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Representation Matters: My first year grant-making at Battersea

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by Madeleine Trubee, 2027 Associate

In 2022, I was about to start my journey on the 2027 Programme and with Battersea. Now, a year later, one journey has come to an end and the other is just beginning. The last year with 2027 and Battersea has been and will continue to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

Class […] deeply intersects with most other marginalised identities

In September 2022, I joined the Grants Team at Battersea. My journey to get here however is unlike most of the workforce as I was matched with the organisation through a Programme called 2027 which is a 10-year project (started in 2017) designed to transform decision-making in UK grant-making, by bringing in people from working class backgrounds into a traditionally middle-class sector. They chose class as it deeply intersects with most other marginalised identities. This has resonated deeply, as I have experienced firsthand how class and gender intersect, and how this can span generations of women, leaving many disenfranchised and often limited to be on low to no income.

The grant giving sector provide £7bn of funding each year in the UK.  Yet, it is a sector that is in no way representative of the communities it serves, with research showing that foundation trustees are 99% white, more than two-thirds male, 58% over 64 years old and 74% above the median income. 2027 hopes to address this by increasing the number of people from working class backgrounds and with valuable lived experience into Grant making.

Throughout this Programme, I have had access to mentoring and full professional development, a cohort/network, and masterclasses delivered by prominent members of the grants sector such as Derek Bardowell and Ruth Ibegbuna. One of the key parts of the programme was our Peer Support sessions, which worked to build our confidence in ourselves, and help us recognise that we all have something valuable to give. They also allowed us to learn and practice different leadership styles, coaching techniques, public speaking, and to explore different approaches to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Through 2027, I have gained a network of diverse people, who I can reach out to for learning, guidance and support, providing a community of professionals that I would have been unable to access otherwise.

As a working-class woman, who comes from generations of women who never had the opportunity to have careers, to go to university, or to do much outside of the home. Battersea giving me the opportunity to work alongside such brilliant women, many with similar experiences to me

Battersea is the only animal welfare organisation that has participated in the Programme since its inception. This has given me a unique experience, as I have got to learn about the relatively niche sector of grant-making within animal welfare, via one of the most famous Cat and Dogs homes in the world, whilst being a part of a cohort of human facing charities with focuses ranging from women’s rights to climate justice. I was able to learn from and collaborate with leading people in the Grants sector and see how the learning can be applied to Grant making within animal welfare.

Being a representative of an animal welfare organisation was a learning curve for 2027, as much of the ideas and sessions are intended for people focused organisations.  However, so much of what I learnt is easily transferable, such as the importance of trust and humility in grant making, as well as the importance of organisations being representative of the people from the communities they serve. Equally, the 2027 Programme and my Battersea colleagues have challenged, encouraged, and supported me to drive thought leadership on how DEI plays out in animal welfare, including in relation to how we can help more animals by applying a DEI lens.

I bring to Battersea an important lens gained through my lived experience, lived experience that when I started at Battersea and on the 2027, I did not value.

During my time at Battersea, I have been given many opportunities to grow, I have seen how trust and honesty is the foundation of an impactful funder and of meaningful grantee collaboration. Throughout my first year in grant making and animal welfare, I have seen how deep the passion runs in this sector, and how much love and expertise there is, all funnelled towards the betterment of the lives of cats and dogs around the world.

As a working-class woman, who comes from generations of women who never had the opportunity to have careers, to go to university, or to do much outside of the home. Battersea giving me the opportunity to work alongside such brilliant women, many with similar experiences to me has been invaluable in my development and has made me feel included and seen as a working-class woman. Within the grants team and global programmes, I have learnt from such brilliant women, who put care, inclusion and expertise into everything they do.

Our most prominent and loved ambassador Paul O’Grady was not only a Queer icon but also a Working Class one. Battersea has invested in me and allowed me to develop a plethora of skills, meet so many wonderful people and gone to places I may have never had the luxury of experiencing, such as Sri Lanka, Cyprus and a 2027 residential in Telford.  In turn, I bring to Battersea an important lens gained through my lived experience, lived experience that when I started at Battersea and on the 2027, I did not value.

