Weeknotes 46 (7th — 11th October)

First, if you’re a funder and haven’t watched this film, please do, and then sign up for the breakfast event to try and work out practical ways to address this, together.

I mentioned this series a few weeks back, and was lucky to attend some of the sessions in person, now the recordings are all up online from the Flourishing Diversity series. Elevating and listening to indigenous wisdom is really important right now.

What we’ve been doing

A lot of this week has been sorting out papers and legal advice in preparation for our next UK panel on October 22nd. This has been trickier than usual because of a Digital Fund team member leaving the fund. It’s never totally straight forward to pick up someone else’s work, especially when that work is often about their judgments and how they’ve been assessing applications. Lots of learning here about how to build in consistency, not only in our customer service, but in our grant making decisions.

Melissa has been out at several events this week — on Monday at the BBC’s Tech & Society event, and on Wednesday at Digital Agenda’s Power & Responsibility summit. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a permanent member of the team here in London who can start attending things instead of me!

Beth has been working incredibly hard through some procurement processes and hopefully by next week we’ll be able to publish a tender for a piece of Discovery research work — all about micro organisations and informal civil society activity.

I’ve been able to hand over some of the learning content work to Melissa, who’s been working with Emily and Sonia, and by Monday I think we’ll have a pretty good suite of content about how to be a “good digital grant maker.” We’ll start testing that internally and with the wider sector.

I got to hang out last night at Buckingham Palace, celebrating 50 years of Parkinson’s UK, which was poignant on a personal level as my Dad had parkinson’s and the organisation made a huge difference to the last 10 years of his life, but they are also one of the Digital Fund awardees.

Today’s cohort event.

Today we had another kick-off day with the next Digital Fund cohort (from July’s UK Panel) — an opportunity for them to meet us for the first time in person, and the support partner ecosystem (Doteveryone, Dot Project, Snook, CAST, Shift, CX Design) with whom they’ll be working over the next 18 months. It was a full house today with Open Food Network, Refugee Action, Carefree, Relate, Cruse Bereavement, Parkinson’s UK, Good Gym, Bath & NE Somerset Carers, Wag & Co, NCVO, Children’s Society, Mental Health Innovations, Citizens Advice, Samaritans and Grandparents Plus. We’ll be doing some more comms about each of the organisations, but I’m really excited about the range of organisations and their collective ambitions.

My favourite bit of the day was introducing our commitment to working in ecosystems — asking the cohort questions that we hope will create more collective awareness and translate into value being created beyond each individual organisation, and more interdependencies being created across the sector or in particular clusters.

Ecosystem questions.

I had some great external meetings this week, in particular with Farah, who leads lots of great work at City Hall — our meeting ended up being for 2 hours without us even noticing! We’re really keen to do some work together, so watch this space for the following —

  • A policy hack on race and tech
  • Making infrastructure cool (lets face it, it’s vital, and especially specialist infrastructure)
  • Some events that touch on all the above — race, tech, ethics and infrastructure
  • And some writing about what it means to be an intelligent funder

I also had a call with Mutale and Rachel, about ways of building solidarity, care and collectivism between those doing the work of holding technology (its creators and investors) to account — there can emotional and personal costs to this.

What we’ve been learning

The different ways people in the sector use the word “digital” is already something I’m aware of, and in particular after reading through 1200 Digital Fund applications it became even more apparent there was a lot of inconsistency in understanding and use of the term. It’s what lead me to write this blog post — showing how we’d seen the sector make sense of the word “digital” in their applications.

As months have passed, and in particular after a few meetings in the last fortnight, I’ve realised that this inconsistency in language is a huge barrier to the sector progressing. There are all kinds of suppliers out there, offering digital “expertise”, digital leadership training, digital skills training, digital strategy consultancy — and so forth. The reality is that the sector is hugely confused about this array of offerings, from what the offers actually are, and there relevance, through to assessing the quality of them. I’ve seen Digital Fund applications naming people in the sector as a “digital expert” on their funding bids, hoping this will bring credibility and reassurance to the application, when I know the person they’re talking about actually has expertise in marketing, communications and fundraising using digital, but no expertise at all in digital service design and delivery. What concerns me most of all is that it’s civil society and social sector organisations that ultimately lose out.

I’m going to try and address this by convening a group of organisations who offer “digital” services to the sector, so that together we can try and bring some coherence to this wide array of sector support. This won’t be about calling people’s work right or wrong, but about acknowledging there is difference in what people are doing whilst using the same language. I’ll try to facilitate a day of discussion and then segmentation of offers, that we can go back out to the sector with, so there’s much greater understanding about who to go to for what kind of expertise. All of us in the sector have responsibility for this!

If you’re interested in attending then please do get in touch — it’s likely to be in early December. We’re also crowdsourcing who we should approach to attend from civil society and social sector organisations that have been sold services.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Cassie Robinson.

Cassie Robinson.


Working with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, EarthPercent, P4NE, Policy Fellow IIPP, Co-founder Point People, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.