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The need for a new paradigm — Funding and Commissioning in Complexity

“Complexity-friendly funding is human, systemic, adaptive” – Annabel Davidson-Knight

On 15th May we launched our joint report with Newcastle University Business School, A Whole New World: Funding and Commissioning in Complexity. In two events in Newcastle and London we were lucky enough to have a wide range of folks in attendance – from funding bodies (Public and Charitable) as well as from charities, intermediaries, academics, consultants and others with experience around the support of social initiatives. We heard from two Case Studies covered in our report – Gary Wallace of Plymouth City Council – and John Esterle all the way from the Whitman Institute in California, US. You can hear their presentations by clicking on their names above.

At a time when resources are becoming ever scarcer, and the status quo of how we organize and manage those resources across state and civil society is being fundamentally challenged, the question of how we can best manage the distribution of those resources most effectively is clearly of great interest. In our presentation of the report, we outlined some headlines of a distinct way of funding which an increasing number of funders seem to be exploring. This is a complexity-friendly version of funding and performance management which has three core ideas at its heart:

HUMAN – with trust as a core value and working principle to be nurtured, it recognises and responds to the people involved, their intrinsic motivations, and the relationships between one another — whether beneficiary, grantee or commissioner.

SYSTEMIC – understanding the interdependent nature of things and working across and within systems, silos and institutions to co-create change together, building shared goals and networks and communities of practice.

ADAPTIVE – with a core focus on learning to drive improvement, rather than data for accountability, it allows for flexibility in delivery to achieve the outcomes that matter to people.

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