Paul Hamlyn Should…

Yey to a funder asking for input on what it should do. Exciting to think about how to spend somebody else’s money.

Lots of very clever people have written very compelling and well researched blogs on the PHF consultation site Certainly worth a read – both by other funders (please – there is much to learn from on there) and by charity CEOs (as a lesson in how to make the compelling cases for your particular areas of interest).

Really I should have attempted this response in the same well considered vein.

Instead I have chosen a top of the pops theme – read this if you will with a cheesy musical accompaniment in the style of the 1980s Sunday evening top ten countdown.

So here we go pop pickers – the ‘Paul Hamlyn should’ top ten:

10. Keep doing what you are doing

Lots of it is really good. Your combination of direct grant funding and setting up your own projects works. Do more.

9. Use your funding to bring together new collaborations

I have built and run consortiums. Before trust is built nothing brings people to sit round a table together faster than the potential for cash (yes I know it should be users – but heck you have worked in this sector right – some of the competition makes Tesco v Sainsbury look like best friends). You have a good track record in this. Your help in hosting events and setting up a speech and language grant related grant stream was a key component in helping me set up The Communication Trust – still thriving 6 years later. And your investment of time and money underpinned what is now Whole Education – an emerging model of third sector and education collaboration that is creating new approaches. Host a few more events around particular grant themes and bring together the best thinkers from across competing organisations, across sectors and from across the country. Encourage new conversations and unlikely marriages.

8. Fund me! Fund me!

Well not necessarily me  – maybe people a little bit better than me. For all that organisations matter we all know that it is people that make the difference. As Peter Jones (he of Dragon’s Den fame) so often says when he parts with his cash “I am not sure about your product but I am backing you”.  The changemakers, the connectors, the leaders –they need your support. The charity system is much more conservative that many would imagine. Show a bit of love to the mavericks and the idea generators. There are few schemes that fund individuals and those that are are fairly restrictive in their approach. Clore Fellowships are great but not everyone can fit that mould or take that year out – some have jobs to juggle, voluntary roles to work on, the world to change and 4 kids to raise (yes I know – me again). Be bold. Pick 5 that shine and given them 20K each. No big project plans. No need for financial return. Just take a chance on some good people. Give them the cash to buy time to think. Or for them to invest. Or for them to write down everything they ever thought. Liberate them.

7.  Fund communication

(Or knowledge mobilisation as I am now calling it to avoid the accusations of fluffy that go with dissemination, PR and marketing). It matters. And nobody else will fund it (the DfE are even giving out grants that are all about sharing information with a restriction that money cannot be spent on communication). It matters. Both in terms of developing more knowledgeable (and therefore more powerful) users but also to help take what works to scale. And work with others – like EEF – to create knowledge networks that share learning to those that need it. In English. Not cleverspeak.

6.  Be creative in what you mean by impact

Yes everyone that comes to talk to you now will be talking about impact even more than before now Martin is in charge. Good stuff – my consultancy has some of the best practitioners of outcome modelling and recording out there. But let’s think about impact in widest sense. Let’s help organisations paint impact pictures using a range of techniques. You know hearts and minds matter as much as numbers (and sometimes quite academic and a little bit made up) return on investment approaches. Pictures of smiling kids (real non staged ones) growing in confidence on their first sleepover as part of your Learning Away programme counts as impact. That an organisation can use your funding to stop and breath and think for the first time is an impact. That four years on your funding for a speech and language programme helped change the zeitgeist so that the effects of cuts were mitigated by teachers who better knew the need is an impact. Help organisations tell their stories. Bring in a team that you can loan out to help them pull their impact reporting together.

5. Continue your focus (deliberate or otherwise) of funding smaller names

The big brands – you know they will make it and frankly most of them can draw on their reserves if they have an idea so great that they want to develop it. Fund the small guys. Or the medium guys.

4. Not innovate

If by innovate you mean create new shiny things that meet funder objectives rather than organisational missions. Too many funders want the bid that comes to them to be original. To be from scratch. Help organisations avoid mission drift. Make part of your scoring take into account how well the proposal will help fit the charity’s own mission and objects.

3. Innovate

If by innovate you mean the Oxford definition of “making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”. You have always done this really well. Helping organisations to make that next step. Helping them to take what they know and improve it/extend it/build it – rather like Bob. Helping them to consolidate what they are already doing rather than encouraging the development of stretch targets or new product development that uses up all their funding and head space. This can be funky. It can include creative new ideas, approaches and partnership. True innovation builds on what is already good and makes it even better. And, with this, continue to do what you have always done in funding core costs effectively to ensure that organisations can innovate without having to worry about where the next penny coming from.

2. Feedback

To be fair you always have. Which is good because I am so bored bored bored with funders not feeding back appropriately. It’s rude. It doesn’t help build sector capacity. To be honest it would better to fund less and use some of the money to give effective feedback that uses the funders’ extensive knowledge and expertise – maybe think of it less as feedback and more as pro bono consultancy. And if the bid is never going to be one that you will fund – or indeed that you think others will ever fund – then be like Simon Cowell and say so (“it does them no favours darling to think they can make it in the music business when they just can’t sing”)

1. Make it all accessible

Open up the sector. It’s a running theme throughout the whole top 10. I am working with some exceptional people. At grass roots organisations. The hidden stars working away in the monolithic top 20. The leaders of the start-ups and those plugging away at the work for 30 years in the same place with great impact. You have always done well to expose and support talent. Create networks that share learning – not just with the great and good – but across practitioners at all levels. Fund infrastructure bodies that have a track record in sharing knowledge. Writing a report on what you have done is one thing – and what you do is amazing and your reports superb – but  hearing that evidence from something you funded has reached a parent who used it to transform their child’s life – now that is impact.