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Weeknotes 41(2nd — 6th September)

Back after a fortnight without writing Weeknotes and writing this today has been a helpful realisation of why I may be tired. It’s been a full on week and I’ve been doing all kinds of things.

I can also no longer claim to be the *only* person working in a Foundation in the UK writing a weekly public blog, and being as transparent as possible about the work we’re doing. The Heritage Lottery are now opening there’s up too. Hopefully more will follow!

My friend Fiona has spent the last 2 years working on this exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, Being Human — you should all go and see it — especially as the New York Times has now described it as the World’s most accessible museum, due to Fiona’s real commitment in making it so.

“Those without disabilities might not notice the innovations, but a museum in London is winning plaudits for its design and content.”

What we’ve been doing

The Digital Fund team have been doing a mixture of things — preparing for our next panel later in October (at the moment we have 8 proposals going to panel and that will be our last from this round of the Digital Fund), working with the procurement team to try and get a tender out for some Discovery research to better understand informal civil society activity, and finally sending out grant acceptance letters from the July panel now that we’ve been given direction around State Aid from the legal team.

We’ve now recruited two new people for the Digital Fund, which I’m excited about and hope to announce both of them next week.

I’ve had catch ups with both Sonia and Emily about the learning content that they’re creating for us, and Ellie and Abs about the work they’re doing in helping us scope out the next round of the Digital Fund.

Emily and Sonia are currently setting up interviews with people internally to learn more about what has and hasn’t worked previously when trying to share learning across the Fund. I’m also speaking with HR who are designing some new Grant Making Skills programmes, so that we can embed some of the Digital Fund learning content in to that.

Abs and Ellie are starting out by doing interviews too, and in particular looking at what kind of infrastructure the sector needs now and in the future. I have always admired the Ford Foundation’s BUILD fund, and especially how they describe infrastructure — we might look at something similar.

“Advocacy organisations, grassroots mobilisers, think tanks, litigators, intermediaries, narrative change organisations.”

Yesterday I spent the day at a workshop about Becoming Anticipatory. It was co-hosted by the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), and the Sustainability Institute, and was primarily about exploring systemic change practices and anticipation for a complex world. A proportion of it drew heavily on Bill Sharpe’s Three Horizon’s model and the work that International Futures Forum do, but I’m going to write a separate blog about it. I especially loved the persona’s that were shared in terms of the types of people and roles you need to do systemic and transitional work. Plus a real bonus of being at Nesta for the day was lunch with my friend Kate and a very overdue and long catch up with Indy.

In the evening I went along to the Design For Climate gathering — a group of design agencies, individuals and insiders who are all committed to finding ways to forefront the climate crisis in their work. I joined a group looking at very practical ways designers and commissioners can introduce climate crisis awareness in to how they work — from designing new organisational policies to bringing up values in kick-off meetings with clients. The idea is the community will develop practical tools and approaches (there’s a growing Trello) and report back next month on their experiments. Follow the #designandclimate community on Twitter to find out more. I’m keen to see how funders (and especially those funding tech), can build new policies into our grant agreements that recognise the climate crisis.

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Definitely a design workshop — look at those beards.

Today I spent the day in a workshop with the UK Portfolio team and two people from the Comms and Engagement team (Victoria and Rich) that we work most closely with. This was set up to help us better understand how to work together, and to ensure we’re all clear about key messages for the fund – especially through a UK Portfolio lens. I even got a certificate for going.

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Who I’ve been meeting

I’ve had lots of interesting meetings this week, which was a lovely way to come back to work. It’s so important to stay connected to what is going on outside an organisation.

After many months of not being able to attend the Fellow’s meetings at IIPP, I managed to catch up with Martha McPherson who leads their work on climate and the environment. They’re doing some really interesting work with Greater Manchester as well as across Europe with Climate KIC. I especially loved Martha’s idea of us doing some research together on what feminist missions might look like — drawing on the IIPP model of Mission Oriented Innovation.

Liz Carolan is CEO of Digital Action, and we met this week for the first time. I knew some of their plans from Nick, but that was a few months ago and they have a refined focus. I’ve been especially keen to learn more about their model (which draws heavily on this) as it feels very relevant to Catalyst, as well as to any kind of intentional ecosystem design work.

“We help build coalitions that can tackle digital threats, together. The issues are complex, and the solutions are not simple. A diverse range of organisations and actors are needed to achieve progress. But through smart, collective action, we can shape our future.”

I had the pleasure of meeting a team from the Paul Ramsay Foundation in Australia, who came to visit me in the office to learn more about The National Lottery Community Fund. They’re scoping out how to build up a relatively new foundation with a significant amount of money, and are speaking to lots of people globally in the Foundation world, in order to gather ideas and learning.

I also met with Irini this week, to talk about all things tech + climate (as well as institutional life, being plural and the value of being being able to translate across disciplines and sectors). Following on from that, we then had a 3–way chat with Chris, Founder of Climate Act Tech, who I’ve been wanting to connect with for ages. He lives in Berlin, but when he is in the UK in October we’re going to do an event together. More to follow.

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Irini, Chris and I.

What we’re learning

I’ve been so full on this week I’ve had no time to really reflect, so I’m going to pass on this section this week, especially as I’ll be publishing two other blogs over the weekend — one on the role of Strategic Design in Foundations, and one about the Becoming Anticipatory workshop earlier this week.

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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