I’m proud to work at Battersea and of our unwavering commitment to helping struggling owners and their pets. I have had my pets registered with the PDSA, had my cats neutered through the C4 scheme, and as a family have had to consider relinquishing our pets when losing our house and technically becoming homeless. I can empathise with the trauma of having to give up a pet due to financial insecurity, and the guilt of knowing your pet needs vet care but having no way of affording it.  Through my journey with Battersea and 2027, I have come to realise that there is not one way to be valuable in a job, and it is within the diversity of the human experience that we can all learn and grow.

Moreover, our work is not limited to just cats and dogs, and it is often more involved with the pet guardians and the people who care for and are connected to the animals that we work with. As the Academy puts it “we are in the business of people”. Every class of people owns cats and dogs, and it’s important to represent the people we seek to help.

Madeleine Trubee is a 2027 Associate and Grants Coordinator at Battersea.

My 2027 programme experience – Mary Wilson

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Mary Wilson is a current associate on the 2027 programme. They joined 2027 and launched their career in grant-making in 2021 through a placement at the National Lottery Community Fund. In this blog, they talk about their experience applying to 2027, including some useful application tips, share insight into their job, and cover what the most valuable part of the programme is to them.

My placement experience

I work for the National Lottery Community Fund (TNLCF) which is the largest community funder in the UK in terms of reach and budget. I usually work from home, although we can book a desk in the office in advance if we choose to, however, it isn’t mandatory to be office based. On a typical day, I take grant applications from a queue and carry out a few legal checks before I can assess them fully. Most of the applications we receive are based around community groups, but these can be based around anything in terms of activities on offer or the beneficiaries. I’ve had (and funded) a range of applications from groups who wanted to offer a film club for the deaf to Afro Caribbean celebration festivals, domestic abuse survivors and single mothers groups, and then also, much smaller bids for things like community gardening classes.

I really like Friday mornings when applicants receive their email informing them their bid has been successful and the money is on its way to them. I once spoke to a customer over the phone who told me it was an early Christmas present to know her project could go ahead, and she had not stopped smiling all morning. I love being the difference between a yes or no decision, all influenced by my own life experiences.

What I valued the most about the development programme

  • Networking and making connections with my peers
  • The support – I’ve met people who offer support to each other, whether it’s been sharing knowledge to help us learn from each other or offering to call when someone (and that someone is me) simply needed a chat with another human being. 
  • The learning sessions – I enjoy the sessions because they allow opportunities for me to hear new perspectives and to hear from people who have decades of experience in their fields, something I would not have had the opportunity to experience in my previous roles.

The application process

I enjoyed the application process, largely because of how transparent it was from the first webinar. There was no jargon, no ambiguous statements or vague promises, but open, clear communication delivered in a friendly way by Ben and James (the 2027 team). I came away from that first webinar wanting to be on the programme more than I had before.

2027 are hosting another webinar on 24 March, 6 – 7 pm. Register here to come along by clicking here.

Application advice

Be honest. Don’t try to sound impressive in your interview by talking about what you think the interviewer wants to hear. I considered talking about work experiences in my interview, but it didn’t seem to fit or flow very well when I rehearsed and it didn’t feel like the side of myself I wanted to show. Be authentic. In my interview, I spent the first five minutes talking about a hobby and skill I’m learning that has nothing to do with grantmaking, but it helped to show who I am. It worked out!

The 2027 programme is currently open for applications and will close on 30 March, 1 pm. Apply by clicking here.

My 2027 programme experience – Jowita Szyszka

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Jowita Szyszka is a current associate on the 2027 programme, they joined 2027 and launched their career in grant-making in 2021 through a placement at the NHS Charities Together. In this blog, they talk about their experience applying to 2027, share insight into what they find valuable about the programme, and give advice to potential applicants.

My placement experience

I initially stumbled by 2027 during my search for work back in 2021. At the time, I was working 2 jobs in the third sector and doing an unofficial grant-making internship with an organisation I used to work for, so the programme seemed almost like a perfect fit, though I’d never really considered coming into the sector on my own before.

My experience itself has been quite unique, as I have now been on two placements after being made redundant from the first placement I was on. It’s been great to have the support and effort of the 2027 team behind me to organise another placement and I couldn’t be happier to be where I am now, which is at the NHS Charities Together

During a typical day, I’ll assess an application or report and ask for guidance on anything I need help with. However, not many days are the same as I’m prone to going on visits, team away days, or meetings, so every so often I actually spend my days either catching trains or planes or working away from home. Hopefully, as the country opens up in 2022, I’ll be looking to go on more site visits and see some of the projects we have funded. My organisation is still developing and changing, so there are a lot of things going on sometimes, but the team is extremely supportive, I don’t think I could survive without them!

