All of these are seeds of 4 different strands of work that sit under Emerging Futures and that will be growing as programmes over the coming years with a mix of funding, commissioning, capacity-building and infrastructure. More on all of this soon, but the 4 areas of work are —
Pathfinders — This track centres those who are already doing the work of building the new in context of the old — they have the demonstrator sites and are discovering the hidden wiring that needs re-thinking too.
Visionaries — Here we are looking for those that can guide us, inspire us, challenge us — the new visionaries that will orient us in this work. People who are opening up whole new ways of seeing and helping to draw us away from the status quo.
Imagination Infrastructures — This is work to cultivate the conditions and build capacity for all this work — to keep open the possibility spaces, to look for the edges, to stay attuned to the unfamiliar and the different. It is the ‘soil’ that needs enriching.
Re-imagining philanthropy, investment and wealth redistribution — This is the wider context in which all of this work is happening — this is where we be looking at ways to influence the flow and redistribution of capital, resources and assets and be part of redesigning how it all works.
I’m continuing to work with JRF in 2023. Look out for 5 new job roles that are coming up to join the Emerging Futures team.
*(not JRCT — which people have confused me with many times this year!)
Impact on Urban Health
Impact on Urban Health is a foundation focussed on health inequalities. They are based in the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark which are “some of the most diverse areas in the world. It is here that we invest, test, and build our understanding of how cities can be shaped to support better health.”
Bringing me in as an Innovator-in-Residence was an experiment for Impact on Urban Health during a time of a lot of change, so the role itself has evolved and adapted as needed. Some of the original brief for my role, which was co-designed with the team, included — “Curate a range of content and opportunities (talks, workshops, events etc) for the R+D team and wider IoUH team that encourage new thinking and practice, relevant to their programmes, including an international focus — ensuring we are engaging with new horizons.”
And another part of the brief said — “Support the R+D team and wider organisation to think longer term and to build strategic foresight capacity alongside their partners. To make sure funding strategy is designed with the most relevant and up-to-date information in mind.”
What this has meant in practice throughout 2022 has included —
- Designing and running sessions on three horizons, innovations in funding practice, narratives, and the links between place-based local economies and health. As well as co-running a Legal Hack Day devised by the legal team and Louise.
- Feeding into work on future cities, tech equity, AI, shifting and building power, participation, valuing different knowledges and tactics for influencing.
- Doing scoping work for a range of different ‘Innovation Funding Products’ — initially focussed on how to fund individuals more effectively, how to fund ‘experiments’ led by partners in communities, how to fund ecosystems, and how to close things down or decommission well in a mission-based approach to funding.
Louise, who originally brought me in has now left Impact on Urban Health — although will still be working with them as a consultant, and so from the new year I’ll be working directly with Sarah — new interim Executive Director.
Also, they are recruiting for Louise’s replacement — now called Innovation Director rather than Director of Research and Development. I can’t recommend this team enough — I’ve been really blown away by the amount of talent in the organisation, and Sarah and Kieron are brilliant leaders.
Other work I’ve done this year in relation to funding, philanthropy and investment
Whilst I started this blog post by saying I’d not wanted to pick up many shorter pieces of consultancy work, I have done a few — either because it was related to other work I’m doing, there was a great team involved, or I would be learning something new.
Local Motion is a funder collaboration, working with 6 places in the UK — “building a social, economic and environmental justice movement, by communities, for communities.” I’m currently working alongside Louise Armstrong and Kerry McCarthy on a piece of work that is exploring ‘systems readiness’ with the CEO’s, Directors and Board members of each of the Local Motion funders. This broadly means we are looking at the decision-making cultures and practices, and what might need to shift when you are doing long-term, places-based systemic funding.
Power to Change
Power to Change is an independent trust that strengthens communities through community business. I’ve been working alongside the Power to Change team and Promising Trouble to design a new funding programme focussed on Community Tech. The first iteration of the fund was launched in the Autumn, focussed on Makers & Maintainers and informed by Promising Trouble’s report — The Case for Community Tech. I’ve made recommendations for two further funding rounds but those are likely to evolve as the wider programme develops. I’ve also been doing some field-building work with the team, focussed initially on funders — which I wrote about here. We are convening a group in a few weeks time in London. I’m also curating a short series of events that look at where Community Tech intersects with other areas, like the solidarity economy and the climate crisis.
