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Weeknotes 38 (5th – 9th August)

I’ve been invited to be the Keynote speaker at the Service Design in Government conference next March, and this time it’s in Scotland (🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ❤️).

I’m also going to be speaking Design On The Inside (DOTI) at the end of October, which is the inaugural one day event after a series of smaller events.

It’s great to see Giselle and Tracey from DataKind writing more and we generally need to be linking up the digital and data conversations and community better in the sector.

What we’ve been doing

We’ve started doing our peer review sessions again in the run up to the next UK decision-making panel in October. I’m not working individually with any applicants for this panel, which is great for two reasons — it frees me up to get on with other aspects of my role that have taken a back seat and it also means I can support the team with a more helicopter view of the applications, joining calls when they need me to and engaging in a different way in the peer review sessions. I regret not doing these more during the first 6 months but we just didn’t have capacity and the open, critical discussions would have provided an excellent learning opportunity to the wider organisation had we opened them up too.

We will have a content designer joining us for 3 months from next week, to help turn our content ideas for internal learning into actual things that we can spread and socialise around the organisation. This means we’ve been writing briefs this week and organising our ideas into something they can work with. We’ve also designed a short Typeform survey to send around to all staff (including Senior Management, Policy, Engagement etc) to better understand where people’s interests and needs are when it comes to digital. This week we’ve also started with some real basics about who to go to for what internally and this is primarily to make the distinction between them – IT, Service Design, Digital Engagement, Data & Evidence, and us, the Digital Fund team – all with different roles and often confused by people.

It’s been nice to have some space for calls this week too. One with another Foundation who’s developing their strategy and wanted to talk through some ideas – I’ve written up some of my thinking here – and a call with Josh who is the new Digital and Data Lead at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Penny who I used to know at Paul Hamlyn has now moved over to Comic Relief as their ‘Social Tech’ Lead and we recently met too. I think it’s really important that people like Penny, Josh and I (and others) meet regularly to join dots, make collaborative plans and support each other.

What we’re learning

Following the kick off day last month, the support ecosystem that we’ve contracted to work with all the Digital Fund grantees have started doing deep dive interviews with each team to better understand their needs and the questions they’re asking. It’s been interesting to draw some parallels with the changes The National Lottery Community Fund has started to make itself. I chatted with Angela who is the Product Owner for the rollout of the new GMS (grant management system), which should, if done well, lay the foundations for some quite fundamental changes in how the organisation becomes more user-centred.

Angela talked about some of the challenges so far – in particular how to help people think in terms of products as end to end systems, that will need continuous improvements, and not just a thing that is separate or that will be done.

“We don’t want it to be something people use just because they have to, it’s something that should shift our whole way of working.”

The grant management system will improve how we talk with the people that enquire or apply to the fund, help us respond more positively to people we are turning down for funding, and most importantly it will help turn time spent on process into time for relationships.

“We spend too much time on grant management. We squeeze out where some of our biggest value lies — in networking organisations and people together, convening, championing and supporting.”

Back in 2014 I was part of a Point People team that was not only rolling out a new digital platform but designing it too, across 150 local Mind’s around the country. It was for gathering data, insight, and sharing knowledge and learning, but the impetus had come from the national office so we needed to really invest time in the local offices. We needed to understand how it could create value for them and work our what would prompt them to take that first leap to use it. In the end the way in to that was to populate the system with all their previous annual return data, and making it very straightforward for them to do their next annual return online. This got everyone on to the system and with their data already now in the system they were able to play with it and generate new insight, or at least insight more easily – this was the value add for them.

I asked Angela how they’re working across the organisation to get engagement and buy-in from staff.

“We’ve been getting things in front of staff, and doing user testing with Funding Officers. The current FMS (funding management system) is so clunky that we’re not necessarily having to encourage use of the new system.”

The clunkiness of the existing system has created some unintentional consequences in terms of culture. Angela talked about how people across the Fund aren’t used to working in a standardised way – “they are used to making workarounds because previous systems have been so clunky and now we’re asking them to break these patterns.”

And like the Mind work “ populating the system with data has been a big win because you can search and pull up really good results.”

The new GMS is going live in the Scotland office in September and then the plan is to get everyone else onto the new system by the end of the year.

Once GMS is up and running across the organisation the Service Design team will be able to start building out from it to explore other things like pre-paid cards, ways of doing more participatory grant making and community decision making, as well as some kind of community platform where knowledge and learning can be shared internally and externally.

We will keep drawing parallels between grantees from Strand 1 of the Digital Fund and the work happening internally at The National Lottery Fund – it’s good to be able to show that we’re trying to walk our talk!

Thank you for your time Angela. And for being a complete star during an intense time!

What we’re celebrating

Right now, I’m celebrating having some headspace. I’m working remotely for the next fortnight and a change of scenery has been a great way to start scoping out what we’re going to do next with the Digital Fund, as well as start catching up with colleagues from different teams to make sure we’re linking things up. No mean feat in an 800 person organisation.

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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