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The first Open Philanthropy panels



By Jenny Lowthrop 12 October 2022 2 minute read

Last week our two Open Philanthropy panels met for the first time to start the process for our Pop up Foundation.


We have two panels running alongside each other. Our thinking being while we test this process once, why not test it twice at the same time and see what the similarities and differences are between the two. 

The panels are made up of funders, policy makers and researchers, practitioners and people with lived experience. All in the area of financial hardship and/or open philanthropy

It has been brilliant to see these exceptional groups of individuals come together and hit the ground running with making decisions and getting the process running. 

I (Jen) am co-facilitating the panels alongside the incredibly talented and experienced Swatee Deepak. Swatee brings a wealth of experience in private and public foundations in strategy development and design, with individuals and families of wealth on their redistribution strategies, and oversees a portfolio of businesses and start-ups across philanthropy, socially minded businesses and the arts.

Our first meetings were online and gave the panel members the opportunity to introduce themselves before getting straight into the nuts and bolts of how they will run as a group. 

You can read more about the process we are working through on our previous blog post


Key decisions from the first panel meetings

Before signing up to be a panel member they were all sent the ‘role descriptions’, ‘terms of reference’ and code of conduct. 

These were then agreed and signed off unanimously by the panels. For this we used a simple Zoom poll after an opportunity for discussions, clarifications and questions. 

We are testing different methods of decision making and consensus throughout the process and will be sharing more of these in our toolkit. 

You can see the documents that were signed off on the Google Drive links below.

  • Role Description and Terms of Reference 
  • Code of Conduct

Once the more logistical questions and clarifications were done it was time to get into the juicy, though difficult conversations around how and what the panel would choose to fund. 

Ahead of the meetings the panellists were sent condensed research done by the NPC team on key facts and statistics around financial hardship in the UK and also research on open philanthropy mechanisms


Key discussions from the first panel meetings

In smaller groups of 2 or 3 they had the opportunity to discuss the research, thinking about the following questions:

  1. What is missing from the research we should be informed about? 
  2. Can you share insights from your work and lived experience of additional considerations?
  3. What for you is the most critical aspect this fund should address? 

The panellists brought their wealth of experience and expertise to the discussions and looked at areas they wanted more information in order to be able to make the best possible, informed decisions around where the pop up foundation’s funding could have the most impact or where there was most need. This included more detail on intersectionality of needs, young people and their needs, the geography of financial hardship in the UK and up to date information on how the cost of living is affecting people this winter.

There was also discussion about whether funding lots of smaller amounts or a few bigger projects would be the best use of funding. 

Ultimately, whatever decisions are made, the need is far and wide, and they are confident the funding will build individual and organisational change. 


What’s next?

The panels are next meeting on the 20th and 21st October in Birmingham. This will be the first time the panellists will be meeting in person, so though there will be opportunities for them to better get to know each other there are also lots more big decisions to be made. 

Before the panel we are: 

  • Sending out a survey to do a pulse check on where the panellists are with key decisions around how the funding will be spent and allocated 
  • Researching more information around financial hardship the panels have requested for them to read before Birmingham 
  • Digging into what has been discussed so far to build the best possible agenda to support the panellists in making informed decisions
  • Sharing the discussions and key additional research needed with our advisors to get their input. 

At the next meeting the group will have more opportunities to discuss the financial hardship research and will together agree: 

  • The criteria and focus area to fund
  • Any key organisations or individuals to fund or additional information needed. 
  • Deciding if funding will be via solicitation or open application 

We are constantly learning through this process and always open to new ideas, research and thoughts on how we can improve. All the learnings, experiences and knowledge will be shared in an Open Philanthropy Toolkit at the end of the project.

We are keen to ensure learnings on open philanthropy are not lost and can have wider benefit and impact across the sector going forward. We are also looking at ways to share the learnings around financial hardship to ensure other funders and philanthropists can continue to support the key needs across the UK. 

Please get in touch if you would like to share any ideas, or are interested in funding this work jane.dodson@thinknpc.org