I think it will take me some time to work out what I want to do longer-term for work. I’m still recovering, reflecting and like many others, figuring out how to make sense of these times and where I can be most useful. One thing I am sure of though, is that I don’t want to go back to a ‘portfolio career.’ I did that for 15 years, from when I left working in fashion, to when I was on PAYE for the first time ever at the age of 39 as Doteveryone’s Strategic Design Director. After my 3 years at Doteveryone, I did my 3 years at TNLCF.
And whilst I earned more in my ‘portfolio career’ than I ever did in both of my salaried roles, there are quite a few reasons why I don’t want to go back to working in that way. Firstly, I really want to work with more infrastructure and team around me. It’s also far too fragmenting. And one of my greatest fears is getting to my mid 50’s and being a consultant who charges extortionate day rates, becomes complacent and is somehow being extractive towards the wider ecosystem. No offence meant to anyone who does work in this way — I just know it isn’t for me as it feels very individualistic.
Some of the questions I am asking myself in relation to work — and I’m sharing here in case there are fellow travellers who are interested in exploring together — are:
- If a mission is more important to you than a ‘job’ where do you root yourself? Where do you belong?
- As someone who has a *lot* of energy to give towards shared missions, with no ‘dependents’, able to take high levels of risk and draw on deep conviction and courage — where can that be most useful at this time?
- Related to the above question — how to stay connected to the vastness of the world whilst knowing that there is a need to create and care more locally?
- I’ve never held the same view of what ‘success’ looks like that a lot of my peers have strived for. Status wasn’t a feature of my working life for many years (as I wrote about here), so what metrics for success make better sense to me?
- What’s enough? How much do I need and how much should I be giving away? This is as much about opportunities as it is money.
- What are the different roles that need creating or that need to be given more value and visibility? — this was an initial reason for creating the Point People.
- If there will be less ‘work’ as we currently conceive of it because of a new economy and patterns of work — should those of us that have ‘high’ earning power being doing less paid work, and giving our time in other ways? Making job-shares more common? Normalising how we need to value time and contribution in other ways?
- As a white-skinned, middle-aged, middle-class, queer woman, what is the right positionality for me to have in the ecosystem?
- How to make visible where you are being generous and generative in service of a mission rather than just one organisation, and accounting for that in some way?
- Does working in funding and philanthropy feel too ‘downstream’ when what really needs sorting is tax and extreme wealth?
And whilst I’m considering these questions and in a period of transition, I’m also doing a ‘portfolio’ of things. Maybe one or two of them will become more permanent, maybe something else will come up! I do eventually want to work, at least some of the week, more ‘inside’ somewhere again. Maybe I’ll find the perfect job share. In the meantime, I’m feeling lucky to be working with so many brilliant and different people, to be learning new things and to feel valued for what I bring.
Funding Strategy and Innovation
I’m currently supporting several foundations to either get started with new areas of work or with bringing in new approaches to their work — they want to be bolder, more imaginative and opened up to the latest thinking because they are not shying away from the enormity of what’s at stake.
- EarthPercent — a new initiative by Brian Eno that’s asking how to put the power of music in service of the planet. I’m working with the Executive Director to support the design and set up of their grantmaking function. It’s amazing to be working with people who are rooted in culture and creativity.
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation — I’m working with the Emerging Futures Director to scope out and help design what it means for JRF to be a more active funder of the ‘third horizon.’
- Impact on Urban Health — I am working with the organisation as an Innovator in Residence. More on this soon as we ‘innovate’ the model itself and think about how it creates value for a wider ecosystem. This is already such a pioneering team and organisation, who explicitly undertake experiments and who are also growing their links and relationships Internationally.
- Power to Change — I am designing a new community tech for community business funding programme that will launch later in 2022.
The focus of field-building work is on shared missions, shifting systems and making progress together, not simply on scaling up an organisation or intervention. This is a practice that builds out networks, relationships, spheres of influence and collective power around a theme, mission, practice or place. It involves working with many moving parts, supporting those involved to find a shared compass, greater alignment and deepening interdependence.
The work itself involves engagement, coordination, bringing in new opportunities and partnerships, facilitating collective sense-making, assembling and sharing knowledge, shaping narratives and advancing policy. It also means directing funding to the field, unlocking its potential and building capacity across the ecosystem to ensure momentum and collective power. I am currently doing this work with -
- Partners For A New Economy — my role in the team is to use convening and communications to help build the field of “change catalysts” who are repurposing our economic system, so that it benefits people and nature, and is fit for the challenges of the 21st Century. This is a funder collaborative of (so far) 7 funders working across the globe and the content of the work is brilliantly mind-stretching.
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other partners to grow Our Collective Imaginations and advance the field of social, public and collective imagination in the UK. The work is explained more here.
- Power to Change — My role is to build the field of community tech for community business, working alongside Promising Trouble who are the secretariat for the programme. This is linked but different from designing the funding programme mentioned above.
- Dark Matter Labs — I’m working with the team to grow a field of practice in philanthropy around Transition Investing.