Testing the feasibility of a programme of strategy support

Nicola Pritchard

As part of our work for the Childhood Trust we’ve been exploring the challenges and opportunities for supporting children’s charities with their individual and shared strategy development. So far we’ve published our aims for the work, the key challenges uncovered and some of the areas our research has shown to need to more support.

We’ve since been reflecting on what all of this might mean for a strategic programme of support for the sector. What shape might it take and who might be involved? Before working through ideas for the design of the programme we first decided to come to  a shared understanding of the space we see the programme occupying, using the three broad spectrums below.

Individual support versus shared strategy support

Our interviews indicated that efforts at developing shared strategies are often undermined when participating organisations do not have the necessary culture, values or trust processes to collaborate fully. We believe a programme of work would need to begin by building those foundations with individual organisations first, strengthening relationships and creating common ground along the way, before focusing on a shared strategy programme later on.

Depth of support versus breadth of support

We agreed that deeper, longer lasting impact tends to come from focusing on a smaller group of organisations in a more substantive way. The problems in the sector that we see most clearly, have their roots in a range of other, more concealed structural and attitudinal barriers that also need to be addressed.  For this reason it is better for the programme to focus on the right-hand side of this spectrum, working with fewer organisations at a deeper level.

Content led versus experience led

We agreed that any successful package of support for leaders would have to include a combination of content relevant to their experiences – informed by data and experts – as well as a peer support element where leaders can learn from their colleagues about what has worked in their experience.

So where does this leave us?

We know that charities face a number of common challenges to building their resilience and working strategically with others; these challenges range from visible and practical challenges to more deep rooted structural and attitudinal challenges. For this programme to have a longer-term impact we believe it is important to focus in and work with a small cohort. However, we also recognise that charities will have different needs—some might benefit from individual organisational support initially, whilst others might have bigger ambitions to form meaningful strategic partnerships with peers, and need help in making this happen.

We’re therefore proposing a programme with two pathways, taking place over a two year period initially. Both of these pathways will be co-designed with the cohort to ensure they are aligned to their organisation’s needs and their own individual learning style and approach.

  • Pathway 1 will support a cohort of approx. 12-15 charity leaders to build their capacity and strengthen their organisation’s strategy and resilience as it navigates the COVID-19 recovery. This will involve onboarding of these leaders, co-design, and participation in a programme of individual strategy support in the form of workshops, action learning sets, a peer network, and individual consultancy support.
  • Pathway 2 will support a sub-section of this cohort to continue strategy development with a focus on how the cohort of charities can collaborate and align their aims and activities to maximise impact.

Here’s an overview roadmap for our proposed programme – in our next blog post we’ll be sharing more detail about the design of the programme itself, and the type of work we expect to do in each phase.

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