Jeni Tennison

Jeni Tennison

Jeni Tennison

I’ve had a blessedly slow start to the year, mostly focused internally as we’re looking at what to do during our second year of activity. But also a bit of attention on our project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as they explore building an “insight infrastructure”, which I’m writing up in a separate couple of blog posts.

My internal focus this week has been on the spreadsheets we use to track our budget across our different programmes and projects. Working on them reminded me how much I enjoy that kind of work (even if it’s not what I should be doing or the best use of my time), just as developing the website did in the early part of last year. It taps into my problem-solving brain and ability to break down and structure complexity. Plus I like making them look pretty.

Then the really fun part, of course, is starting to think about and work through what additional funding means that we’ll be able to do this year. As always there’s lots we could do, lots that would be interesting and impactful, but only so much money and time to play with. I want to lean more towards enabling others to do things rather than doing them ourselves, both to grow the field and to reduce the burden on us to shape, direct and deliver a whole bunch of work. How we spend the money we have is something we’ll work through over the next couple of months.

The other thing that’s been on my mind over the Xmas break is the governance of the organisation. As we were starting up, the advice I received (which I think was right) was not to put too much governance in place too quickly, because you need some experience to know what kind of governance is going to be helpful.

From my experience with Boards, I’ve always had in mind having an Advisory Board separate from a Governance Board. The Advisory Board is where we can have fun, intellectually stimulating conversations about the future of data rights; the strategic positioning, theory of change, and activities of CONNECTED BY DATA; and help with making connections and creating partnerships.

But then I’d struggled with thinking about why anyone would want to be part of a Governance Board, which entails a focus on policies, finances and accountability. My breakthrough over Xmas was realising that the Governance Board could be a place where I get a different kind of advice and support: about how to grow, develop (and eventually end) the organisation.

See, I know a bunch of other organisational leaders who are interested in and wrestling with things like how to institute fair flexible and part time working practices, or how to put in place asset locks in non-charitable non-profits, or how to run an organisation that is driving towards making a short term difference rather than looking to survive forever.

So over the next few weeks I’m aiming to put in place a Governance Board that brings together a few good people who are both bought into CONNECTED BY DATA’s vision, mission and values, and interested in developing and running non-profits or social enterprises. Because those conversations can be fun and intellectually stimulating too!

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