Back to work after a trip to see friends in Devon.


This week I ran a workshop with a lot of different funders as part of our research into place-based systems change. More on that here. It was a (positively) challenging day and got me reflecting on a couple of things.

What is interesting and difficult about the mental work that needs to be done around funding place-based systems change is that you have to hold four things in your head at the same time:

  1. what is this entity (charity/ social enterprise/ community group) doing;
  2. what do I think about the value of that;
  3. how does the work fit with conceptual ideas of how places and systems work, and what roles must be taken to change places; and
  4. how do those things work with the actual needs, context and relationships of this actual place.

This means you need to be specific and rigorous about the approach and operation of organisations, have a kind of conceptual framework about change that you can hold constant across places, and be able to engage with the dynamics of the particular place you’re talking about. I think traditional approaches to funding is better at the first and second, but  unsure about the third, but I do fear that some of the current ‘it’s all so complex’ view of systems, forgets the importance of the first as it engages in two and three.

This blog by Gen at the Social Investment Business really pushed me to think harder in this vein.

Photo credit, SIB Group.

I also had the privilege of going to see the work of Volunteering Matters in Ipswich on Friday. Paul, the new Chief Executive there, and Stephen (who has been developing their work in Ipswich for the last few years) have some really interesting ideas for the future of that charity. It was great to understand how the role of a building, working across organisational boundaries, and giving over power to young people and users of the space could lead to really interesting systemic change in the criminal justice, safeguarding, policing and other spaces. Some common themes across all the place-based system change examples I’ve been visiting in recent weeks.

Business planning

As we come to the end of our financial year, there is that balancing act of closing out one year, trying to win a bit more work, getting ready for the new year, and making assumptions about the future that is pretty uncertain (Q3 and Q4 2020/21 feel a long way off right now!). 

Our management team spent an afternoon talking through our collective answers to a few big financial questions for the year. We resolved a while ago to structure all of our meetings around questions. We don’t always achieve it, but I think they’re better meetings when we do.

Year Here

This week saw our Year Here placement starting with us. I’m really pleased that Sarah has joined us to work with our team in our Kennington office, and to help us push forward our thinking about how to support the people we work with into the long term, as more and more of the money we currently work with is getting tighter and a little less flexible.

Reading, listening and watching

I’m a big Neal Stephenson fan, and this week I have got about half way through his new one, Fall. If you like ideas heavy science fiction, and you don’t know Stephenson, then you’re in for a treat. A very long treat, as the man is incapable of writing a short book, but a treat nonetheless.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO