Closed Collective Model: Week Seven – Getting on the same page

Due to some timetabling and miscommunications, we had a slightly smaller group meeting today and didn’t use all the time we set aside for it.

It’s important to mark when things don’t go to plan because it gives us the opportunity to learn how we might plan better next time – in this pilot, it’s equally true of the five groups in the collective and BD Giving.

Even with that caveat, this was still an important meeting, with the group using it to try and re-find their way into discussing the money in the context of the conversations they’ve had over the last three meetings.

We also spent some time thinking over the next steps from our meeting with the two funders, and outlined how we wanted to proceed in our work with them. In both cases, the group was keen to explore how they could speak on the issue with a single voice, to make it clear that they had set clear boundaries about how they wanted to work in partnership.

Philanthropy needs to find an outlet in B&D: ©BillionPhotos.com - stock.adobe.com

What we need to know is, how do we get around the table?

Where's our thinking now?

Philanthropy

Given the conversations over the last few meetings, it’s unsurprising that the group wanted to talk about their relationship to funding.

It’s become increasingly clear to the group that they have power as a collective that they don’t as individuals. In just this pilot, they’ve been able to meet with two different funders and engaged in constructive conversations about how their support might be used. They recognise that big funders are unlikely to come and meet smaller organisations, so by presenting a collaborative model, they offer something which attracts attention from funders who are currently making a lot of noise about the importance of working together.

The more conversations the collective members get to have around this, the better they get at pitching themselves as a united front that funders have to adapt to – it’s a chance for them to learn about that space where their organisation’s self interest might be better served by working together to increase the amount of resources in the borough, instead of being pitted against one another for meagre resources. The group has already said that this feels scary – it’s difficult to exist in a space of vulnerability, where you are putting your trust in another organisation not trying to race you to the bottom. It’s incredible to see them acknowledge these fears and still take part in this process.

As the group has continued to meet, they’ve consistently said that they are excited about these meetings and appreciate having a space to come together and discuss things among themselves. 

Which brings us to the question of sustainability of a collaborative way of working – even outside of this pilot, they have ideas that they want to resource and they’ve all said that they are now starting from a position of ‘who could I work with on this idea?’ But how do they resource all of this?

As one member put it, “we know funders’ networks exist, it’s just not always clear how you get to engage with them.” It’s become increasingly clear that this is a role that BD Giving needs to play, holding the door open and creating spaces for the people of Barking & Dagenham to meet with the people who say they want to help the borough.

It’s also important that, in this, BD Giving doesn’t become a middleman and take a cut for providing access – we need to be upfront about what we are able to do and how much it . We’ve said from the start of this pilot that we’re happy if the collective want to take up the learning by themselves, so we’ve been really pleased to have them explicitly say that they want us to build the next step forward together.

It’s an especially exciting conversation in the context of BD Giving welcoming a new member of staff, Kate, whose remit is entirely about bringing more resources into the borough to increase collaboration and inclusion.

There’s also a recurrent theme around property developers in the borough, and the collective is keen to think about how they might approach them for support, given that the work their organisations do will make the borough an increasingly attractive place for families – a rising tide ought to lift all ships but that’s not been the collective’s experience of the developments up to this point.

Funding offer

As discussed in this blog, the group was approached by an organisation that was offering a small pot of money.

Following the meeting, we put together a proposal which has already come back once, to ask for more details.

The group said that they don’t want to get into an endless back and forth with the organisation, given the amount on offer, and would rather turn down the money than sign up for something that sounded much more involved than they have the capacity to be at this point. They also mentioned that they felt the organisation hadn’t been explicit enough about what they needed when we spoke to them, which has led to this moment where the group has suggested a way forward, only to be told it doesn’t meet a threshold they were not told about.

Updates

In terms of the site visits, some of the organisations have managed to do them, but not all have been reciprocated. Going forward, the group is going to check-in with each other how these are going as this is something they agreed to do with each other and learn from.

On the research angle, which involved bringing someone in to help explore some of the questions that were coming up (read about that in blog three), we’re still waiting on responses from some of the people that we reached out to. The group has also asked me to reach out to some contacts that we have in this field, which again comes back to the point raised last time about BD Giving learning more about how it acts in processes like this.

Next time

The conversations that I’ve been having with the individual group members all point in one direction – they want to start making firm decisions about the money they’ve been given control over.

Because of this, we’ll be using the next meeting to try and nail down the priorities for this fund and discussing how to then spend it.

Agenda for next meeting

  • Check-in
  • Discussion about using the funding
  • AOB
  • Check-out