Reflections on a quiet week but with interesting things happening


Mon 25 June – Sun 1 July 2018

Can I write an interesting, relevant and useful weekly blog for a week where it seemed to me to quiet with not a lot happening? Well apart from scorching hot weather (men in shorts – yummy) and the World Cup. So it wasn’t that nothing happened in a bad way. Last week was perfectly decent but there really were no grand landmarks nor moments where my mind was opened to huge new points of lucidity. The latter is a beautiful word and I love beautiful words; my favourite is ‘perspicacious’.

Personal Development

What could have been…

Following on from the previous week, last week was another one where I had to think and be realistic about what I could not commit to simply to stop myself becoming too knacked. So what was lost last week:

  • Tues evening, my colleague Rowena was performing as part of the Non-Such Singers in their concert at St Martin’s in the Fields. They are excellent, I really wanted to go. But I tire easily in the evenings (bed at 9 or 10 is very normal for me).
  • Wed evening, Science Museum late. I experienced this when we did a work event there. It’s really good but again an evening commitment after work that would have taken it out of me.
  • Thurs evening, the meal for the presenters at the Digital Charity conference the next day. Again I knew I would be too knacked (especially as abnormally I had to work Thurs afternoon). Also it was in Hoxton which is literally the other side of London from where I live.
  • Sat, Armed Forces Day. My other half Dave wanted to go to an event not least because he is a veteran. He wanted me to go with him, I just wanted a day to do nothing. The tension between a retired partner with loads of free time and a working partner with limited free time.

My power weekend

immersion to avoid emails overloadPeople often ask what I am doing at the weekend. And it makes me happiest when I can say that I am doing absolutely nothing. My weekends really are like a massive reboot for me. Exercise but apart from that it’s catching up on emails, walking, reading, and napping.

A big snooze on Sat afternoon of 2 hours and a little one on Sun afternoon. As well as blissful early nights. Plus last weekend I had the fun of having the World Cup on and I watched a good French film, ‘The Very Long Engagement’ – helps with developing my foreign language skills.

A good habit

I am absolutely delighted to say that my idea of making a habit of doing language learning and coding practice before bed seems to be working. I usually have an hour and a half before I go to sleep doing this and reading. It does mean I often go off to lay on the bed by 9pm but I don’t feel I am missing much on the TV. On my phone, I switch between the apps Duolingo for languages and Grasshopper or Mimo for coding practice. These are all free apps and absolutely brilliant.

But emails

Paperless officeMeanwhile emails have gone wild recently but I’m trying to stay on top of them. Emails really are a curse in that they are just letters and memos (which took days to arrive and be expected to respond to) put online to extra numbers of people with everybody expecting instant responses.

If something could be uninvented then one of my recommendations would be emails. I think if we had planned ahead we could have created a much better communication system but now the genie is out of the bottle.

Innovation and Creativity

Collective Global Accerlerator

tech matters for AfricaTues morning I attended the presentations by the projects on the Collective Global Accelerator alongside my brilliant colleague Jennifer Gordon. I was involved in selecting the projects to be on the accelerator and come to London so it was great to hear more about them.

11 projects presented and it was fascinating to see the sort of ideas coming through from different parts of the world. More details on them can be found here.

Hard to pick a favourite but I think, for me, it is Lazarillo an app from Chile that speaks to visually impaired people to help them find the way around in a strange place. I like it not least because I think of its wider ability to be used so that no-one will ever be lost again in a place they don’t know. Imagine that, never being lost ever again in a unknown city. Still please do look at all 11 projects – they are very stimulating.

My disappointing conference presentation

I did a conference presentation on Fri afternoon. Mixed feelings about these. You are always told to do them for your career but I’m not interested in climbing the greasy pole so I only do them for things where I think I have knowledge to impart and that I am passionate about. This one was the very good Charity Digital Conference organised by Directory of Social Change and Reason Digital. I was part of a panel talking ‘Funding for Charity Digital’ alongside Chris Ashworth of Nominet Trust, Rachel Kettlewell of Esmee Fairbairn, and my old job-share Nissa Ramsay now of Think Social Tech.

Where I went wrong

I’m annoyed because I don’t think I performed as well as I should have done. We were the last session on an intense and hot day. You could see the audience looked tired. But I don’t feel I got my message over well enough. There were a few key points I wanted to make and I should probably have altered my talk to stress these 8 things:

  • Concentrate on explaining your project to the right funder rather than just selling your project wholesale
  • Go beyond just putting online what you already do
  • Alternative funding options especially crowdfunding and in-kind
  • The importance of cheap piloting using existing platforms
  • Making sure you have the right tech partner and relevant agreements in place
  • The value of sharing to improve the wider not-for-profit sector
  • Options around business models and sustainability
  • Tech for Good is a movement so be active in it especially via social media

Homer does dohI’m a bit disappointed that no-one from the event who I wasn’t already connected with on LinkedIn and Twitter asked to connect afterwards. I clearly failed to inspire. Indeed, I mentioned in my talk the important challenge of being paperless as a first step. But then someone pointed out I had my own slides printed out for me to refer to. 🙁

Fair criticism which unfortunately masks the massively more important story of how we as a major funder moved from our grant management being based on rooms full of paper files to a system where everything is now online. Done in the face of strong opposition but shown to be the right thing to do.

