Charity Conference

Question relentlessly and evaluate fearlessly

By John Copps 16 January 2013

This morning NPC and CFG welcomed over 350 charity leaders to discuss what ‘impact leadership’ means, and how we can use the concept to drive change in our organisations. The conference, held at the Brewery in London (also site of NCVO’s annual conference in previous years), offers a packed programme of interactive workshops, networking and panel sessions.

NPC’s Dan Corry introduced the conference, arguing that not understanding your impact is like ‘trying to steer a boat without a rudder’. CFG’s Karen Bradshaw followed, saying that impact was not just the responsibility of one person but was everyone’s concern.

In the opening plenary, David Robinson, founder of Community Links and doyen of the UK charitable sector, offered a timely reminder that charity leaders must carve time out from day-to-day work to focus on strategy and impact.

Recalling his school-teacher, who was fond of telling students ‘don’t just sit there day-dreaming, do something’, he said the opposite is now true. We must find time to think through the big questions about mission and delivering impact. Of course he’s right, but we all know that it’s easier said than done.

In doing this, measurement and evaluation has never been more important, he argued. And we have a compelling reason to measure—to help people, to change the world, to save a little bit of nature for our children. He was critical of organisations whose focus on impact was driven purely by fundraising and marketing.

On leadership, David Robinson argued for an attitude of relentless questioning, continuous change and fearless evaluation. Competent managers keep organisations going, great leaders look beyond the organisation boundaries to the wider mission. Competent managers prevent problems, but great leaders solve them.

The importance of all these issues is reflected in the buzz in the conference hall, the diversity of participants and the fact that many organisations have brought several members of their team along for the day. Among others we are pleased to welcome participants from the British Heart Foundation, the Canal and River Trust, Voluntary Action Leicester, and the UK Sailing Academy—so thanks for coming!

We look forward to the rest of the day with anticipation. If you’ve not been able to make it you can follow NPC’s live tweets @NPCthinks or by searching #impactconf2013.

Question relentlessly; change continuously; fail thoughtfully; collaborate ruthlessly; evaluate courageously.

David Robinson, #impactconf2013