Sharing the learning from the Digital Fund — monthly sense-making around a theme

Phoebe Tickell
Feb 12 · 5 min read

Each month the The National Lottery Community Fund’s Digital Fund will share learning and insights from the cohort of 29 current Digital Fund grantees and their experience navigating the change and development we have funded them to do. And each month we’ll be focusing the learning and insight around a thematic area, creating a range of content and channels through which to share this.

This theme will inform the sense-making I’ll be doing with the cohort of grantholders, and the set of questions grantholders will receive from us each month to prompt their reflection and learning.

One of the questions from this month’s Typeform on Leadership

Once I’ve done the sensemaking, we will turn the insights into blogposts, do more in-depth interviews, invite grantholders to write blogs themselves, reach out to sector press, and we will also be doing a monthly event, hosted at our offices in Plough Place. These monthly open events are for grantholders, other civil society organisations and funders to attend and join an open discussion about our learning as it emerges.

There was such a demand for the Digital Fund, with 1200 applications, that we want to find as many ways as possible to share anything that is useful with the wider sector. We also hope we can encourage other funders to do more digital grantmaking, and especially resource the kind of organisational transition work that we’ve been doing through Strand 1 of the fund.

So far, the feedback from grantholders about this approach to grantmaking has been promising. From a conversation with a grantholder today, they said:

The Digital Fund was a totally unique opportunity for our organisation and has been the thing that gave us the confidence to continue. It is the only fund who was talking about agile and using iteration and experimentation — and allowed us to take financial responsibility around how to spend our funds.

We want to share what we’re learning at the Digital Fund about the grants we’ve made and zooming out from that, show some of the wider thinking we’re doing that we hope will be particularly useful to other funders.

Our monthly themes

The dates and topics are listed below. If you’d like to come, please do sign up. Each event will include speakers from the cohort talking about their first hand experiences.

March 23rd — Leadership in complex, large-scale change

Stories from the field on the theme of Leadership (Eventbrite link for this one is live!). What is the leadership needed for large-scale complex change in organisations, and in a civil society context that is always shifting too?

April 27th — On the theme of Responsible Innovation

What does it mean to be responsible in how you design, develop and distribute technology, and especially technology that has been funded by public money? We’ll be talking about the ways the Digital Fund grantees are manifesting the idea of Public Interest Technology into their work, and what the challenges and trade-offs have been in doing so.

May 25th — On Roles and Hiring

Changing an entire organisation often requires changing roles and skills in an organisation. This event will explore what the most common new roles and skills that the Digital Fund grantee’s have needed to bring in as they undertake change in their organisations. We’ll also explore what you can learn internally and what needs buying in.

June 29th — On Challenges

A common theme of any change work is its challenges. Just look at all of the responses to Tom Loosemoore’s tweet here for some of the many ways that internet-era ways of working can be challenging. And that’s not including other aspects of the work, like the wider context, messy and understandable human emotions, and so forth. We’ll hear from the Digital Fund grantees about some of their common and also unexpected challenges since undertaking this work.

July 27th — On New Ways of Working

Linked to the previous event, we will get more specific about what some of the new ways of working are. Are they even new, or do they just have different names! Either way, they are definitely different ways of working to the dominant culture that exists in most large organisations. We’ll be finding out from Digital Fund grantees how they’ve been cultivating different cultures and practices throughout their organisations.

September 28th — Working in Ecosystems

This is our month on Ecosystems, and this is a real obsession of ours. How do civil society organisations better align their roles with one another so that they operate more effectively as an ecosystem? And more importantly, how do those with more power and resources ensure they’re creating value for the wider ecosystem in which they are a part. The latter is something we’re really holding out Strand 1 grantees to account for, and each month we are gathering data about this ecosystem awareness. We’ll write a longer blog post about this soon.

Grantholders will receive questions about grantholders’ ecosystem awareness each month — like the one above

October 26th — On Stopping Doing Things.

We’re saving perhaps the hardest until last. Whilst the sector talks about collaboration and change and working more effectively together in defined roles, something that is very rarely talked about is the implications this have for some things need to end. Some individuals, or teams, or services, or organisations will inevitably need to stop doing things in order for change to run its course. We’ll hear from the Digital Fund grantees what they’ve needed to stop doing, and what they’ve learnt about that.

Stay in the loop

Stay tuned on our Digital Fund Medium for more updates and come along to our first event on 23rd March hosted at our Plough Place offices if you’re free.

You will hear from four of our grantholders in a facilitated panel discussion on developing their leadership in the face of organisational change.

We’ll meet at 10:30–12:00 at The National Lottery Community Fund’s offices for tea and coffee then the panel discussion followed by a Q&A.

The world many of these charities were set up in was a completely different world to the one we’re in today. Therefore, the path many of them are taking forward with our funding is large-scale, complex organisational change.

To get some more context, read more about the Digital Fund and the way we are approaching funding in this blogpost: Introducing the Digital Fund — and a different way of funding digital.

Book your ticket on Eventbrite, places are limited!

The Digital Fund

Learning & Insight from The National Lottery Community…

Phoebe Tickell

Written by

Genetic engineer turned decentralized network evangelist. Member at #Enspiral. Fellow at #NewspeakHouse. Cofounder #FutureFarmLab and #TechForHumanity.

The Digital Fund

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

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