Fellow first

  • Esra'a Al Shafei
We are not in philanthropy to simply donate money. Instead, we wish to grow the future leaders of the open movement: the Shuttleworth Fellows. These brave people are reimagining the world in which we live, building social justice through open strategies. They need access to the best data, correct information, most appropriate tools, and the right amount of sense-making to make informed decisions, educated guesses, and be the masters of their destiny. Fellows are our priority and focus. We are not funders. We are enablers.
We want to make philanthropy more purposeful and efficient over time, but that process has to start with ourselves. Every encounter with us should be delightful, have meaning, and be necessary - not an overhead or complication. From a brief inquiry to a lifetime relationship, support of all Fellows - prospective, current, or alumni - is at the core of what we do. They are courageous and motivated and make considerable personal sacrifices to pursue their vision. Our role is to ensure their minds and efforts are focused on the change they want to make in the world, rather than the administrative burden of pleasing a funder.
This is paramount. It does not mean Fellows do as they desire or demand. It simply means that we weigh every ask against the greater context. Overheads, admin, paperwork; all should all be as frictionless as possible, and only ever for a practical and clearly articulated purpose that feeds into our shared vision. We should always solve the problem rather than complete the task and be clear on the reasoning behind every requirement.
Our FELLOW FIRST philosophy:
F: fast, decisive action today is better than perfect action tomorrow
E: empathise: the problem they are working on is harder than ours
L: learn what is important in each instance, let that guide priorities
L: listen, and respond in kind
O: obscure not where we are in any given process
W: why, five times why
F: front-load the asks, make them deliberate, useful, and timely
I: iterate with the Shuttleworth team first - the answer may already be out there
R: reduce friction at every opportunity, fill in as many blanks as possible
S: speak, conversation is king
T: telephones solve problems faster than email
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