Developing a Regenerative Futures Fund #8: Getting Practical (+ Swimming & Silversmithing)

Leah Black
10 min readMay 16, 2023

A Visionary, Silversmithing and Swimming (before work updates)

I trained as a jeweller and silversmith and for the last almost 7 years I have been a Warden of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh. I stood down in January 2023 but have remained a Member. I was fortunate to be invited to At Home With Silver at Marchmont House co-organised by the wonderful Ebba and team at Scottish Goldsmiths Trust. An inspiring day that made me actually go home take out my toolbox and look at my tools. That’s all I did. But I am pondering how and where I can saw, bend and solder some metal.

Along with many others, I was shocked and saddened to hear last week of the passing of Hugo Birge, the director of Marchmont House. I didn’t know him myself, but from hearing him speak and listening to others talk about him, he was a truly inspirational man, with a passion for sustaining traditional craft but with a clear focus on the future, supporting established and early career makers with space to live and work, and giving access into networks for makers to sell and be commissioned. A real future-focused visionary. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

While I was at Marchmont I chatted to one of my favourite silversmiths Bryony Knox who told me that she challenged herself to 50 different outdoor swims in her 50th year. I thought this was cool. I turned 42 at the end of April and have set myself the same challenge. I have a spreadsheet (obvs) and an instagram where I share 3 photos per swim (private, for now, may share if I think it will inspire others in the way Bryony inspired me). Two swims down — Portobello and Wardie Bay. Will I manage 42 different locations?! We’ll see…

Portobello Beach
Wardie Bay

Regenerative Futures Fund — Where Are We

  • The project started in August 2022 and was due to finish in August 2023. I’m seconded from beautiful Whale Arts in Wester Hailes, to EVOC.
  • Progress made to date within the 6-month report to end Feb 2023 published in March 2023.
  • The project was due to conclude in August 2023 but this has been extended to the end of February 2024. Thank you to the funders in the community of practice who have agreed to part-fund the project extension. As a result of this my secondment from Whale Arts to EVOC has also been extended to Feb 2024 — BIG thanks to EVOC and Whale Arts for always being so accommodating and for continuing to believe in this project.
  • Following the published 6-month report on 20 March we have developed a strategy for the remainder of the project from April 2023 — February 2024.
  • There is an agreement across learning groups that the best way for us to learn is ‘by doing’. We looked at the double diamond:
Double Diamond — UK Design Council

and discussed that we’ve ‘diverged’ through research, conversations, shared learning and facilitated sessions, and we are beginning to converge into a problem statement.

  • The next time ‘diverge’ again will be when a fund is launched.
  • Therefore, the goal is to be in a position to launch a full or partial/phased Regenerative Futures Fund for Edinburgh in 2024 with the intention of ‘learning by doing’ as opposed to waiting until we have everything ‘right’.

Learning Questions

These have been created within the Funders Community of Practice, but are as we co-design they are becoming more relevant across each learning group.

  1. How can we create a shift in existing (funding) practices that will enable us to resource mindsets, attitudes and meaningful long-term regenerative change?
  • How can we become more comfortable working with uncertainty within the funding landscape, while also supporting others on this journey?
  • How can we make decisions about the type of change agents the fund will invest in to create meaningful long term regenerative change?

2. How can we ensure the Regenerative Futures Fund creates a cultural shift that impacts the funding landscape in Edinburgh more widely?

3. How can we design a long-term approach that is adaptable enough to support mutating outcomes as grant periods progress?

4. How can we design a pooled finance vehicle that is able to hold and distribute funds from multiple sources to a variety of differently constituted recipients over a long duration in order to support regenerative change?

5. How can we identify and raise enough money to launch and maintain the fund over the long term, especially in the face of a rapidly changing financial and economic outlook?

6. An additional learning question about fund design — still to be worded — possibly in keeping with the eight commitments of Open & Trusting Grantmaking

The focus for the next phase of the project will be largely on Questions 4, 5 and 6.

