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What’s duckweed got to do with it?

By Sue Wixley 22 September 2015

It was inspiring to hear about the Wellcome Trust’s new ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ programme last week—an ambitious project that aims to encourage transdisciplinary exchanges in order to better understand the complex links between health and the environment. Wellcome’s Sarah Molton spoke to Radio 4 about building partnerships between epidemiologists and climate modellers, economists and social scientists.

Among other bright ideas produced by this cross-fertilisation is the theory that duckweed could simultaneously solve the food crisis whilst cleaning up our waste water. The fast-growing plant apparently has around ten times the protein of soy and no disease threats.

In a way, this is what we’re trying to do at NPC Ignites next month. It would be hard to argue that the ‘wicked’ and complex problems that charities are working to tackle—from ill health to unemployment and homelessness—don’t require radical new ways of thinking and ideas borrowed from other fields. And equally, it would be strange to see these new approaches born in a vacuum, and not sparked by the opportunities offered by digital technology or open data, among other mega-trends that are affecting our daily lives.

Yet sometimes charities get stuck talking amongst themselves. Or thinking that it is the non-profit sector alone that will solve every problem. At NPC Ignites, we’re hoping to open up the conversation and get a bit more cross-fertilisation going.

Making vital connections

Our keynote speaker, the impressive Baroness Martha Lane Fox CBE, of and Go ON UK, will open the day with challenging ideas about the need for the sector to innovate more. And we have a blend of amazing speakers throughout the day from across not-for-profit organisations, funders, the public sector and business.

For instance, a session with Luke Fletcher of Bates Wells Braithwaite and B-Lab UK, and Danny Sriskandarajah of CIVICUS will explore the blurring of lines between the public sector and charities. And in another breakout session we have Andrew Barnett of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Diana Barran MBE of SafeLives speaking about how funders are changing and what the implications are for grantees and others. Meanwhile, Breast Cancer Now’s Baroness Delyth Morgan will be sharing her unique perspective on collaboration, and business leaders like IBM’s Paul Dommel and Eve Joseph of Microsoft will give their perspectives on impact and innovation.

There will be plenty of ideas exchanged from the floor too. We have an exciting arrange of delegates, including grant-makers, charities large and small, advisors to the charity sector, government figures and academics.

Wednesday 14 October promises to be a day where many vital connections are made.

  • Have you signed up for NPC Ignites yet? Hurry, we have just a few places left. Can’t make it? Follow along at #NPCIgnites.