The report How To Be Wrong is released today. It is the product of 50 or so people working in funding organisations, public systems and civil society. We read, met, reflected and wrote down ideas over a two year period. The ideas in the report feel useful to those of us in the network. But the real test is whether anybody outside our group is interested. We want to see if the ideas travel, and develop.

It started with conversations between a few of us about place and scale. We talked about what the words ‘place’ and ‘scale’ meant, and how we would translate them into meaningful change in communities. We recognised there was a lot to learn. Others shared our appetite for knowledge, and before too long our group coalesced into a formal network.

At the beginning, there was a strong anti-body reaction to the standard approach to outcome evaluation, and to the new public management paradigm that frames the work of foundations, public systems and other funders. But these complaints are not new, and the arguments can be a little one sided.

We could say we were inspired by figuring out new ways of learning. But that would be a lie. For the most part we were inspired by what we read and the shared ideas that came out of our conversations about the reading. 

Gradually, and without a plan to do so, these shared ideas were committed to paper, and eventually formed the report we release today.

Our primary conclusion is that we can learn as much if not more from our mistakes as from our triumphs, if indeed there are any triumphs. While we are not paid to make mistakes, they inevitably happen. But we are paid to be clear about our decisions regarding public expenditure. Clarity about decisions will result in transparency about mistakes. If the mistakes are going to be reported, we had better learn from them.

The learning, by default, becomes as important as the outcomes we are trying to achieve. 

Our report is short and sure. The reality of life is more complicated. That much is clear from the series of podcasts and blogs released over the next four months to accompany the publication.

Our hope is you will read, listen and reflect. Write to us and tell us what you think at: [email protected] or on social media using #HowToBeWrong. 

If there is sufficient interest we may reconvene one more time to reflect on what has been learned. If not we may deduce that our ideas, like so many others, are simply wrong.

Jill Baker, Lloyds Bank Foundation of England and Wales
Michael Little, Ratio

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