Thematic Areas Towards Fund Launch

In order to move forward with some practical action we have created a revised ‘action plan’ split into:


  1. Funding Cycle & Distribution & Evaluation (Design)
  2. Fundraising
  3. Governance, Legal Structure & Pooled Finance Vehicle


Field Building

  1. Collective Imagination
  2. Collaborating on a Visual for ‘Eco-system for Wider Long-term System Change’

What’s Happening in Each Thematic Area

Funding Cycle & Distribution & Evaluation — Design

  • Funding cycle work has taken place in Jan and March within the Organisation Learning Group — and Jam Board on ‘assessment criteria’ — these sessions were led by Talat and supported by Shasta, who also took the group into 2023 in an adapted version of Rob Hopkins Time Machine (beautiful!)
  • We will do some more follow up sessions on funding cycle in May. The End Poverty Edinburgh Members group and the Organisation Learning Group will join forces in May for a second session on part of the ‘funding cycle’ and refining outcome maps. This will be led by Talat and Mhairi.
  • The May Funders Community of Practice will focus (partially) on the funding cycle, and on further refining outcome maps. This is led by Suzy.
  • We are currently looking at options around bringing in someone with experience in user experience / service design to synthesise all the learning and notes so far and work across the learning groups on fund and evaluation design. Gemma and Tom talk about this in their excellent book Modern Grantmaking.
  • Outcome Maps — we’ve moved from our in-person outcome mapping day at Dovecot Studios, to a day with CAPE (Coalition Anti-Poverty Edinburgh) to many post-its on Miro and seven outcome maps. We have now refined to 3 outcome maps. Regenerative Futures Fund + Thriving Futures Fund + Wider System for Long-Term Change. Plus a fouth outcome map that’s about how designing new funding models we inform a system change in funding. These are not final pieces of work, we’ll work into them over the coming months, but we have almost final drafts for this stage. I’ll do another blog soon just about the outcome maps. Shout out to Ailsa and Grace from Matter of Focus for helping us navigate the extreme messiness into a place of clarity.
  • The goal is still to have a first design of the fund by late summer although this is dependent on various factors, above.


  • Goal remains to raise £15million into a pooled fund with co-investors from across social, private and public sectors.
  • We have drafted a Case for Support / Call For Partners which will be refined in May. This will be tailored for different audiences along with a ‘pack’ of fundraising materials, including our outcome maps.
  • The beginnings of an FAQ’s for decision-makers has been drafted. The idea being that once proposals have been through decision-making processes we can use this as a starting point with other decision-makers. We may create an open-access FAQ’s document for others to use in case it’s useful to others.
  • Convening conversations across foundations about funding long-term, upstream, place-based work led by communities. Referencing the brilliant work done with WEAll Scotland and Foundation Scotland on funding and supporting long-term, upstream transformative work — Raising Our Gaze
  • Bridging People — people who can bridge between sectors through language and introductions. In particular we are looking for people who can ‘bridge’ between the social sector and the private sector. Introductions and connections are very welcome.
  • Philanthropy, Public Sector—conversations ongoing with funding organisations plus, City of Edinburgh Council, NHS Lothian and Scottish Government.
  • Private Sector — some private sector introductions have been made, leads to follow up on, and many more unexplored avenues.
  • Anchor Institutions — exploring conversations with institutions in Edinburgh as defined within Community Wealth Building — ‘Anchor Institutions are central to the concept of community wealth building as a result of the scale of the jobs they provide, the scale of spend through procurement, their land and assets, and the fact that they are unlikely to leave that place’. Brilliant new blog by Bridie on this
  • Finally — I’m looking forward to and grateful for an invitation to the Impact Impact Investment Symposium with Rathbone Greenbank Investment next week. This was founded by Wendy Wu from Napier. I’m on a panel about Community Wealth Building and also chairing a panel on SurfLab/Napier collaboration (fascinating!).

