Stewarding Loss
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Stewarding Loss

I was given an Ideas & Pioneers award!

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Late last Summer, when I was anticipating my contract at The National Lottery Community Fund to be coming to an end in March 2020, I applied to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for an Ideas & Pioneers Award to scope out my idea of a Farewell Fund.

I’m very grateful that they awarded me one! Thank you to Jake and the whole Paul Hamlyn team. The award was confirmed early in January this year and I hadn’t announced it yet because it was then to become part of the Foundation Design Lab which I shared news of yesterday.

Obviously since I sent in my application and designed the work we would do, the wider world has changed dramatically (and I also have a new job). It now feels wholly inappropriate to call this the Farewell Fund given that many organisations and groups in civil society will not survive the impacts of Covid-19, not just in the immediate term but as the consequences play out over time.

The work still does feel important though, and differently relevant in this Great Unravelling.

“We will be asked to decide what we want to preserve about our world and ourselves, and what we want to discard.”

Nick Cave

It’s too early to quite know where to land this work now, but some of the questions that I’m thinking about are —

  • We know that in the recovery and rebuilding of civil society some organisations will be left behind — this will be painful, and is there something we can do with this work that helps support that loss?
  • Generally there already is, and will continue to be, a swell of grief all around us. Is there something we can do with this work to make that grief visible and more of a shared experience across civil society? Are there public, sector-wide type rituals that this work could help develop?

“We’re feeling a number of different griefs. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air. we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.”

HBR article.

“There’s a term to describe the kind of loss many of us are experiencing: ambiguous grief. In ambiguous grief, there’s a murkiness to the loss. Ambiguous grief can leave us in a state of ongoing mourning.”

NYT article.

  • Covid-19 will ultimately contribute to multiple forms of bereavement and loss. People are already talking about recovery and rebuild, but it’s very likely that unless there is support to process grief people and organisations could enter a ‘non-recovery’ phase. Can this work help with processing that grief across civil society to make recovery possible?
  • Whilst some loss will be painful, there will be things we want to leave behind. Can we use this work to design how to do that well? This feels most similar to my original proposal. This might include behaviours and beliefs we want to leave behind too, not just organisations.
  • Similarly, there will be organisations that whilst painful to lose, we may also recognise have had their time — were flailing in some way already, perhaps because their place in the world didn’t quite fit anymore. Could we use this work to create space for people to come to terms with loss, to find acceptance, and most importantly to help build a legacy from the work they’ve done?

“Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance.”

  • We are already seeing a lot more cooperation in parts of civil society, and recognition of interdependencies. Is this a time for more organisations to fold into each other and could we focus this project on that?

Lastly, I wrote about the importance of compassion in my original blog and as Scott Berinato says about this time — “ It’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways.”

If you have ideas about any of the above, and how we can reframe The Farewell Fund to be useful in the crisis, then please do get in touch with myself or Iona — she’s now on board to help deliver the work.

As a side note, I’d like to share that as an application process this was one of the most straightforward and supportive I’ve ever come across and if anyone wants any help to submit one to the programme, I’d be happy to give advice.



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Cassie Robinson.

Cassie Robinson.


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