A reflection on ... New Frontiers

What is needed in these times from the worlds of philanthropy and investment?


It’s taken a few days to digest the quantity and quality of contributions at last week’s inaugural event - New Frontiers - powered by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The event offered a collective space bringing together innovators from across the philanthropic and investment worlds.


Message One: Fund the unknown

The two-day conference kick-started with a dynamic discussion between Caroline Mason and Kieron Boyle about the power of a conference like this to unite minds and action. The key message for me was; what is our role, as funders, to build confidence in new ideas and innovation, where big capital is not taking the risk. How can we play our part in speeding up the transition towards a more equitable, regenerative future, where people and planet thrive?


Message Two: Come into places unified

The panellists went on to suggest methods such as financing and funding practices that have the potential to invest in place - and even speed up - this transition towards a fairer, more resilient future. As a proud Footworker, I was encouraged to see the role of people, place and spatial justice coming to the fore of the debate. Gabriella Gomez-Mont of Experimentalista hypothesised ways we must frame the future of the city around ‘care.’ She suggested that the role of innovation driven by this inspiration of kindness and wellbeing, is a powerful tool towards an ambitious new future.


Message Three: Free-up resources & get out the way!

The wealthy must realise that letting go of their wealth means relinquishing control over it. Jen Hook of Thirty Percy and panellists tackled the knotty issue of ethical funding practices and the theme of ‘letting go’ - raising a challenge and opportunity for philanthropists and funders to recognise and innovate how they ‘let go,’ towards what end? Geraud de Ville de Goyet described his own journey at 'Barking + Dagenham Giving' to radically rethink the redistributing of a £1 million fund more equitably across the Borough. Currently in the early stages of consultation, I’m excited to follow the actioning and impact of this idea for communities in B+D!


Message Four: Acknowledge the origins of your wealth

Many philanthropic endowments have roots in practices that caused deep suffering and have left a legacy of enduring harm. Derek Bardowell, CEO of Ten Years' Time, alongside Laurence Meyer and others called on the importance of acknowledging how wealth has been accumulated and the urgent re-articulation of the favoured term ‘giving.’ In fact, it is ‘giving back.’


Final thoughts

As a community anchored social innovation funder and enabler, Footwork has so much to absorb, celebrate, and action following this event. One thing is for sure: to be moving forward alongside others in a new frontier of risk-taking, innovation-inducing, people-connecting, place-changing empowerment is an exciting place to be!



By Naomi Rubbra