Governance, Legal Structure & Pooled Finance Vehicle

  • We will be looking at the pros and cons of different models — might an organisation‘ host’ the fund at the start. Or do we set something new up. More to be done on this.
  • Vehicle for pooled funds — soon to talk to others about their approach to holding ‘pooled funds’ with money from different sectors — London Funders and Inspiring Scotland as a starting point. Expert advice will be sought.

Field Building

Collective Imagination

  • Exciting news — Creative Informatics at The University of Edinburgh are generously funding a programme on Collective Imagination that will run alongside the ‘logistics’ of fund design, fundraising and governance structures. We have been calling this readiness or field building. The programme will be led by Jennifer Williams and Shasta Ali. Shasta is a writer and Jennifer is a poet. You can read more about Shasta here and some of her writing here Scotland’s Hidden South Asian Heritage | Historic Environment Scotland. Shasta also works for Corra Foundation on diversity, equity and inclusion, with a focus on racial equity in grantmaking. Previous that that she worked for SCOREscotland in Wester Hailes (which is where we first met). Shasta has been on the facilitators team developing the Regenerative Futures Fund, supporting the organisations learning group with Talat, since the start of the project last year. Jennifer is a poet and a project manager at Edinburgh Futures Institute and we met through her work on Utopia Lab which she initiated within her role at Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). Utopia Labs are Our Utopia Labs are ‘no-spaces’, places where everyone is welcome to join us in dreaming futures that inspire our experience of the present — read more here. Bridie Ashrowan (EVOC), Allan Farmer (Corra Foundation) and Eoghan Howard (Wester Hailes Community Trust) happened upon Jennifer while Utopia was live one day last year when we visited the Edinburgh Futures Institute — a meeting instigated by Eoghan, our super-connector. We all wanted to stay! Jennifer’s own writing is here.
  • The programme will roughly be — monthly collective imagination writing sessions — Collective Imagination: Writing Together to Dream a Better Future for Edinburgh (and the world). They will be a mix of online and in-person building up to a ‘utopia-style’ in-person event in February 2024. The purpose is to get people ready for the launch of a long-term fund, but also just to have some time being creative, joyful, having fun. The hope is that by doing this work we will encourage more long-term upstream approaches and also to feed into existing programmes such as the climate networks led by Charlie at EVOC, Ukrainian support programme led by John at EVOC, moving to support individuals long-term led by Patrycja at The Edinburgh Trust and longer-term models of funding for community-led mental health led by Linda at The Health and Social Care Partnership.

Collaborating on a Visual for ‘Eco-system for Wider Long-term System Change’

  • Work has started on this between Leah, Charlie Wright (EVOC, Climate Networks), Patrycja Kupiec (The Edinburgh Trust), Linda Irvine Fitzpatrick (Thrive Mental Health Programme), Ewan Aitken (Everyone’s Edinburgh) and Bridie Ashrowan (EVOC), with some brainpower from Adam Purvis (Dark Matter Labs). More will join. Others are very welcome. The plan is to try to create a visual that shows how our upstream and long-term initiatives — including the the Regenerative Futures Fund — fits into the wider eco-system for long-term system change in Edinburgh. Watch this space.


  • We have a google form — to reach people interested in helping to make the fund happen. Please do share!
  • Funders Collaborative Hub — call for partners which went live a few weeks ago. Recommend having a rummage around Funders Collaborative Hub — there are some inspiring reads on there.
  • I endeavour to keep working in the open here. Still have Giles Turnbull’s excellent Agile Comms book beside my bed to dip into every now and again. Although evidently not paid much heed to the ‘make it shorter’ part :)

If you are still reading this — well done :)

As always — connections, introductions, meeting for a cuppa, sending links — all wholeheartedly welcome.



Leah Black

Lead, Regenerative Futures Fund Edinburgh; Chief Executive, Whale Arts; Warden, Incorporation of Goldsmiths; MBA student, Edinburgh Business School.