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How can funders learn, meaningfully?

When persuaded to write this blog, I was asked to reflect on big transformational changes for 2021, no small task. It reminded me of the importance of purposeful questions and how our reflections shape questions that are truly meaningful.

If there is one thing that 2020 has taught me – we are all human and have the imperfections that come with this. This last year has at times felt like The Truman Show with our lives on camera all the time, and while extremely hard for lots of people, for many different reasons, we have all shown vulnerability. But isn’t that a good thing? I believe it is, and although there have many ups and downs it has allowed us to connect with each other in ways we have never connected before.

So, you can imagine how good it was to hear from 50+ other people at the IVAR Evaluation Roundtable event, who openly shared similar experiences and how this played out in the role of meaningful learning. Conversations naturally gravitated towards connections with people, particularly the value we place in relationships. During the pandemic we have embraced the ability to hold different conversations; out of necessity respond quicker; had the willingness to be more open; to collaborate and take decisive action even if it didn’t always work out. In one word, trust. Reflecting on this helped focus my thoughts on big
transformational change and I was struck by one question posed at the event, ‘How do we behave in trustworthy ways?’ For me, it wasn’t one question but two: How do we behave to ensure trust is there? And how do others see us as trustworthy?

Isn’t it significant that the perception of trust has increased rapidly during the pandemic, especially between funders and organisations they seek to serve? Trust is something we earn based on our ability to be open, acknowledging our responsibilities, being accountable for our actions and responding to what we hear. If we want to take learning and create transformational change, we all need to find ways to show that we are open, we are accountable and we are listening. This isn’t always easy, especially when shining a light on things that we didn’t get right. Never so apparent for the people and communities we fail to reach.

At Corra we believe that we are unable to do our job well without communities, charities, other funders and partners trusting us. I am extremely lucky to work in an organisation like Corra, that accepts its own fragilities, and is committed to listening. While trust may not appear to be big, shiny or new, it is a building block to transformative change. The next step for us all is ensuring trust doesn’t stay a perception but is a given.

The UK Evaluation Roundtable 2020 ‘teaching case’ told two stories – of the Pears Foundation and Corra Foundation. 
You can read reflections from the Pears Foundation here