What I value the most about the development programme

Connecting with my peers and developing a network

It’s really hard to think of the most meaningful experience on the programme as I’ve been privileged to have many. I think one of the things I’ve treasured the most so far, is the time I am able to spend with the other Associates. Everyone on the programme has been lonely and being able to talk to like-minded people is irreplaceable. I’ve had the pleasure to travel with my organisation, and knowing that there is an associate, willing to even meet me for lunch in a city is heart-warming, to say the least.

My growth as a person

The programme itself is a little bit different to what I originally expected, as it’s more focused on yourself and empowerment to make a change. As I’m used to being more academic and directed in my learning, it’s been a big learning curve, but I’m really happy to have had this development opportunity so far. I feel as though the programme has helped me grow a lot as a person and the way I think about my career and the sector as a whole.

Application process insights 

  • The application process happens from January to August, so be prepared that it’s a lengthier recruitment process than for a regular job
  • Have fun! I was surprised at the range of assessment activities and things we participated in, but they were honestly great fun
  • Keep in mind you’ll be finding out your outcome from July to August. I think the only thing that made it stressful was how long it took to find out my outcome but when I did, it was the best news I could expect! I was then matched and signed my contract with an organisation within the space of about a week, which was pretty extraordinary

My advice to applicants

  • Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way!
  • Be proactive and open
  • Reach out to others for help –  be realistic that sometimes your placement may be challenging and you’ll be going against the grain depending on what organisation you’re in but don’t shy away from reaching out to others; they’ll be your saving grace in the moments you feel like pulling your hair out
  • Put in what you’d like to get out of the programme – the programme is what you make of it. It really pays off to be active, try different things and get others involved, that’s when you really have interesting conversations and develop a drive to change 

The 2027 programme is currently open for applications and will close on 30 March, 1 pm. Apply by clicking here.

The 2027 team are also running a live information session, 24 March, 1 pm. Register your attendance here.

My 2027 programme experience – Kathy Siddle

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Kathy Siddle is an associate of the 2027 programme, they joined 2027 and launched their career in grant-making in 2019 through a placement at the Smallwood Trust. In this blog, they talk about why it’s important 2027 exists, share insight into what it’s like working in a foundation or trust, and the most valuable part of the development programme for them.

My placement experience

When I found out about the 2027 programme, I decided to apply due to two major reasons. I believed the programme was something that would upskill me, and give me job opportunities, which as an older applicant, I felt were often closed off. At the same time, I felt it would give me a focus on relevant and current issues, giving me the opportunity to explore these more deeply and allowing me to see how I could effect change.

Through the programme, I was placed in the Smallwood Trust, a grant-making organisation that supports women on low incomes, and I fulfilled the role of Grant Manager. The initial 3 months in the role were challenging due to my organisation receiving COVID emergency funds that had to be spent in 3 – 4 months. This challenge did teach me lots of very practical, grant-making skills, although, I felt a divide from the discussion issues on my 2027 days. However, once we got to the end of the grant run, I saw that my organisation was also interested in working to create systems change for the individual women we support, which then helped me connect my placement to the programme discussion topics.

The specific responsibilities I completed in my role were varied, starting at the point of checks, and contracts, (post-assessment), through to being responsible for up to 99 organisations. Throughout, I was called upon to do data analysis in my role; I had little experience of this pre-2027 but as I was given support in my placement, I was able to grow into this role and enjoy it. I also became responsible for my organisation’s commitment to the IVAR Principles (set of principles to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience) with discussions to shape this meaningfully for my organisation. Another area where I was able to grow my knowledge was when I became involved in the Participatory Grantmaking Community. While my organisation eventually went down the route of co-production rather than PGM, I continue to grow my understanding and see lots of cross-over between these two approaches.  

What I valued the most about the development programme

Every part of the programme taught me something, was useful and enjoyable, however,

  • The Master Classes – I loved this aspect, it gave me training and insight to help me grow my knowledge of the grant-making sector and develop new skills for my career growth
  • The network of peers – I think what made the programme most interesting overall was having a group of people who were going through similar journeys, and you always had someone to call upon. Even though the formal programme has now ended for my cohort year, we have continued to share problems online and look to each other for support.

