Dominos being tipped over

Open Philanthropy week notes 1

By Jane Dodson 15 March 2022

A peek inside NPC’s Open Philanthropy programme

Our challenge is to design and deliver an open funding cycle, record and evaluate the process, create a toolkit and establish a community of practice.

This week, I’m reflecting on the first few months in this role, what we have achieved so far, and the context in which we are working.



One of the exciting things about this project is having the freedom to create something new by building upon what is already good. We’ve started by scanning the philanthropy sector, and wider grant-giving practice, looking for transparent and inclusive mechanisms that we can draw upon.

Financial Hardship

  • Our funding cycle will be deployed in the financial hardship sector – and over the last few months we have seen more and more evidence of UK Poverty 2022: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK | JRF the prevalence of this in the UK, with inflation, food and energy costs escalating and people being forced into making stressful decisions about cooking food or heating their homes, with bedding banks now appearing next to food banks.
  • The second strand of our research is focusing on this – a landscape review focussing on financial hardship in the UK. We are asking questions like:
  • Who is being disproportionately affected in the UK?
  • What is being done?
  • What are the gaps in provision?
  • And what more needs to be done/funded?
  • The purpose of this strand is to develop our understanding of what is already happening in this space and inform who we can invite to be involved in the design of our work. It links directly with our Local Needs Databank that has just been launched, you can find out more here – contact Rosario to get involved Local needs databank – NPC (
  • And it’s also helping me to think about what the final toolkit will look like, and how we will map these early phases.
  • In a week where energy companies are telling us just how much more it will cost to heat our homes, alongside all the other cost of living rises, I am feeling a big sense of responsibility to move quickly.


  • Had a helpful conversation with NPC’s systems thinking lead, Seth Reynolds around how we can start to present early findings in a visually engaging way. Please do get in touch if you’d like to hear more on the detail of our research so far, and/or have interesting examples to share. Look out for an invitation to a workshop soon.
  • Speaking of using NPCs wider knowledge, we had the second internal advisory group meeting last week, and it was really more of a progress update than really using their respective specialties, so I am re-thinking how we use these going forward. Group members are happy to be contacted outside these meetings so I think individual conversations will be more useful until we have completed more analysis.
  • Back in January, we pulled together a collaboration event with philanthropists and grant-givers who had already expressed an interest the programme, either through the NPC Ignites session or via blogs and conversations. This explored some examples of good practice, and some of the barriers that may stand in the way of working more openly – a really useful session.
  • As part of reflections on 20 years of NPC, the open philanthropy programme was spotlighted, 20 years of NPC: Looking back, to the future ( which has led to some nice social media engagement and a buzz. One of my resolutions, alongside writing these weeknotes(!), is that I must use twitter and linked in more!

Agile & Team Building

  • When I first joined NPC I was really keen to put some project milestones into excel, with the various workstreams, which resulted in a rather unwieldy spreadsheet, supplemented by some Miro boards and host of documents on Sharepoint.
  • However, we have now moved to a more agile framework, with help from Jen at Home – Feel Good Do Good, with regular two week sprints and a Trello board that the team updates with tasks. As a result it does feel like we have achieved an extraordinary amount in the last fortnight – but that could be because it’s more visible!
  • In any case it’s fun, full of colours and was a great output from a team ‘awayday’ we held mid-February. It was so useful to get together IRL and get to know each other.
  • We are planning to all get involved in these weeknotes, so you will be hearing other voices over the course of the programme.
  • Our overarching goal this fortnight was to get familiar with the Trello and this way of working, which judging by the updates flying into my inbox, seems to be working… I’m sure there are some areas we will need to tweak, but if feels like a very good start.

Meet the team…

We are a small but perfectly formed group, please do get in touch with any of us if you’d like to find out more, or pop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Other thoughts

The daffodils I put on my desk for St David’s Day in a nod to my Welsh roots have been very cheering in an otherwise grey week…

Holding the team awayday in Hastings gave me a chance to showcase some of the great work being done in the Hastings Commons, The Hastings Commons as well as offering a welcome blast of sea air to the city dwellers!

I had some advocacy training on Monday (one of my non-NPC days) with my fellow trustees at Home | The Advocacy People – inspiring as always and I always learn something new about the frontline team and the challenges they face daily. I also won the virtual duck race which was pleasing!