Funding ecology – a comma towards a full stop

The second Funding Ecology report co-commissioned by the UK branch of Calouste Gulbenkian and the Big Lottery Fund was launched this December and it provides the funding sector with a blueprint for implementing the principles of a funding ecology and collaboration.

At the report’s launch, co-author and Director of Collaborate Dr. Henry Kippin, urged funders to recognise this idea of a ‘funding ecology’; that we all exist together in a complex ecosystem which requires us to work together and make it easier for organisations, communities and people to understand our various missions and access our resources. We wonder how many are resolving to take heed of his words.

It’s easy to get lost in the negative rhetoric and thoughts that surround the sector currently. The report suggests that if funders accept their role in the ecology and take responsibility for making it easier for others we can move from fragmentation to interdependence.

In the face of continuing funding cuts and reform, civil society and those that support it need to actively shape what the future could be like. The report uses case studies to highlight good practice, including the Big Lottery Fund’s Accelerating Ideas pilot. By working in partnership with other funders and understanding its place in the ecology, the Big Lottery Fund is supporting groups working with older people to scale up the innovative ideas they’ve been able to pilot with other funders.

My hope is that by challenging ourselves to understand and work within the funding ecology, funders can lead by example and show what needs to be done in order to transform civil society and the public sector itself!

Thinking about ecology helps funders to think of themselves less as independent bodies, and more as interdependent organisations often striving towards the same goal. It supports us all to be humble and understand better our place alongside others, whilst ensuring there is flexibility and that organisations of all shapes and sizes can happily coexist. This is very much focussed on trust, taking risks and testing ourselves whilst supporting each other.

However, as discussions highlighted at the launch, this report which follows on from the Supporting Social Change report that the team launched in May 2015, is not at the end of the journey. It challenges funders to think differently about themselves and work together so that they can truly invest in good people and great ideas. We agree with Dr Henry Kippin’s comments that this second report is a comma, towards what will eventually become a full stop when it comes to the thinking that relates to the funding ecology theory. Once we get to that full stop, we hope that the concept of a funding ecology can be adopted fully by the sector and put in to practice.

For us, the launch had it all. A much-used hashtag – #fundingecology – no seriously, it offered us honest reflections and insight from the panel members of their experience of working in the funding ecology, discussions with colleagues at the event about what it takes to make this work the reality for us and sage advice from Dolly Parton, via Henry, that we should ‘find out what we’re good at and do it on purpose’. We are looking forward to that full stop and we hope others will join the merry team that is Gulbenkian, Collaborate and the Big Lottery Fund.

This blog was written by Sufina Ahmad and Rosie Mockett of the Big Lottery Fund. It was published on the Big Lottery Fund website on 21 December 2015. Click here to read the original blog.

Click here to read A New Funding Ecology – A Blueprint For Action.

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