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Weeknotes 39 (12th — 16th August)

Firstly get in touch with The Catalyst if you want to take part in the below.

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What we’ve been doing

We’ve been writing up the Design Day with hospices and reflecting the ideas that came out of the day back to the wider community for more feedback. More on this in the section below.

I had a catch up with Miriam Levin (Head of Social Action at the Office of Civil Society) and her team. They’re planning their future strategy and it was good to explore whether there was any way of linking up the next round of the Digital Fund with their work.

I also had a long meeting with my colleague Dan Paskins. Dan works in a different team from me, and I’d met him a few times before I started at the organisation, but I’d describe him (and his reputation backs this up) as the wise man that everyone goes to for sharp thinking and ideas, as well as reassurance and knowledge about the internal machinations of the organisation itself. It was helpful for all kinds of reasons, but in particular I’m looking forward to making sure the work we’re doing links up and that we’re doing some exploring together of what’s needed in the future.

I’ve also had some kick off sessions with new temporary team members. We’ve had quite a lot of change in the team the last few months and have been short staffed, so in the interim before bringing in two new permanent people (one we’ll announce next week who will start on October 1st, and one’s still being recruited), we’ve needed to bring in some extra support.

I’m excited that Sonia is joining us to do some content design work. She’s been working at Government Digital Service as a designer for the last few years and has also been doing an MA in Sociology at Goldsmith’s. She’s a really talented designer for us to have on board, and will help us design and develop learning content for the Digital Fund to share throughout the organisation and wider sector. As I’ve written about before, part of my role is to help build the digital confidence and understanding of the wider fund, and this content is part of that.

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Some of Sonia’s work. More can be found here —

Sonia will be working as a team with Emily, who’s a talented Org Designer, previously working at FutureGov and since then doing all kinds of interesting work with NOBL Collective, Addaction, Social Finance, and more. Emily will work with Sonia and I to help design and test some of the most effective ways to share learning across the organisation — and hopefully the wider sector too as I’m sure we’ll openly publish whatever we create.

We’ve also brought in Ellie and Ab to work with Beth and I on scoping out the next round of the Digital Fund. We’ve got some ideas in mind for it but there are all kinds of assumptions that need testing first. Ellie and Ab will be doing some research and interviews with the sector and regular “show & tells” back to the wider team here to help us make some decisions.

What we’re learning

One of the things we did on the Design Day with hospices was a “how might we” activity, which ended up with me transcribing 321 post it notes. I’ve written them all up in to this document. There are many many questions being asked by the hospice community that we are working with and I feel like there are people out there that will know the answers to some of these, so take a 👀 look, and please contribute your knowledge to the document.

There was only one “how might we” I didn’t include in this and it’s the sentence below.

“Ensure we do it once and get it right first time.”

You can never ensure to get something right first time, it’s not the thing to strive for, and this kind of work will never be done.

As I typed up all the questions I was taken back to the work we did at Doteveryone on better care for those at the end of life and living with life-limiting conditions. Sadly I can’t link to the work as the original pages no longer exist, but there are bits of it here on IF’s website and Nat’s.

We did that work back in 2016 and I was struck by how little has changed. Back then we found that the sector had been slow to digitise. We could see from all the Digital Fund applications that the sector is still struggling — to digitise basic office functions, invest in wifi and devices for staff, and because of funding shortfalls have been slow to invest, even in proven technologies.

We need the hospice movement to thrive, not just feel like they are playing constant catchup. And whilst there is already great work going on in the sector ( I remain such a big fan of people like Heather Richardson and Ivor Williams), technology is going to continue to change things — the homes and communities of the people who need to be cared for; the jobs of the people who care for them; and it will change the way decisions are made about the entire care ecosystem. So it means we will need to do the following (and more!) —

  • Make sure that the sector, together, doesn’t embark on any more unstrategic technological change.
  • It doesn’t make sense to think of the care that happens in a hospice as being in a building, sometimes it is, but that care is often extended to people’s homes and delivered by other members of the community too. This means the digital infrastructure that hospices use needs to reflect the interconnectedness of services, systems, and communities.
  • Be clear about where technology can augment the job of caring and where technology will never be the answer. This article is a good reminder of that.

“If we continue to devalue social care as a society, emotional wellbeing and human contact will become increasingly dispensable. Unless we start to value human carers and pay them a proper living wage, we may enter a society where all social care is digitised, and only the richest can pay for human care.”

  • The last thing we want is a workforce made to work with technology it can neither use nor understand. More technology on the front line means more tech support— whether that’s staff knowing what to do or who to reach out to when hardware fails, to ensuring the take up and usage of technology — the skills of hospice workers, and support for them, needs to be invested in.
  • A lot of care work draws on the goodwill and wellbeing of workers, and families, so they need to be supported and their skills invested in too.

We’re going to be working with the hospice community to develop some fundable proposals around 3 broad areas:

  • How to improve access to appropriate and effective digital tools, basic infrastructure, support and skills.
  • How to build more collective awareness and action (common standards, principles, design patterns and group purchasing etc.)
  • How to build a stronger, more connected network across the hospice community. Something like a OneTeamHospice.

How we will do this, and where we will start, is what we’re designing with the community, as well as trying to get a better understanding of who’s already doing some of this in the sector.

What we’re celebrating

Later next week I’m switching my Out of Office on and won’t be back at work until the 2nd September. I can’t wait to have some headspace and time with family and friends. Plus, to actually write things that are not Weeknotes! So this is it from me until Friday 6th September…I’ll be hanging out on the beach below.

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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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