Why should people apply to 2027?

If you’re thinking of applying, do it! It’s a wonderful opportunity to:

  • Learn new skills, 
  • Have time to consider wider issues 
  • Meet a bunch of people, who while going through quite different journeys, are basically heading in the same direction and provide a realm of support 

It’s important that the 2027 programme exists as it’s a way of bringing people into the grantmaking world who have lived, practised, or learnt experience of structural inequities; and who can bring that to bear on grantmaking. It provides a great opportunity for associates to not only learn through the Master Classes but to be exposed to other skills and wider sector and societal issues. The programme can only exist and change can only happen if people with the latter experience apply, so if this sounds like you, go for it!

The 2027 programme is currently open for applications and will close on 30 March, 1 pm. Apply by clicking here.

My 2027 programme experience – Kayzi Ambridge

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Kayzi Ambridge is a current associate on the 2027 programme. She joined 2027 and launched her career in grant-making in 2021 through a placement at the National Lottery Community Fund. In this blog, she talks about her experience applying to 2027, including some useful application tips, share insight into her placement and covers what she wished she’d known before starting the programme.

My placement experience

I found out about the 2027 programme through my volunteering work in the community and applied to 2027 due to my relevant experience supporting communities. At the time I applied I was working on multi-agency flooding related issues and supporting affected communities. Outside of my work life, I volunteered in the community, supporting European nationals to obtain their Settled Status to remain living, studying and working in the UK.

Through the 2027 programme, I have been placed with the National Lottery Community Fund. In my role as Funding Officer, I have been able to use my community and thematic knowledge of our local patch from my volunteering which has informed and provided additional insight to our collective decision making. From day 1, I have been able to get stuck in and contribute. Due to COVID, I’ve not been out and about in the community as much as I would have liked but it’s still early days and I’m looking forward to throwing myself back into visiting funded projects as I’ve always loved the community engagement aspect of all my jobs.

In terms of organisational culture, my team are great! It’s an inclusive culture, very supportive and we’re always open to learning from each other.

The application process

When applying to 2027, I was impressed with the recruitment process. I normally am terrible at applying for roles with competency-based questions even though I knew I could do the job (possibly due to my dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions). However, I found the 2027 application process to be independent, impartial, refreshingly and consciously unbiased. You are assessed on attitude, co-operation and potential rather than having an established track record in grant funding. I remember being so amazed at the rich diversity reflected in my 2027 cohort. I would encourage potential candidates to put themselves forward to be the change they wish to see in terms of increased diversity in the grant-funding sector.

All recruitment should be like this! The 2027 recruitment process looks for reasons why to include candidates who fit the behavioural aspects in an equal way and not through an adversarial unequal power dynamic process that seeks to exclude them.

Application advice

Go for it!
I didn’t think for the life of me that I would achieve a place on the 2027 Programme. However, I was curious, got out of my comfort zone and I’m now 5 months into the programme. If you have doubts like mine about being successful, my advice is to give yourself permission, take a chance and have a go.

Your lived experience will shine through and you have nothing to lose. I even found the assessments fun and not scary at all, the 2027 team really want to see and get the best out of you.

Specific application tips

• Read the instructions and take your time
• Ask someone you trust to review what you have written
• Be honest, open, and be yourself
• Check the 8 competencies and make sure that you have covered them in your application
• Ask questions – James, Ben, Dean and the rest of the 2027 crew are really constructive, supportive, and I have full confidence in them (which is a rare thing for me to say!). Feel free to contact them if you have any queries or concerns, especially around reasonable adjustments, I have found 2027 really accommodating towards my workplace challenges

Things I wish I’d known before starting the programme

• Don’t worry about whether you are too old … or too young! It’s the quality of your lived experience that counts; don’t let yourself (or more importantly others) put you off applying because of ageist beliefs

• 2027 is not a competition it is a collaboration, you will learn so much from your peers on the 2027 programme. We support each other and celebrate their successes as well as our own, similarly we support each other when things don’t go so well.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I’m glad I’ve invested in ME through the 2027 Programme and taken a chance to see what potential I have, what I can do and to be the best I can be using my lived experience to inform funding decision making.

The 2027 programme is currently open for applications and will close on 27 April at 1 pm. Apply by clicking here.