I was privileged to take part in a panel in the Third Sector’s latest Leaders Forum to discuss the future of how the society does good. The day was designed to provoke and it started by exploring the world and the sector in 2030. We talk about how disintermediation will impact the sector as people want to directly create impact or donate, the new role for businesses to do good, how people are overloaded with data and becoming increasingly attention deficit and how new generations of supporters and the ‘beneficiaries’ will challenge the status quo.
And yet whilst we heard how leadership in the commercial sector were embracing the change in digital and societal transformation, the general consensus was that impact of these changes were not high on the agenda on the boards of charities. It is imperative that we help prepare charities for the opportunities and risks in an uncertain future.
So how do we best prepare for a world where there are so many unknowns? The room was divided. Some want the fundraising sector to double down on what we have known in the past, a world of career fundraisers who are technically expert and have only worked in fundraising. Whilst others felt that we should be looking outwards, learning from others, celebrating diverse thinking and testing and trying new models and ways of working. You can probably guess which camp I’m in.
I then remembered an inspiring talk from the Institute of Imagination I heard at one of Good Innovation’s Huddles. The Institute is a space for children and young people to re-imagine the world. It was set up to best prepare children in this uncertain world. This makes total sense as the World Economic Forum estimates that 65 per cent of children today will end up in careers that don't even exist yet.
They have 5 principles for their approach
Collaborate. They believe in working together, sharing ideas and problem solving as a community.
Inter-disciplinary. They believe in the fundamental need for inter-disciplinary learning, combining the arts, sciences and digital technologies.
Failure positive. They believe in ideas and imagination and think the best learning opportunities come through an iterative approach.
Playful. They believe there is enormous value in learning through play, we believe that through play vital skills for the future are developed.
Participant-led. They believe in experiential learning environments that strongly encourage participants to lead their learning, avoiding pre-determined outcomes.
So what can we learn from these principles:
Collaborate. Charities can’t solve society’s biggest problems by themselves – we need to learn how to collaborate to achieve our missions. At the beginning of 2019, we will be sharing our lessons on collaboration from the Good Lab – a collaboration of 12 leading charities and entrepreneurs with a mission to find new ways to raise funds for the sector.
Inter-disciplinary. We need to broaden people’s skill sets. As well as fundraising skills, people need expertise in designing and delivering innovation projects, in using new digital channels and developing venturing skills.
Failure positive. Charities need to challenge the risk averse attitude, be open to learn from outside the sector and use agile techniques to test new ideas.
Playful. Recruiting and retaining great talent requires us to think differently about how we really engage employees and volunteers. We need to give them the tools to be resilient and thrive in their roles. Working in the social sector should be the best jobs in town
Participant-led. We need to be human centred – whether our focus in on supporters or indeed the users of the services. How can we ensure that fundraisers engage and co-create with supporters and start with an understanding of their needs.
Whilst I know that working in a world of uncertainty can be hard and none of us can predict exactly what 2030 will look like, I think we can learn lots from the Institute of Imagination on how to we can best prepare for the future.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.