Weeknotes 42(9th — 13th September)

The big news from our team this week is the two new members — Melissa starts on October 1st and Phoebe 3 weeks later.

Melissa has spent the past four years researching and writing about life, community and culture as lived through and with digital technologies. She’s currently finishing up an MSc in Digital Anthropology at UCL where she’s been conducting qualitative research around social and digital infrastructures. Before this she worked as Associate Editor at POSTmatter, Coordinator at Brighton Digital Festival and most recently in Research and Evaluation in the Leadership, Development and Change team at UCL Students’ Union, as well as extensive voluntary work with civil society organisations supporting displaced people across England and Europe.

Phoebe is a complex systems thinker experimenting with and spreading new forms of governance better suited for a complex world. She has worked for the past 5 years on projects and with organisations in the space of self-management, new forms of organisational governance and technology tools to allow better collaboration. She is a Member of the Enspiral network, a self-governing collective of entrepreneurs and innovators that has become globally known for its social and technological innovation in community building and networked governance.

Phoebe started the Enspiral Org Academy where she trains teams and organisations (from corporations to activist networks) in practical decentralised governance and draws upon practices from the Going Horizontal methodology and Enspiral’s practices. She is trained in the Warm Data Lab methodology by complexity and systems thinker Nora Bateson and the Work That Reconnects ecological grief work by Joanna Macy.

She is interested in community governance of shared resources and supporting community resilience in the face of climate change and other challenges.

I can’t wait for them to start!

What we’ve been doing

On Monday I spent the morning in a ‘Data for the public good’ ecosystem workshop hosted by DCMS, who are scoping out their strategy. There were two parts to the session — the first was an attempt to capture the different actors involved in the data ecosystem, understand how they collaborate, the types of data use, the role of standards and the flow of funding. The second was to open up the room to discuss the foundations of an efficient data for good ecosystem, barriers and how government can support. I was glad to be in the room — the only Foundation in the room — and representing civil society, alongside DataKind UK.

Later that day I was at Nesta, taking part in a round table made up of about 20 (mostly) CEO’s from different UK Foundations to talk about a new report that Nesta and the Centre for Public Impact will be publishing next month on the Future of Foundations. I was one of the people invited to write a provocation to go alongside the report and will share that here once they launch the work. Julia Unwin has written up a great blog post in response to some of what was discussed that day.

The Nesta roundtable, where I got to finally meet Carolyn from the Corra Foundation in person!

On Tuesday morning I was working on more procurement challenges. Not much more to say there! In the afternoon I was at the Funders Who Tech meet-up that I co-host with Tom. There was about 12 people there this month — all people working in Foundations who are funding and asking questions about tech.

I had to then go off and support a friend in crisis, so missed the monthly Fellows meeting at the Institute of Innovation and Public Purpose — and therefore Richard’s talk — I’m very glad he’s newly joined us there!

Wednesday was a team day. In the morning I went to meet Beth at her Common Purpose leadership course. As her line manager we’d been asked to go to the very last session to hear about what they’d learnt and how they’d grown through the programme. We were then given some one-to-one time to talk through how we, as managers, would support them to take the next leaps in their leadership journey’s. It was lovely to have that time with Beth and it’s a complete privilege to work with her. Literally every day I am so grateful that she’s part of the team.

Beth and her Common Purpose cohort.

That afternoon Melissa also came in to have a catch up about her role and some of our plans going forward with the Digital Fund in advance of her starting in a few weeks time.

The rest of Wednesday was spent working on a different procurement task than Tuesday’s one. We’re putting out a new tender for some Discovery work and it felt like a good time to try and see how we could weave some climate crisis policies into how we procure the work. We did a call out on Twitter to see if others’ have good examples, and also reached out to the Peter at the Fund, as he’s the head of our “Green Champion” network internally. He was able to share what’s currently been drafted. We will publish where we get to with this next week — lots of people have been in touch asking for us to share what we do.

What we’re learning

I am now in Canada, on Wasan Island (which is next to an island called Cassie!) with a group of other people who work in Foundations. It’s a 4 day retreat organised by SIX as part of their Funders Node, and there are people from all over the world here. It’s such a privilege to be able to learn and reflect with people on the theme of the weekend — the role of risk and legitimacy in philanthropy. It feels like a very timely topic, both for the Foundation community and for me personally. Aren’t all of us with privilege asking how we can act with more urgency and radicality right now?

We’re only 24 hours in to the retreat so there will be more to share and I’ll have reflected more by next week. Some of the questions we’ve been covering today though include —

  • How do you organise more effectively around purpose rather than being so focussed on organising to mitigate risk?
  • How do you create environments where risk is seen as an asset?
  • How can we collectively take on bigger risks?
  • In our positions of privilege, how can we amplify self-imposed risks as a way of being more radical and more urgent?
The moon last night — looking forward to the full moon tomorrow!

What we’re celebrating

Obviously there’s lots to celebrate with Melissa and Phoebe joining the team. I also want to give a shout out to the Flourishing Diversity summit that was happening in London at the start of this week. I managed to attend a few of the evening Listening Sessions and followed the activity on social media — it felt like such an important, timely and extraordinary thing to have happened, and to feel all that indigenous wisdom filling our ears and hearts. Thank you to the organisers and I’d really recommend reading their report too.

Deputy Director at National Lottery Community Fund, Co-founder of the Point People, Policy Fellow IIPP, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.