The Product that Generosity could be (2/7) — Stewardship Says…

A Speculative Product Roadmap for Generosity — Vision and Values Questions

Phil Pawlett Jackson
11 min readAug 29, 2019

I would hugely enjoy to develop these ideas further. I’d love to be stretched in a Product/UX team, and ultimately I hope to facilitate far-reaching social change through super-charged generosity. Friends in fintech, faith, philanthropy or other, please do be in touch if we could work together.

I am otherwise looking to nurture a group of beta-testers, anyone who’d like to experiment in generosity-games, or for updates generally, leave your details here and I’ll be in touch.

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Our Vision: For the world to encounter Jesus through the generosity of His church.

“world” ~ What is the world-as-world? How is this vision envisioned? Is this ‘world’ a soft claim ~ any subset within the world? The ambition that the gospel should be being spread within the containing environment of the world, without undue constraint to the possibility of movement to the extents of that container is a good ambition, but it does not commit the party to problem-solving establishing data-centres in all time-zones. Or, is this ‘world’ a hard claim ~ all the world? Targeting the world-as-world is a legitimate but extreme ambition ~ does Stewardship’s vision extend to an active global strategy? Are we building an app for a global market? Not merely so that missionaries in all countries have the facility to receive, but so that the global universal church in every country has the capacity to give, and so participate in the generosity of His church.

“encounter Jesus” ~ Is this measured? CAP measure lives saved via prayers-of-faith prayed, and they prioritise features accordingly. What does it mean to encounter Jesus? A casual encounter? A transformative encounter? And is the sufficiency of the encounter’s substance defined in a way that is usefully correlated to a volume of a metric of generosity? How would Stewardship know if they were succeeding at this encounter metric, what key performance indicator would show this, what data would win a product feature prioritisation argument? For example, a product team should ask, “should the Stewardship app have a budget function or an impact assessment function?” and the answer should be “which is more likely to generate more encounters with Jesus..?” You get what you measure for.

“through the generosity of His church” ~ Directly, or indirectly? That is: (1) generously funded evangelists supported to subsist on donations and to keep preaching in hard places. (2) the generosity of evangelists to successfully influence their audience, albeit risking the perverse incentives of rice-Christians, but displaying nevertheless, the generous heart of God to unbelievers. (3) the evangelistic power of a generosity observed — as it is practiced innocuously between Christians without ulterior motive. All three above have borne fruit, but it strikes me that (3) is the least resourced and the most sustainable. An app to enable that generosity, and to enable that generosity to serve a testimony of provision, which would serve evangelism, would be amazing.

Our Mission: Transforming generosity.
- Make Giving Easy
- Inspire Greater Generosity
- Strengthen Christian Causes

“Make Giving Easy” — What is easy? Obviously and self-evidently, giving shouldn’t involve gratuitous friction ~ the yoke should be easy, that is, just after you’ve first passed the eye of the needle. How does Stewardship measure easiness? If we were to build an app, we could program AI driverless giving, automated round-ups to perform machine-learnt generosity with perfect ease and zero engagement of the heart ~ what should ‘ease’ be tempered by? What sorts of friction would keep giving mindful, rather than mindless?

“Inspire Greater Generosity” — How do you know if you’ve achieved this? What is generosity, and in what direction is greater? How do you prove inspiration? What data shows causal impact? 40Acts is a great example of high-production-value publicity collateral produced to multiply activity — is this working to achieve greatness of generosity ~ fourth and fifth generation kidney donor imitators, for example? The app that inspires generosity with a greaterness of breadth, needs a call to action, and that action needs to involve making it’s own call to action to others, in a viral cascade. The app that inspires generosity with a greaterness of depth, needs a call to action which is iteratable, scalable and measurable. The comparative adjective is mischievous brilliance.

“Strengthen Christian Causes” — What is “Christian” when it is used as an adjective? What is a “cause” apart from the Christians involved in it? And what is “strength” ~ when it is not that upside-down Kingdom phenomenon where strength is shamed by the weak things of the gospel? To some extent a well-funded organisation has financial strength but a tendency to inertia. To some extent a well-trained organisation has fiscal acumen but a tendency to pharisaism. To some extent a well-resourced church disincentivises resourcefulness in its priesthood of all believers. Strengthen a church by financially training its trainers, strengthen a church by buttressing it’s reserves, strengthen a student by sponsoring their improvement, strengthen a Christian by managed doses of persecution exposure therapy, strengthen a weight-lifter by adding more weight, strengthen a cyclist by removing the stabilisers? Can we build an app which retains the paradox of Christian strength ~ gamifying a race-to-the-bottom in utter Christ-dependence in tandem with raising a generation of virtuoso financial stewards.

