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Weeknotes 55 + 56(25th November-6th December)

I normally write these Weeknotes on a Friday, but last Friday I was at a funeral, so these are Fortnightnotes rather than Weeknotes — and they are super long. There’s been a lot going on.

Firstly, two shout outs. Little Village, a charity set up by my best friend Sophia Parker, has winter Wish Lists. They were also involved in this heartbreaking documentary on Dispatches, and this week Sophia published this blog about love as a force for social justice, which I’d really recommend reading.

“Our dream is that no child in the capital grows up without essential items of clothing, toys and equipment. We promote sustainable living and make it as easy as possible for families to help each other.”

Rachel is also raising money for Magic Breakfast by selling merchandise with her important new concept of Just Enough Internet.

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My Sister modelling my new sweatshirt.

And, I often ask people how they will feel if in 10 years time the whole of civil society is running on Amazon and Facebook. I realised 10 years is much too far in to the future. This is a great article showing Amazon’s impact on the life of an average American city today — from labor to taxes to streetscapes to data privacy — maybe civil society will understand why it needs to be active at the table now in terms of shaping and determining how we co-exist with technology.

Lastly, if you haven’t read it, I published this mammoth blog about the skills and capabilities needed for grantmaking. I’ve had some great feedback and this is the start of a whole series of blogs, content and tools that I’ll be posting on Good Grantmaking.

What we’ve been doing

Last week I was in Wales on Monday, speaking at an event organised by Promo-Cymru, and focussed on what we’ve learnt from the Digital Fund, and some of what we are planning for the future. It was also helpful for me to learn more about the local context — something important for us to consider in terms of what we do next. I’m especially interested to hear about/from any organisations that have evolved what they do in terms of the ‘digital skills’ agenda, taking in to account how the world has changed, and that new models of delivery might be possible now, as well as updated content.

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I attended the launch of Geoff Mulgan’s new book on Social Innovation — How societies find the power to change — and was reminded of this book he’d written back in 2006 Demos days — if only the ideas in “Social Silicon Valleys” had taken off back then, rather than the very unsocial Silicon Valley culture that has dominated what the World Wide Web turned into.

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On the Thursday, Melissa, Emily and I, hosted a workshop with a group of other grantmakers from Nesta, Esmee Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn, Social Tech Trust, Comic Relief, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Wellcome Trust. This was to share with them the “Good Digital Grantmaking” content we’ve been developing over the last few months and to get their feedback and ideas. Emily and Melissa will be publishing two blogs this coming week about the work — one that will include a link to the Google Drive where all the content lives, so that anyone can access them — and we hope use them, and adapt them.

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Our playbook of new “Good Digital Grantmaking” content.

I started this week with Climate KIC and the Institute of Innovation and Public Purpose, where I’m a Fellow. It was really inspiring to be in a room with people talking about ambitious and necessary transition work and the different levels of systems innovation.

  • The Macro (paradigm and systemic change) — Paradigms and codes, the big picture and the landscape, the wider value system, the dominant narrative, the aspirational narrative, the tax/legal and regulatory regime.
  • The Meso (institutional and organisational transformation) — Institutions (and their rules and norms), business model or organisations, power dynamics, networks and hierarchies, asset classes, social movements.
  • The micro (ventures, user insights and behavioural change) — Individual behaviour, start-ups and enterprise innovation, activity and events.

I was also there with my National Lottery Community Fund hat on too because there is so much for us to learn from Climate KIC about tech + climate — something we are scoping out for the next round of the Digital Fund.

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The impressive combination of Mariana Mazzucato, Rowan Conway, Martha McPherson and Kirsten Dunlop.

