Funding Utopia #2: Ten-Fifteen Years Unrestricted — Outcomes — Community Wealth — Hydrangeas — and More

Leah Black
4 min readAug 4, 2021


Buoyed by the overwhelmingly positive response to my first blog (Funding Utopia #1: Five Years Unrestricted), here I go again…

So now I know for sure that putting ideas out into the world IS a hugely productive thing to do. I’ve had some brilliant conversations — with those I knew would be up for talking, and with some people I have met for the first time through the magic of Twitter. And quite a few more conversations still to come.

I have decided that writing and reflecting (as regularly as I can manage )— is going to be my new ‘healthy habit’ — to coin a phrase by my WHALE Arts colleague Kirsty.

Here is a very are FIVE things I’d like to offer / reflect on since I last clicked ‘publish’ in May…

1. Emma Houston — Scotland’s Changemakers

In July — I was over the moon to meet Emma after my last blog post, she published this blog last month about Funding and Philanthropy Rhetoric — well worth a read and inspiring to hear from someone with experience of working in funding. Emma is looking for people (changemakers!) to connect with to feature on her blog and (soon to be) podcast.

2. Trust, Risk, Three Horizons

In July — I had an inspiring meeting with someone who has been mentoring me for the last few years, we talked what some of the current issues might be with ‘business as usual’ within funding. After the meet-up I cycled home and got so carried away and excited about thinking about ‘trust’ and ‘risk’ and ‘three horizons’ I cycled the wrong way on autopilot and before I knew it I was half-way to work rather than almost home! More thinking to come on this, but here is the info about Three Horizons, which I first heard about from my friend Suzy Glass back in our Creative Scotland days.

3. Community Wealth Fund / Community Wealth Alliance

In June — I attended an event convened by SCVO about a possible Community Wealth Fund in Scotland. This is based on The Community Wealth Fund Alliance in England and The Local Trust who are campaigning for a Community Wealth Fund in England based on these four principles:

  • Provision of long-term funding (10 -15 years)
  • Neighbourhood investment at the hyper-local level
  • Community-led decision making
  • Building community confidence and capacity

And Andy Haldane the new Chief Executive of the RSA (formerly Bank of England) said this in an opening speech for The Local Trust:

Competitively-bid central pots of finite, short-termish money tend to lock-in the advantages of those who already have resources. In other words, competitive-bidding can increase the magnetic attraction of the “have” over the “have-not” places, the opposite of levelling-up. These centrally-allocated pots often also fail to provide the long-term committed finance necessary to deliver long-lasting social infrastructure projects. This is where Local Trust’s proposal for a Community Wealth Fund, or Danny Kruger’s Levelling-Up Communities Fund, have I think real attractions. As a long-term community endowment, they would offer both scale and duration of financing, as well as giving local actors a strong say in its distribution. The Community Revitalisation Fund, recently announced by Joe Biden in the United States, provides a model that offers similar levels of ambition.

Sounds pretty good!? However I do have reservations about how this might work as a national fund, can a national funder in England (or Scotland) really build trust with community groups? And administratively does this become onerous? There are some excellent examples in Scotland, such as Corra’s Place Programme Getting Alongside Communities — but how could this be expanded upon? I’m looking forward & very up for more conversations around this…

4. Outcomes / OutNav — Owning Our Own Outcomes

In June/July — at WHALE Arts we have been working with Matter of Focus over the last few months, beginning to roll out OutNav across the organisation. This software I believe has the possibility to be transformational in terms of how we collect, store and use data, what we consider data, and also how we report to funders and decide which funds to apply to. The software enables us to map our organisational outcomes and then to create pathways (for us, projects or programmes of work) within the outcome map. Over the course of the year (or the project) we attach ‘evidence’ to the stepping stones (the elements of the outcome map) which can be anything from photos to quotes to stats and more. Then a report can be generated based on the pathway — hey presto, funders report is complete with one click of a button! (albeit with consistent collecting and inputing required throughout the project, hello again ‘building healthy habits’!). I hope it will move us away from thinking about our data only in relation to what we report to funders, I think that too many third sector orgs collect data for their funders and not for themselves. I’ve been calling this ‘owning our outcomes’. It’s been heartening to hear from some of our funders that they would be happy to receive an OutNav report instead of their standard format (more of this please, funders!). I’d recommend talking to Sarah and Ailsa and the team at Matter of Focus, for anyone keen to shift their orgs way of thinking about outcomes and data.

5. Hydrangeas and Camping

In July (and Aug)— my hydrangeas looked dreamy (I’m obsessed) and I did some battery recharging by doing some camping and swimming with my boys.

Some of my Dreamy Hydrangeas!

So, lots of interesting, inspiring and interconnected strands, more thoughts and conversations to come, as before I’m keen to talk with anyone who would like to have a chinwag about any of my thoughts and ramblings (including hydrangea chat!)



Leah Black

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