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Weeknotes 43 (16th — 20th September)

Today (is hopefully) the largest climate strike and march the world has ever seen. And it couldn’t have come sooner. I don’t work on a Friday at The National Lottery Community Fund, so am not striking, but can’t join the march either as I’m in Scotland learning from a Shaman about the wisdom and magic of Yew trees. I’m hoping that may be a slightly different way today of paying attention to nature and taking care of our planet.

A huge thank you to all of those people that are taking to the streets.

I’ve also been part of the Tech For Good community pulling together this resource – the start of us making urgent commitments to the planet.

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What we’ve been doing

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On Tuesday I worked with Sonia on our learning content about ‘good’ digital grant making. It’s great to work with someone who can help bring structure and good design to all of this. Inspired by Tom, I also brought the domains www.teachingfoundations.digital and www.teachinggrantmakers.digital (will test which one works best) so that we can start adding some of the content we’re creating from the Digital Fund into an open resource for other people working in Foundations. Alongside this I’m hoping that as Tom & Co publish their work, a group of us can translate it to be useful in a grant-making context. If you want to get involved in this, please get in touch.

Wednesday was a day of mostly internal meetings, including one with Dawn, our CEO. It was nice to have a catch up with her, and in particular I appreciated being able to ask about the current ideas and ambitions she has both for our work at the Fund and the wider sector. I’ve realised in my short time being an “employee” (this is only my second ever PAYE job) how important it is for my commitment to an organisation, to know and believe in where the leader of the organisation is pointing us.

On Thursday I was at the first Nesta Government Innovation Summit and as The National Lottery Community Fund is a non-departmental public body, and I have a Civil Service pension, this felt relevant. You can read Tweets from the day here, and I’d suggest reading through the book of Radical Visions of Future Government that was produced with a range of global contributors.

“How can governments reimagine public services to improve the lives of citizens? What new approaches will help them tackle the complex issues that will define our future?”

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Nesta Government Innovation Summit.

I also got to join my first meeting of our internal LBTQI+ network, set up this year by a group of people much younger than me! I’m looking forward to finding ways to contribute to the network, and to creating safe space and allyship in our organisational culture.

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What we’ve been learning

Alongside this, Hilary Cottam made an important point that I tried to summarise in a Tweet, about what the purpose of government should be. I’d ask the same question of many social sector and civil society organisations — are you supporting people to actually change their lives or just to manage them?

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The most thought-provoking part of my week was working with our support partners for the Digital Fund — CAST, Dot Project, Doteveryone, Shift and Snook to try and firm up some of the learning we want to do across the work. We’d started to map this out a few months ago, but this week were able to form a more comprehensive plan. We developed these by stating what assumptions we felt had been made in the design of the first round of the Digital Fund. Some of the assumptions we will be testing include —

For Strand 1 grantees

  • That med/large charities can transition effectively and efficiently
  • That med/large charities can be generous
  • That investment in med/large charities flows effectively into the ecosystem
  • That building an internal design and digital team is the best way to do organisational transition work
  • That recruiting, supporting and sustaining a design and digital team represents a manageable risk for project delivery and for that organisation
  • That building an internal design and digital team will be possible in terms of supply of talent
  • That you can integrate a new design and digital team in to an organisation that has had no/little experience of these roles, this mindset, this way of working
  • That organisations can make sufficient progress in building the confidence, mindset, processes etc within 2 years
  • That the existing level of competency / confidence are sufficient to invest this much, this quickly in transformation
  • That having a detailed plan would be a barrier to success
  • That an emphasis on people, processes and iteration is right
  • That there are sufficient existing / wider organisational and development plans in place to provide structure for an iterative approach to digital transformation

For Strand 2 grantees

  • That investment in tech design and development is sufficient to increase impact
  • That this type of activity and outputs understands and responds to the underlying causes of social problems

We also talked about with Strand 2, the need for the sector to better understand the relationship between size/scope of the social challenge and the ‘impact’ of a single organisation creating/delivering a digital service. We might expect that for a bigger/broader, more complex social challenge, there’s a greater need to build with, and engage with an ecosystem of actors, whereas with a smaller/more specific social challenge, one organisation or tool might solve the issue well. In relation to this, we hope we can develop some insights that help make sense of how tight a social challenge needs to be in order to recommend a single organisation/tool approach versus a networked approach.

Thank you to Nick, Dan and Cat for this rich discussion — and especially Nick who turned my jumbled thoughts into the coherent words above!

What we’re celebrating

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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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