Later that day and evening I hosted two events with Jennie Winhall and Cat Drew — on behalf of the Point People (of which we are all a part) and the Design Council. The first event was a closed workshop with designers who we think have pioneered design practice over the last two decades in the UK — it’s the second in a series we’re doing, to understand what the new societal and cultural challenges are that design needs to respond to, and what that means for design practice. The second was an open event at the Design Council, where 120 tickets sold out in 24 hours (!!), with talks from each of us and guests, including Nick Stanhope, Alastair Parvin and Ilishio Lovejoy. This is because alongside our enquiry about future design practice, we want to ensure we’re making these practices visible to a wider community of designers. We’ll be publishing a blog about the event next week.

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Cat and Jennie at the event.

Tuesday and most of Wednesday I was up in Leeds for the quarterly UK Portfolio team meeting with 30 colleagues from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. Most of the 2 days were taken up with learning how to use our new Grant Management System (an adapted Salesforce platform), which has been rolled out across the organisation over the last few months — no mean feat and a very welcome change from our previous system.

We also got to hear about the large Strategic Programmes the fund has invested in — over £500 Million across 5 different programmes of work. The brilliant Laura Furness, who’s currently acting as Head of all the Strategic Programmes, came in to share about what they’ve learnt working in a more systemic, long-term and collaborative way.

Hannah Paterson organised the team Christmas party, with secret santa, a quiz and some awards. I was pretty chuffed to get the one I did — “for being at the forefront of innovative change in the team and throughout the organisation” — partly because there is no way I could do that without someone like Beth Bell and Yvonne Campbell working alongside me and they got awards too, but also because it can sometimes be isolating and uncomfortable being the person playing that role.

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The Christmas Party and my certificate!

Another lovely UK Portfolio tradition is to celebrate each other and say thank you each quarter. The “thank you’s” are collected up in advance, written into individual cards for people to take away, and in this instance, made in to word clouds too.

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Here’s the Digital Fund team — Phoebe, Melissa and Beth — with theirs.

The week ended with the 3rd Cohort of the Digital Fund coming to London for their kick off / welcome day. It was great to see Phoebe take the reins as she’s now the lead for the 3 cohorts — and will spend the next year stewarding the strategic intent of the Digital Fund across 29 grantees, as well as sensemaking and sharing insights and learning alongside the support partners (Doteveryone, CAST, Shift, Snook, the Dot Project). Depending on what happens on election day, and therefore Purdah, Phoebe will be publishing a blog next Friday introducing all 29 grantees from Round One of the Digital Fund.

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Phoebe in her new role.

We were able to let Stripe Partners know that they had been the successful bidders for the Discovery research we put out to tender last month. I’m really looking forward to working with such a talented team with expertise in design, ethnography and the human sciences.

Lastly, I got to catch up with Brittany from DeepMind on Friday too (with my first visit to The Wing) and we’re going to reinstate our dinners from January 2020. If you identify as a woman or non-binary person and are working at the intersection of tech + society, and would like to come along then let me know.

What we’ve been learning

A lot of this week has been about learning how to use the Grant Management System. This new platform is going to enable a much more user-centred and efficient way of working — from greater mobile access when applying for funding, more tailored responses to applications, a simpler grant set up process, more information and support for first time applicants, and full CRM functionality. The system also now automates elements of the process that were previously manual such as checking charity numbers and whether bank accounts are legitimate, and over time will have the potential to facilitate participatory grantmaking practices more effectively, with quicker feedback loops in to communities.

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The new GMS platform.

What I’m most interested in, is how much better our intelligence and insight will be — we have made all of our grants more searchable, and with new standards for how we record data, we can take landscape and thematic views across applications. This will also mean we can do more realtime sensemaking in relation to impact, change and influence.

What we’re celebrating

It’s incredibly sad and heartbreaking that Tazeen died on November 6th — she had been my leadership coach (and was training as a therapist too, so those lines were often blurred) since March 2017, but at her funeral last Friday it was clear she planned for us all to celebrate her life. Please read this obituary about her — she was a remarkable woman — fierce, graceful, smart, courageous, playful and kind.

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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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