Talking about working together

Everyone is agreed that charities are facing tough times. What’s less clear is what is the way forward for charities and how they can maximise their impact when resources are under pressure. One way that NPC put forward back in February was for charities to work together to think about their ‘impact network‘, how they work within the larger system to make a difference to people’s lives. Thinking about impact networks would mean that remaining resources are allocated to the activities most effective in delivering outcomes.

So it was gratifying that a charity CEO came to NPC having read the report and wishing that the sector she worked in collaborated a bit more. We agreed to facilitate a workshop for the CEOs or trustees of the main players in the sector to think about what the weaknesses of the sector were and where they could work together. It turned out that she wasn’t the only CEO who thought the sector needed to work together more—there was great enthusiasm in the room for more collaboration on issues and honesty about the weaknesses and strengths of the sector.

We spent a long time working through a SWOT analysis for the sector. As you can imagine there were plenty of threats at the moment, but also optimism about some of the opportunities that were presenting themselves. And then NPC lead the group through an impact network for the sector and some of the ways they could work together—eg, having a strategy for the sector that can lead to more services being joined up, or sharing staff.

What I found quite surprising is how there aren’t that many forums for CEOs to think strategically like this as a sector and to share information. Even quite simple information is not readily available—for example, not everyone was clear about what each other’s organisations did. And one of the things that came up as a barrier to closer working was that people couldn’t be sure about the quality of each other’s services—yet again coming back to the idea that measurement cannot be bespoke but has to be comparable across services and organisations. We came out of the workshop with a list of 14 things that they thought would improve shared working in the sector which are being worked on by the participants. Hopefully, this sector will now be able to move forward and be able to maximise its impact.