EarthPercent is all about putting the power of music in service of the planet. They’ve a huge mission, with so much potential, and are really in their first year of getting established as a grant-making foundation. I have been working alongside Cathy, the UK Executive Director, Sarah, Head of Programmes, and Lauren the US Executive Director to develop the grant-making strategy, which is now published here.
The Shuttleworth Foundation identified “amazing people with innovative ideas and gave them a fellowship grant, project funding and a support system of like-minded individuals.” Quite a few brilliant people I know were awarded their Fellowship. However, in July 2022, they announced they would be closing the Foundation and asked if I would design and run a session with them all on their yearly retreat, drawing on my work with Stewarding Loss. It was a real privilege to think through with them — the staff team, and the Fellow community, what a good closure or endings might look like.
I did a small piece of work with Jennie and Charlie in advance of the Systems Innovation Learning Festival that they hosted in late November. I was involved in a series of smaller events in the run-up, that helped shape the framing for the festival and produced a draft paper. I also started scoping out a piece of work on the kinds of roles needed to work across the finance ecology — so alongside or beyond investors, or grant-makers, or wealth advisors etc — who and what else do we need? We’ll be continuing with this in 2023. It’s really worth watching some of the videos on the link above, especially the one on “Just imagine: where systems for a fair and flourishing future will come from.”
Initially incubated by Luminate and the Daniel Sachs Foundation, the new Multitudes Foundation is nearly up and running — “Get ready to reimagine politics.” I was lucky to spend 12 months as a member of the Design Group where we worked across 3 areas:
Structure & organisational design: Further develop values, support the design of organisational structure, model, principles, leadership model
Strategy: support to explore and develop approaches and different ways of fulfilling the mission and purpose, that can act as a starting point for a new leadership team
Board & senior leadership: Support the design of organisational structure and roles. Provide support with outreach and recruitment for a Board and leadership team
Watershed is a brilliant culture-making space, venue and experimentation studio in Bristol. I spent a day working with the team after they got in touch about the blog post I wrote on funding the third horizon and wanted to explore how they could apply that to the contexts in which they are playing a funder role.
I’ve also continued with my role on the Board of Organise HQ, took on a new Board position at the Real Farming Trust (look out for their world-renowned conference starting in a few days time) and did my yearly teaching on Schumacher College’s MA in Ecological Design Thinking.
In my next blog post I’ll be sharing more about the threads that run across all of this work, how I’ve started to make new sense of it (for me — and maybe some will resonate for you too), and what that means for me in 2023.
If you want to read the follow-up blog post about what I will be doing in 2023, it’s here.
There are so many people to thank each year that mean I am still here and that I can do what I do, from my family and friends, to my travel buddies — the group of 8 women I go away with each January and the other group of 8 women I go away with each July — to the groups I’ve been part of for years like the Point People, the mysterious EW Slack Group, the Moon Group. I get love, laughter, advice, comfort, great Netflix recommendations and more from all these wonderful people.
But this year, which has been especially hard, I’ve particularly noticed, felt and been truly grateful for where people —
- Visibly got alongside me
- Showed me real solidarity
- Had my back
- Helped me make something happen that I couldn’t have done alone
- Truly listened
- Taught me something new
- Took a leap of faith
- Opened their huge heart
- Made me feel seen
- Spoke up on my behalf
- Gave me wise advice
- Gave me their time and were present for me even when it’s not been easy to do so
- Got fierce for me
- Gave me reassurance — something I used to be able to find inside myself, but lost for a while.
Thank you so much —
Farah Elahi, Caroline Mason, Moira Sinclair, Baljeet Sandhu, Nkem Ndefo, Sam Roddick, Abby Rose, Immy Kaur, Indy Johar, Sophia Parker, Felicitas Von Peter, Louise Mousseau, Kai and Joanna at Green Park, Laura Bunt, Anna de Pulford, Jake Hayman, Graham Leicester, Sophie McKechnie, Jo Swinson, Ellie Ford, Annette Mees, Jo wells, Catherine Howe, Fiona Romeo, Rowan Conway, Stephanie Brobbey, Gabriella Gomez-Mont, Shelagh Wright and Gemma Mortensen.