Outlandish have been working with Catalyst, Power to Change and DOT Project from last year to the early part of 2022 designing a pilot to improve the funding programme that Power to Change run for Community Businesses; Powering Up.

Currently the open framework for suppliers to support the programme is now open

This was a different kind of pilot in that it’s goals were not only to test and prototype news ways to deliver the funding programme even better, but also to explore different collaborative ways of working together.

The goals of the pilot were to:

Here are some blog posts from the Catalyst Medium site we posted during our collaboration:

‘Week’notes 1- Designing an enhanced digital capabilities pilot for Power to Change

‘Week’ notes 2- The design process we went through for the digital capabilities pilot

And our conclusion and learnings, written by all of us are below in this final blog post:


In this blog we share our experience of a collaborative partnership approach through equitable membership amongst Catalyst partners, where one is the budget holder and a grants Funder. 

Transcending traditional ways of commissioning suppliers, the Funder and further Catalyst partners set out to create a cooperative, consent-based and values-led collaboration to design a new funding programme..

After working together for eight months we have now reached a natural point of transition in working group members, with the focus shifting from designing to delivering the new digital grant fund programme.

A perfect time, we thought, for us to share our insights and learnings from our journey with you.

Image 1: design timeline

Challenge 1: Building an equitable and effective partnership where members hold different  levels of (perceived) power.

Power plays a role within partnerships, especially when one of the partners is a Funder looking to commission work. Power (or perceived power) often impacts how we interact with others: if we speak at a meeting or not, what we say when we do speak, if we question and challenge, if we offer a different viewpoint from the one that is most popular, or presented by the most powerful person in the room.

In a traditional funder and delivery partner relationship it can be hard for the delivery partner to add value beyond the direct ask from the funder. Thus under-utilising the expertise and knowledge of the delivery partner as well as that of the funder, as conversations are often framed around the task and do not explore the wider context.. 

On this occasion, instead of commissioning delivery partners to design a digital programme, the funder and delivery partners came together to collaboratively shape this new digital programme.

During the wonderful journey we have had together, we learned that creating equitable and effective partnership takes time, trust , respect and honesty (especially as the road to your destination seems a bit foggy). It also meant the Funder consciously needing to share power with the other members of the working group. For example: the budget for this collaboration was collectively owned and reviewed monthly by all working group members. 

This sharing of power requires trust and bravery from the funder and a real motivation to create more equitable relationships.


We found it difficult to recognise when to invite further partners in this work. Early on in our collaboration we made conscious decision to stabilise the members of the working group and once we started to ‘perform’ as a group the pace of our work excelled as the new programme’s launch date was fast approaching. Bringing new people into the working group at that output focussed stage  would have been challenging.

In our retro we reflected that we would have liked to have brought in recipients of the new digital grant fund as well as more potential delivery partners earlier into this collaboration. Their contributions would have been valuable and probably would have helped us have better sight of the roadmap from pilot to the next iteration of the programme..

We all appreciated how we could bring our whole selves to this group, together creating a safe and supportive space for us to collaborate and be humans.

Challenge 2: Define roles and responsibilities for effective collaboration on a new piece of Catalyst work, and the role a funder plays in this.

Building on challenge 1, we wanted to explore the different roles needed for this  equitable partnership to work well. None of us had been involved in this type of partnership before and although motivation counts for a lot, effective relationships need clarity around roles and responsibilities. 

There are three main perspectives within this partnership:  that of the funder, delivery partners and of the collaborative working facilitation partners. We feel there is value to share all three, highlighting our different viewpoints with you.

Funder perspective:

Delivery partners perspective:

Collaborative working facilitator perspective: (Cat and Abi to add)


The need for skills and experience within the working groups evolve over time and therefore it is good practice to regularly review the working groups membership.

Jointly managing the project budget wasn’t that hard once we identified a tool to forecast and track expenses (Google Sheet) and established a monthly ritual to check in on the budget and agree spending for the coming month.

Challenge 3: To explore and test sociocratic practices in new collaborations

From the start we were all committed to using sociocracy as a framework for our collaboration, with some of the partners already experienced in applying sociocratic practices in their ways-of-working, 

That said, using sociocratic practices within any new collaboration can be a little scary, unnerving and at the start progress can seem slow. In reality this ‘slow progress’ is a key phase in the process. It means you are getting familiar with the new practice and starting to get to know each other as you work through very concrete and practical project issues/activities. 

As we gained confidence in our practice through our weekly working group meetings, new (temporary) working group members would find ease in the rhythms of the meetings and the role of each member. Curious about our practice, a couple colleagues would come along to observe our meetings, contributing to increased understanding of our sociocratic way-of-working within wider teams. 

We also started to apply the approach in collaborations with others. Not always would we explicitly say that we were applying a sociocratic approach to conversations -there wasn’t always the time or place to go into this, or naming it might have led to people disengaging with it.  Overall the response would be that everyone part of the conversation had been able to contribute, ask questions and feel ownership over decisions that had been made. 

Our aim is to bring in sociocratic ways of working to ever more conversations we have with others, building our and their skills over time. 


Getting to know each other, building trust and understanding takes time. A lot of time. Most of this is spent in conversations exploring views, opinions, assumptions and jointly agreeing the way forward. 

In Summary

On balance the members of the working group are all very positive about this experience, each of us having gained really valuable learning and insights in working in a more equitable and inclusive way.

There are areas we identified that we could improve on as the working group and the programme evolves, however overall we smashed it! We created space by introducing collaborative parameters, which was effective, safe, fun, which supported the outcome whilst leaving a legacy of learning/process/ways of working and connections.