Introducing the Digital Fund support team

Cat Ainsworth
Sep 26, 2019 · 6 min read
CAST, Shift, DOT PROJECT and the National Lottery Community Fund team in the early days of designing the support team (photo Cassie Robinson)

Earlier this year, as part of the National Lottery Community Fund Digital Fund, we were awarded a support grant to boost capabilities within grantees of the Digital Fund. For all organisations involved this represents an opportunity to bring together our diverse skill-sets and range of expertise for grantees to draw on throughout the duration of their grant. We’ll be sharing regular updates about what we’re learning and we thought we’d start with an introduction to who we are and why we exist.

Why does the support team exist?

We know that the social sector plays a vital role in the future of our civil society. Charities, social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations are working on the front line, working with communities and individuals who are at the heart of our society. Life for those communities and individuals has evolved dramatically over recent years, behaviours have changed and relationships between individuals, communities and the social sector are shifting. One factor influencing these changes is technology — the way we use, interact with and deploy technology has changed the way we expect to access services, find information and connect with each other. Alongside that, technology is also changing the wider context, raising questions of power, of values, of new kinds of inequalities, consequences and cumulative effects, so the whole purpose of the social sector and civil society also needs to evolve.

Social sector organisations have an opportunity to shape the future of civil society. By building on their existing knowledge and connections to communities they are working with they can take an active role in how technology is shaping our lives and wellbeing.

The challenge is that the change is constant. Organisations need to be extremely responsive and flexible to the needs of the communities they serve and this journey can be difficult. The Digital Fund provides funding for organisations at different stages of their journey to becoming fit for the future:

Strand 1 supports organisations who want to evolve their organisation by fundamentally changing the way they work to respond to the challenges of today, and the challenges of tomorrow. This strand supports organisations, and their people, to transition to a new mind-set. A mind-set which embraces continuous momentum, an ongoing commitment to resilience and a willingness to contribute to the wider context within which they work.

Strand 2 supports organisations who are already using digital as part of their service delivery. These organisations are keen to scale an existing approach or reach new groups through a digital tool or approach. This strand supports organisations, and their people, to understand the intended, and unintended consequences of their approaches. In this way it is hoped that organisations will build their capacity to understand what approaches will provide maximum positive value to the communities they serve.

All grantees awarded funding through Strand 1 and Strand 2 are on a journey, a journey where the exact destination is not known. This is an exciting opportunity for transition and change. It requires a different way of doing things. The support team exists to join grantees on their journey and add value along the way. We bring together an ecosystem of support which enables us to meet grantees where they are now, and provide support to accelerate their progress towards their future direction.

Each organisation is different and therefore the expertise of the support team is broad. Our aim is to provide support which is fit for purpose, flexible and timely, supporting organisations to navigate their journey and reach their full potential.

Who are we?

We are a collective of organisations and individuals who share an ambition to support a resilient and capable social sector which is fit for the future. Although we are all connected to each other through our work within the tech for good space this is the first time we have come together as a collective to combine our expertise. We are providing this ecosystem of support to all Strand 1 and Strand 2 grantees and we will be continuously exploring how we can deliver support in a way provides grantees with the maximum value.

Our collective is made up of the following organisations:

Support Team Partners

CAST support people to use digital for social good by creating a more resilient, responsive and digitally enabled sector. CAST supports teams to embed digital and design across their services, strategy and governance. CAST enables organisations to realise the opportunities and implications of technology, so they can continue to champion and support the most vulnerable. To date they have helped hundreds of nonprofit leaders, frontline staff and trustees put digital at the heart of their service delivery, strategy and culture.

DOT PROJECT focuses on building stronger organisations. In particular ensuring people and teams feel confident to consider more innovative and effective ways of operating. As part of the support team for the Digital Fund DOT PROJECT will be providing coaching and mentoring to grantees providing a safe space for grantees to share concerns and build their capabilities. Our experienced team of coaches all have a background in digital strategy and development meaning they are uniquely placed to work alongside grantees and troubleshoot problems. We will also be playing a coordinating role across the Support Team and it’s likely we’ll be the first point of contact within the support team once a grantee has been awarded funding.

Doteveryone is committed to understanding how technology is changing society, creating products and prototypes that show what responsible technology looks like, and catalyse communities to create change. Through the support team DotEveryone will work with organisations to understand and practise responsible technology.

In particular DotEveryone will deliver a series of Consequence Scanning workshops. These workshops will explore how organisations can introduce responsible innovation thinking across the whole organisation by using practical tools to assess a digital service or product and its potential impact on stakeholders. If we are putting more technology out into the world with public money,The National Lottery Community Fund want to ensure it is done so responsibly and in the public interest.

Shift specialises in using design thinking and practice to help tackle major social problems. The team at Shift brings together experience in social and user research; product, service and systems design; commercial, fundraising and investment; and brand and communications.

Shift really like working with teams to help drive organisational change and build better digitally enabled products, services and systems because we’ve been through it all ourselves. At the heart of all their work is the ambition to help build thriving, well connected ecosystems of organisations that are working alongside others to understand and meet the needs of the same people and communities.

Snook is a global design studio that works across systems to make sure that people, places and businesses are as good as they can be. Snook is passionate about building a world where everyone can thrive. Where everyone is empowered to help themselves, and help one another. As part of the support team Snook will be working with the Digital Fund grantees, providing guidance and assistance with research methods and service design; helping them understand the needs of their audiences, drawing actionable insights, and in designing services and products that work for their users and for their organisations.

In addition to these organisations we can also draw in support from a broader network (for example cxpartners, The Shaw Trust and Charity Digital) in response to the particular needs of an organisation.

Finally we are champions of collaboration. Central to creating a more collaborative and responsible future is understanding the ecosystem we operate in. We’re really excited about the opportunity to bring this approach to support grantees of the NLCF Digital Fund, because this represents not just an investment in individual organisations, but in the capacity and capabilities of networks, fields and systems across the sector — and we hope to drive that wider value forward in as many ways as we can, and in a way that continues to strengthen and deepen an ongoing ecosystem of support for the sector.

The Digital Fund

Learning & Insight from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Digital Fund team.

Cat Ainsworth

Written by

Co-Founder, with @annielegge, of The Dot Project (@dotprojectcoop). Champion for tech for social impact & women in tech.

The Digital Fund

Learning & Insight from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Digital Fund team.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade