#67: On interesting
And a special welcome to all new subscribers
I was going to publish another Q&A this week. But since we've had an influx of new subscribers—most via Dense Discovery (welcome DDers!)—I thought I'd take the opportunity to give everyone a bit of context.
Pass It On exists to help the tech and non-profit sectors learn from each other. I think most of you know this; hopefully, it's one of the main reasons you subscribed. If not, that's okay too. I'm thrilled you're here either way.
I started Pass It On in November 2020. Peak pandemic. At the time, the UK charity sector was facing a £10bn funding shortfall and struggling with the remote work transition. Meanwhile, Big Tech was thriving. As someone working in Tech experiencing neither funding nor teamwork pressures, this disparity troubled me. I wanted to do something to help.
The reason I knew about the non-profit sector's challenges is because my dad told me about them. My dad has worked in the UK non-profit sector for 20 years, mostly at the local and regional level, often on the front lines. If he and I hadn't spoken to each other so frequently and candidly during those long covid months, Pass It On would likely not exist.
Nearly 70 issues and 1000 subscribers later, here we all are. Today, Pass It On's scope is much broader and braver than at the beginning. It's no longer about the tech industry "helping" non-profits by sharing its expert knowledge. (I've come to recognise the hubris in that early ambition, and I'm a bit embarrassed by it.) Instead, it's about taking a few minutes to escape our professional echo chambers and embrace something unfamiliar. If everyone built this habit, I believe we'd build a much better world.
Despite this conviction, I didn't expect the project to be so formative on a personal level. One major cause is the writing. There are now >65,000 words in the Pass It On archive—enough to make up a short novel or respectable PhD submission, so ChatGPT tells me. A lot of growing and learning has happened through those words. I've got better at writing and, by extension, at thinking. Writing is the ultimate process for realising you don't know what you're talking about. It's also, as Farnam Street says, the process by which you figure it out. In the early days, I only wanted to write something useful; now, I only want to write something interesting. But it's taken 2+ years of writing and thinking to start understanding what interesting means to me and daring to share it. These three issues are probably the bests experiments so far:
Then there are the people. To date, 37 generous humans have contributed to Pass It On through takeovers or Q&As. Most didn't know me or the newsletter when I first got in touch but still saw the mission's potential. We've heard from founders of campaign groups, charities, creative collectives, community interest companies, digital agencies, organisational consultancies, social enterprises, sustainability movements, social impact orgs, startups, and tech non-profits. We've learned from experts in anti-racism, confidence, community-building, collaboration, creativity, design, emerging technology, feminist leadership, futures thinking, inclusive communication, impact investing, product development, strategy, tech public affairs, and trusteeship. Behind every guest’s story and piece of advice is a staggering amount of grit, compassion, and brilliance. It's a privilege to uncover it.
So where do we go from here? Right now, Q&As and thoughts are brewing on digital dignity, knowledge vs. understanding, the meritocracy myth, social purpose, and slow shipping. I'd love to share some ideas from you as well:
What do you work with?
What's keeping you up at night?
What piece of advice or tip would you want to pass on?
How do you think the tech and non-profit sectors can come closer together?
Let me know by replying to this email, and we can make a little feature out of it.
Thanks so much for being here,
PS Dense Discovery readers: check out my recent Q&A with Kai Brach. He rarely does interviews!