Viability grants

Great to work with my colleagues Matt and Vik on Wed afternoon. They oversee the Futures Lab, a new initiative where we work with projects coming to the end of their grant to help them be more sustainable. We had run a grant programme for selected projects in the Futures Lab to propose initiatives we could fund to help them be more long-term viable.

Some good ideas but also a lot of not imaginative enough ones. For instance, we said this was not project funding so any simple continuations of currently funded work or doing similar work elsewhere were straight out. Also lots of proposals just to employ a fundraiser. Long-term sustainability and income diversification is something the not-for-profit sector really needs to grapple with.

Tech for Good grants

Tech for GoodAlso announced last week were the 13 new Tech for Good digital transformation grants being jointly funded by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Big credit to my excellent colleague (I am very lucky to work with so many capable people 🙂 ) Martha Young.

But I have a soft spot around these grants as we began the programme when I was still responsible for our Tech for Good work. Details on the grants here.

Indeed I would generally recommend the site managed by my friend Joe Roberson ( ). It’s a good site full of info and do sign up for the bulletins which are excellent; last one was about ‘What is User Research?’

Finally several good meetings last week

  • Alisha Miranda on Mon afternoon who runs I.G. Advisors which provides philanthropy, CSR and fundraising advice. Energy and enthusiasm is the best way to describe Alisha and a real pleasure to spend time with her. She’s got some interesting opportunities around work with women and girls so I have linked her up with my colleagues working in that area.
  • Skype call with Annina Mattsson on Wed morning who is the CEO of Dubai Cares. They fund lots of work around education in the ‘developing south’. We particularly talked around tech and the issues of who has IP (Intellectual Property) on something we fund as well as how we can guarantee sustainability of the initiatives we are funding.
  • Thurs afternoon it was an excellent meeting with Matthew Smerdon and Jake Lee of The Legal Education Foundation. Their charitable objective is “To promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law in all its branches.” They are doing some great work around how the law can be used to support agencies working for social change such as their sponsorship with BBC Children in Need of Fellowships for lawyers to specialise in children’s rights law. Hopefully we can do more work with LEF in the future around Influence and encouraging change without just giving grants.

Health and Efficiency


JoggingPutting this first because it was clearly the highlight of last week’s fitness regime. For a change, I did my jog-run on Sat morning instead of Sun. Decided that’s just what I wanted to do. It was one of my best and I was very happy. 🙂

I wonder if I benefited by not knackering myself out at the gym the day before? Still an ongoing issue with inconsistent pace (time per km). This time I went off at the pace I wanted to which was quite fast and I didn’t lessen down too much as time passed. Overall, just beyond an hour and 3 minutes. This is a good time when you look at the pattern of previous results which can be seen here. Indeed it is my best time since November last year though I stopped running when it was too cold. Is my target of under an hour still possible one day? Perhaps with the news that my weight is down to 13 stone & 13 pounds. 🙂


Rugby league player in skimpy trunks

Target was 4 times but I only achieved 3. The lost one was Tues afternoon where I just felt too tired after a morning at work and wanted some time to do nothing. So gym on the mornings of Mon (time off work as I had to go to the Collective Global Accelerator on Tues morning), Thurs, and Sun. All good sessions. The first two combining cardio (cross-trainer, uphill treadmill, and cycle) plus weights. The latter day focusing just on weights especially for my legs to help them recover after my jog-run the day before.

Books and Reading

‘Lincoln in the Bardo’

Pic of Abraham LincolnWinner of the Man Booker Prize 2017 and a book I have wanted to read for a while. I picked it up at the library but only on a short-term lend as it is in so much demand. I did actually manage to read it within the week period, then returned it only to find that it was no longer being demanded. But what a strange book and more so for being based on true events though with lots of artistic licence taken in describing that event.

It’s about the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son and the visit of the president to the graveyard at night in order to visit the body. It really is a book of citations most of which I think are true, they set the scene for the story. Then it turns into a dialogue between the different lost souls still trapped in the cemetery. It could be a good play and is very supernatural. Having said that, it is also quite American with their inherent belief in an afterlife not too distant from life as it is everyday. Still a good book and very recommended.

The Week Ahead:

  • 3 days in the office and 2 complete days off which I am not going to work on!
  • Definitely want to see some films next week – I am in the mood; cinema on a hot day is great 🙂
  • 3 gym sessions and a jog-run
  • Going to read at least 2 books next week, one of which will be the one for the Velvet Page book club on Thurs night
  • Hospital visit for blood tests, just one of those things
  • Mon afternoon I am attending Esmee Fairbairn’s consultation on their digital strategy
  • We start shortlisting the applications to our latest Violence Against Women and Girls grants programme
  • I will carry on with my new habit of Duolingo and Grasshopper or Mimo before I go to bed and keep on top of emails
  • Continue generally to enjoy the sunshine and the World Cup (even though it is taking place in Russia which is a neo-fascist state that discriminates against LGBT people)

And Finally…

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