16 April 2020

In episode 74, Rhodri Davies talks to Cassie Robinson, Senior Head of the UK Portfolio at the National Lottery Community Fund, and a prominent writer and thinker about the intersection of tech, civil society and philanthropy. In a wide-ranging conversation against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, Rhodri and Cassie discuss:

  • How is the Covid 19 pandemic affecting National Lottery Community Fund and the organisations it works with?
  • What has happened so far that should give us hope?
  • Will the short-term, enforced digital transformation that many civil society organisations (CSOs) are undergoing right now result in longer term changes within the sector? And what support may be required for that to happen?
  • What new challenges and unintended consequences might arise as a huge number of CSOs become reliant on platforms and digital tools?

  • What role will civil society need to pay in ensuring that short-term policy changes re: data and technology that are driven by the need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic do not result in longer-term human rights and civil liberties issues?
  • Will funders and CSOs become more aware of/focussed on tech issues as a result of this period of enforced digitisation?
  • Is civil society engagement on tech issues too narrowly-focussed on human rights and international development?
  • What more needs to be done to engage wider civil society in these issues?
  • We are seeing more focus on the idea of decentralised or non-hierarchical governance models for social change movements - do you think this will filter into wider civil society? What opportunities and challenges might this bring?
  • Do charities and civil society organisations need to make a case for the continuing value of centralised or hierarchical structure in some cases? (I.e. can we “make infrastructure cool again” - if it ever was…?)
  • What support can traditional funders give to networks and decentralised movements?
  • Is the renewed focus on locality and place during the pandemic going to lead to longer-term shift towards ‘philanthro-localism’?
  • Does the nature of the current pandemic crisis mean that we are seeing more focus on mutuality and collectivism rather than charity and philanthropy, and will this affect anything longer term?
  • Will we see more funders and CSOs thinking in terms of collaboration and systems, rather than individual action, as we move into a post-covid future?
  • Will philanthropy’s prominent role so far in the response to the covid-19 crisis lead to less criticism in the future? Or more?

Related Links

Cassie’s Medium account, where she writes all sots of interesting blogs about her work with TNLCF and other projects.

Eventbrite page for the Collective Action Labs work Cassie is doing with Rachel Coldicutt

The Foundation Design Lab (Rhodri is working with Cassie and others on this as part of the Foresight strand).

The paper Rhodri gave at the ARNOVA 2019 conference on the strengths and weaknesses of tech-enabled decentralisation in civil society and philanthropy.

Rhodri's Alliance Magazine article Riding the Tiger of Technological Change

Follow Cassie on Twitter @cassierobinson
Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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