Our Values:
- Generosity
- Integrity
- Relationship
- Excellence

“Generosity” — Does Stewardship have a definition of this? How is it measured? Must it require sacrifice? Must it require risk? Must it be a conspicuous fiscal priority when audited? What does this look like when it is prioritised by an organisation? How is Stewardship managing to be actually generous, and what does it, as a Charity, have within its gift/domain with which to be demonstrably generous ~ it is very difficult for a Charity to be generous and fair with the funds it has ~ so if Stewardship can solve for this dilemma, it can solve it for all the charities? Could an entity in fact be more generous if it was not bound by Charity law’s constraints on the disposal of assets etc? Is generosity a practice that Stewardship as a group of individuals practices in an imitatable way? Could we build an app that was intrinsically generous, in its process and product, in its development and maintenance, in its code base and dev remuneration? Could we build an app with a team, for whom the method of making it was a parable for the product itself?

“Integrity” ~ Does Stewardship have a definition of this? How is it measured? What does this look like when it is prioritised by an organisation? Beyond mere honest decency and professional propriety ~ this is a top four value ~ how is this made a distinct priority, what would a stretch goal look like, how could this be evidenced, how could this be exemplary, how could this be extreme? Could start from this in building an app, aim to create a money management, account aggregating, financially advising, economically inclusive app which had the most integrity of any app in the marketplace? Is this a practice that Stewardship as an organisation and group of individuals practices in an imitatable way? Would it be integrity for Stewardship to run on Stewardship? Does Stewardship eat its own dog-food? Do all the employees give through Stewardship? Could all the departments/functions/individuals of Stewardship be funded through receiving via Stewardship? Could the direction of travel for the development of Stewardship as an app/platform be directed by Stewardship’s own needs as the preeminent user of Stewardship? At least in a sandbox, could StewardshipLabs be financed, payrolled, expensed and supported entirely through the platform they are building?

“Relationship” ~ More on this? Relationship is a weighty and potentially measurable thing, and a multi-dimensional thing. Everything is relationship, but to use it honorifically as a value, implies some quality of loving commitment, covenanted proximity. The dynamite of Stewardship’s ability to qualitatively and quantitatively influence giving, is to be found in the radical relationality of much of the peer-to-peer giving already transacted on the platform which is a USP largely taken for granted. When I support a missionary financially, I can see the whites of their eyes, I say to them: “this chunk of my salary is now a chunk of your salary indefinitely..” with no anonymisation, no abstracted means testing ~ it is sheer I-Thou, a harrowing relational proximity — Patreon and GoFundMe are not touching this. I’d vote to build out an app from this value, this bedrock of face-to-face accountability and mutual mission.

“Excellence” ~ Excellence vs what? Versus mediocrity? What does mediocre giving look like? Excellence could be a very interesting, non-self-evident, non-tautological, category — prioritising competitive exclusive hierarchical cutting-edge excellence over against softer sympathetic inclusion of vague and lack-lustre giving? Nurturing excellence in a hothouse for elite and extreme givers? And from that, demonstrating the excellence of comprehensively generous modes of business and civic organisation? Everyone wants excellence if it merely means not-bad, but it is controversial to define what excellence prioritised against? Excellence at what cost? Excellence by what measure? Good is the enemy of the best. To get to excellence what is Stewardship’s process for de-prioritising less-than-excellence? And what would that experience be like in an app? Can we build an app to make me a less mediocre giver?

Our Ambition
- Stewardship aims to unite the evangelical Christian community in the UK around a vision for radical expressions of biblical generosity. Whether rich, poor or in between, we will support this community to give generously and receive abundantly to ensure that every believer is resourced to share the gospel in a biblically based and culturally relevant manner. Every church or ministry has access to governance support and back office services plus financial health checks to allow them to stay focussed on their mission.

“Unite” — Unity via what? Incidental parallel non-compete ambitions that are not incompatible? Coexistence and mutual tolerance towards vague cooperation at the highest level of abstraction? Or strong unity, towards singularity of vision interdependent as-body unity of purpose coordinating elaborate diversity to address very complex national social problems at a granular level? Basic financial transparency and generous interdependence could be a bridge. Today, a combination of individualistic theology and frictionless social technology risks exponentially polarising and permanently schisming churches across doctrinal convictions and generational demographics. [I’ll try to expand this in Part 4 of 7 — Burning Platform] It is my conviction that restoring church enfranchisement to the intergenerational household scale would have a significant stabilising and unifying effect on the church at large, and on the nation it seeks to minister to. Those resilient units of holistic hospitality, teaching, accountability, nurture and production need to have financial enfranchisement. Could we position a giving platform infrastructure as the unifying agent — mediating those forces which divide?

