Friday Insights (22nd November)

22 November 2019

It’s been a busy week on the insight front – I’ve read and enjoyed Nesta’s horizon scanning report for foundations, pondered over the Centre for Youth Impact’s new outcome measures, and have started making my way through the education manifestos from the Lib DemsLabour and the Green Party (not to mention those from our friends at Fair Education Alliance and Teach First!). We also look forward to reading the Conservative manifesto when it is available to the public. There’s a lot out there to absorb and we’re still taking it all in, but we’re enjoying the process of reading and learning about others’ plans for the future.

For this Friday Insight, I’ll share some exciting releases from Big Change alumni RECLAIM and Frontline, and my favorite learnings from this week’s edition of Just Cause from Derek Bardowell.

Project partners taking a stand

We’ve shared it on Twitter (as have many others), but if you haven’t seen this new #IfWeDidThis campaign video from some of the brilliant young people at RECLAIM, I’d recommend giving it a watch. They’re absolutely right – politics should be better than this. We’ve also had enough of the double standards and nasty language, and we’re proud of RECLAIM for making their voices heard on these issues.

Frontline has been working alongside others, including the Centre for Public Impact and Buurtzog Britain and Ireland to put together a new Blueprint for Children’s Social Care – a fully costed plan based on the Buurtzog approach to district nursing, which originated in the Netherlands. The proposed plan would increase social worker time spent with clients by as much as 60% and empower social workers to make decisions for children and families, while maintaining access to support, expert advice and supervision via their peers and a dedicated team of advanced practitioners. The model is expected to be piloted in a few English councils next year, and, according to the Guardian, “could presage the biggest shake-up in social work practice for a generation, and stem the exodus of social workers from a job that many see as trapped by a stultifying, ultra-defensive approach to child protection”. We’re proud to have been a founding partner for Frontline, supporting their work to re-think social work to bring about the best possible outcomes for the families and children who use the service. 

Just Cause and Decolonizing Philanthropy

Have you been listening to Derek Bardowell’s new podcast, Just Cause? In it, Bardowell (formerly of Big Lottery Fund) talks to the people who are tackling some of our society’s most challenging social issues. This week, he speaks to Fozia Irfan, CEO of the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation, about the decolonization movement in philanthropy. Decolonization, particularly in philanthropy, is a practice that requires trusts and foundations to look carefully at the sources of their wealth, and do whatever they can to make sure that no one is harmed or exploited in order to accumulate this wealth. In cases where we have reason to believe that accumulating our wealth came at a human cost, foundations can look to redress this balance in the way that it makes grants in the communities they work with.

On the topic of grant-making, Irfan shares her view that trusts and foundations have, often inadvertently, been engaging in the harmful practice of coercive isomorphism. This was a new phrase for us – Irfan explains coercive isomorphism as the tendency of many foundations with power to impose a model on the charitable sector, and that model becomes what foundation world wants. This is problematic because what the foundation world wants is not necessarily aligned with what would bring about the most impact for the communities we work with – we as funders risk morphing the charity world into what we want as opposed to what communities need. 
Irfan highlights the importance of relationships in addressing this power dynamic, which really resonates with us – we are always learning how to be a better funder and partner to those bringing about positive, long term change for young people, but we pride ourselves on being a funder that supports leaders to do what is needed, not what is easy to fund. You can learn more about our learning and our journey in the funding space in our 2019 Impact and Learning Review.

We look forward to continuing to learn from Derek, Fozia and others on how to be the best possible partners for long term change – thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise with the world!