Why the most difficult time for planning strategy may be the right time


Hannah Barker


As we move into a new phase of the Covid-19 crisis, there is a need – and hopefully now some opportunity – for organisations across the social sector to step back, take stock and determine what is next.

The implications of the crisis for charities are huge and far-reaching – from staffing changes and digital upskilling, to reacting to the changing needs of beneficiaries.

At the start of the pandemic it was almost impossible for organisations to work out what COVID would mean for them longer term. Now, as demand for services increases and new social issues emerge, many are having to face pivotal questions about their future.

Whether it is working out how to reach more people, or deciding how to prioritise and adapt to maximise future impact, many charities need support to think through the road ahead. Crucially, they also need to ensure their plans are sustainable.

As a result we have adapted Spring Impact’s UK Scale Accelerator programme to support organisations who are at a crossroads and need to pivot to maximise impact in a changed world. This is a six month programme, fully-funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, where charities and social enterprises get access to a dedicated team of expert consultants and join a small group of other organisations on a similar journey.

Partnering for impact
Lots of organisations we work with have been spurred on to do more and reach more people with the work they do – going deeper to address the array of social issues that have been worsened by COVID. Partnerships are proving to be a particularly popular way of scaling impact in a sustainable way, as the ethos of ‘stronger together’ has grown.

One such organisation is KeyRing, which supports people to build the strengths and skills to improve their own lives, reducing their dependence on public services and enabling them to contribute to their communities. Many supported living providers want to replicate KeyRing’s success, but find it challenging within their current models and contract constraints.

Rather than KeyRing just providing support to more people directly, they are launching a collaborative endeavour to support larger providers to overcome the barriers they face. This will scale the number of people who can benefit from the type of empowering support they offer.

Navigating the cross roads
We are also seeing other organisations keen to re-evaluate. While they are not in a position to think about scaling right now, they also know they can’t carry on delivering their programmes and services in the same way as they did six months ago.

For example, through the Scale Accelerator we have also worked with Franklin Scholars, which helps young people, often those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop the skills and self-belief to navigate tricky transitions and reach their potential.

Before COVID-19, this was a huge social issue – but the pandemic has changed the shape and magnitude of it. The return to school after months of lockdown comes alongside a widening educational gap between children from different backgrounds.

While Franklin Scholars is ambitious about meeting the huge demand across the country, it is also realistic about its own resource limitations. We are now helping the team develop a package of digital resources and light-touch support so that schools anywhere in the country can run Franklin Scholars’ fantastic peer mentoring programme and reach many more children than the team could on its own.

Time for change
Every mission-driven organisation will need to think about how they adapt to meet more demand, different demand, or to do more with less.

In one sense, it’s a really tough time to think about strategy. At a time of chaos, uncertainty, and change, there are lots of more immediate issues on everyone’s minds.

But if the sector is to step up to the level of demand out there right now and work collaboratively together to meet the needs of individuals and communities across the country, it’s also precisely the right time.

Hannah Barker is Scale Accelerator Programme Manager at Spring Impact

Organisations have one week left to apply for Scale Accelerator. Applications close on 12 August 2020 – to apply visit http://www.scaleaccelerator.org

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