“Every believer … every church” ~ Every. Yes brilliant emphasis Every. Single. (vs ‘all’ generically) ~ how is the each and every attended to in Stewardship’s practice? Every user, every persona, every diverse ability digitally included. What approach to user-centred design would successfully preach to the congregation that’s not on-boarded yet. How is the user-experience tailorable to diverse needs ~can this platform be customised in both appearance and function and still offer the same experience of participating in unity of givers?

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1. Launch a new mobile interface for our Giving Accounts that will make it even easier to use the rich features we provide.
3. Launch a new set of services for those with international and complex giving requirements, in partnership with peer organisations in the US, Switzerland and across the world

“Launch.” Let’s.

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What Is In Store for the Future: Where We Want To Be In 2025
• Be the market leader in providing philanthropy services to the Christian community.
• Be the catalyst for a fresh movement of radical biblical generosity throughout the UK.
• Promote excellence in “stewardship” across the church in the UK.

“Be the catalyst for a fresh movement” ~ Catalyst for fresh is loaded, fighting talk conjuring a novel thing ~ what is wrong with the current movement? Fighting talk demands commensurate innovation over and against the current ‘movement’ or stasis, of which, presumably, current Stewardship is a part? So a new outcome requires a new method ~ what method? How does one position organisation-as-catalyst? The freshness means newness, newness involves risk and the ruffling of feathers. How are other legacy banks and charities doing this — with all the risks of sensitive information at scale, and the friction and tech-debt of in-use systems? Intrapreneurship is in view. Can the current offering be containerised in such as way that a portfolio of other products and microservices can run within the same new portal cleanly?

What is catalytic? A catalyst isn’t the fuel or the fire-pit. In this metaphor, can a catalytic Stewardship widget sit inside the challenger bank apps as the philanthropy partner service — running payment on their rails, giving them the credit, but certificating as charitable as Stewardship?

“Biblical” ~ Yes. Brilliant. Some definition needed. And this could more comprehensively be applied as hypertexted footnotes throughout Stewardship’s self-understanding. What is biblical generosity, as distinct from generosity? How does Stewardship position itself as interpreter, responsible for rightly handling this? How is the bible positioned in app ~ foreground as conscious conspicuous pointers to help users think about each financial through a biblical lens, or background, as the influence in colour choices, default options, and subliminal nudges? How could this be positioned in app? What is the best way to infuse this biblicality? What is the best way to disambiguate generosities from specifically biblical generosity? What does Stewardship understand as it’s pedagogical and exegetical responsibility? Islamic Fintechs and Triodos are lucrative enterprises making explicitly available the rationale for the services they offer and the decisions they are making with the users’ money ~ biblical banking is a massively under-supplied, and certainly under-explained market sector.

“Radical” ~ Yes. Excellent. Not everything radical is biblical. Is everything biblical radical? Is the radicality the volume, the sacrifice, the novelty, the originality, the closeness-to-the-early-church, the distance-from-the-current-cultural-norm, the authenticity? I’m interested in that which is not tautological, and I’m interested in limit-testing this suggestion, and I’m interested in an app for that. Extreme giving, civilly disobedient giving, coin-in-fish’s-mouth giving, widow’s-all-she-had-to-live-on giving, I-will-pay-back-four-times-what-I-cheated giving, go-and-sell-all-you-have-then-follow-me giving ~ I’m less interested in the peculiarities of these cases from the text, than I am driven by the idea of a plausible app that Stewardship could build that would not make such radical biblical cases impracticable.

3. Digital and Technology
We are fundamentally an online platform where clients choose to interact with us primarily over a digital interface of some sort. … This year we have rebuilt our main customer interface and are following through with a programme for a new platform on which products and services can be added in a secure, agile and responsive fashion.

“new platform on which products and services can be added” ~ Platform-As-A-Service? Could Stewardship be the middleware operating system for all philanthropy? The Stripe of giving? The altruism-ratification arm of Open Banking? A GiftHub (if you will..)~ a reusable open-source, code repository of charitable identities, behaviours and impact analytics? Stewardship as the platform to supercharge all third party third sector services via integrations? Stewardship could go upstream from the ambition to be the “market leader in providing philanthropy services to the Christian community” to instead being the “market leader in providing a technical code base, regulatory standards, banking/accounting integrations, secure hosing and robust APIs for those providing technical services for those providing philanthropy services to the Christian community..”

“secure, agile and responsive” ~ Yes, yes and yes. Is this roadmap public? Could it be?



Phil Pawlett Jackson

Illustration, Copywriting, & PM for Digital Product and Architecture for Social Good. Keen to learn & collaborate on projects & mischief