Session 4: Money, networks, and partnerships

V&A Museum, 17 May 2018

Our final CPD session of the year had a simple title: Money, Networks, Partnerships - the essential ingredients to take our CLC projects to the next level.

Enter Debbie Forster, serial entrepreneur and former teacher. She helped to grow the amazing Apps for Good from two London sites to a global movement in five years, earning her an MBE in the process. Debbie told us that what’s essential to successfully pursuing money, networks and partnerships - and growing idea seeds into something bigger - is one quality: determination.

‘We have to accept from the start that we will fail and that things will go wrong,' she said bluntly, adding that this philosophy will be familiar to classroom teachers, whom she called 'the great do it every day.'

We'd asked Debbie to talk to us about her Apps for Good experience, and particularly about the idea of scalability: growing a small idea into something that has real impact. In the case of Apps for Good, Debbie's leadership grew the programme's reach from 50 students in two schools to more than 75,000 students in more than 700 schools across the UK, Europe and US.

Debbie outlined seven principles she adheres to when building any enterprise (these are also the Key learnings for this session):

  1. Know your core mission and never let go. 'Plan your end game,' Debbie advised. 'Resign yourself to the fact that there's never enough money and there's never enough time.'
  2. Start small & get ready for your 'fails'. 'Hope for the best, plan for the worst and have two backup plans...and sometimes we have to make up things by the seat of our pants.'
  3. Build the team you will need tomorrow. 'This is your most important investment.' In the context of schools, Debbie said, the 'team' can be colleagues, parents, volunteers, even students...'anyone who shares your passion and commitment.'
  4. Build systems for success as quickly as possible. 'Always ask, can we scale this? Aim to innovate at all levels, but in a systemic way.'
  5. Know when to say no or pull a plug. Debbie said there's as much danger in going off-course - which she described as the 'wouldn't it be nice if...' conversation - as stopping short. 'Beware of wasting time on icing when you really need cake.'
  6. Measuring impact is essential but hard. 'Measuring doesn’t always bring good news, since data often gives us more questions than answers.'
  7. Know that you are never done. 'Keep your truth-telling core close to you... work fast enough so it scares you a bit but slow enough where you feel a bit frustrated.’

Powered by Debbie's presentation, we then spent time looking at the philosophy and process of fundraising, considering how to identify and approach potential funders and learning about the differences between dealing with corporate, trust/foundation, individual, and online fundraising.


The Cultural Leadership Community is a rare and unique programme: a forum for new ideas and best practice sharing in arts and cultural education in the context of a dynamic, changing and often challenging environment for London’s schools. It continues to be a privilege and pleasure to work with CLC teachers, and we are pleased to add members of the 2017-18 cohort to the ever-growing list of CLC ‘alumni’ who continue to find ways to innovate individually and together to help ensure that the arts and culture are central to the life and education of all young people in London, now and in future.