Sarah-Jayne Williams, a Director of Customer Management at BearingPoint UK Ltd, one of Europe’s leading management and technology consulting firms, is one of our “pro bono experts”. She recently led a six-person BearingPoint team that helped Impetus (now Impetus-PEF) investee Shannon Trust review its current delivery model and craft a new one that would enable the organisation to double the number of people it helps. Here, she describes the project and what she enjoys about working on Impetus projects.
Shannon Trust is a charity that aims to reduce reoffending through the promotion of literacy in prisons. Its goal was to extend the reach of its Toe by Toe reading programme and double the number of prisoners learning to read, over the next three years. While the core elements of the programme (peer-led learning using the Toe by Toe manual, with an official “advocate” within the prison and a volunteer coordinator liaising with the Shannon Trust office) were established in each prison, it was recognised that there were many differences from prison to prison in terms of how the programme was delivered, impacting consistency and quality of its provision, as well as its ability to grow.
Impetus invited BearingPoint to help Shannon Trust achieve its ambitious growth plans by reviewing the current delivery model, identifying best practices, developing a future operational strategy and creating a roadmap to embed the changes. As Shannon Trust has a high dependency on a large volunteer network, it was critical to engage the volunteers, to bring them with us on the journey. We ran a survey across the volunteer network and held workshops and interviews to help understand the current model and what changes were required to grow the impact of Shannon Trust.
The outcomes of the project were detailed analyses and a set of recommendations that addressed Shannon Trust’s vision and growth, people and organisation, marketing and communications, recruitment and retention, and metrics and tools. The level of support we received from the Shannon Trust leadership team and the broad support and engagement of the volunteer network were critical to the project’s success.
Our hope is that Shannon Trust will indeed be able to double the number of prisoners that it reaches with its reading programme and ultimately, with that, reduce reoffending and increase the quality of people’s lives. That includes being able to get jobs, being able to have confidence and self-esteem, and to actually become participants within their communities rather than remaining on the outside.
Our BearingPoint CSR programme started a couple of years ago, when we began to look at how we could use our consulting skills to benefit the charitable sector. Since we had little knowledge of the sector, we were looking for a safe and impactful way of contributing.
We found Impetus and thought they provided a clear framework that enabled us to begin to do pro bono consulting in an environment that is very outcome-focused. We liked the fact that our projects would be part of a bigger programme of work that was already taking charities on a journey of growth rather than just a single intervention. Our CEO, Stefan Spohr, fully supported the initiative and encouraged us to partner with Impetus because contributing to society is simply the right thing to do.
Another reason we wanted to work with Impetus was because of its Investment Executives, to have that safety net of working alongside someone who knows the sector, who knows some of the do’s and don’ts. On this project we worked with Impetus’s Meredith Niles, who helped us understand the critical issues and how to navigate them. She was our guide and also provided additional insights from the sector that we would not have had otherwise. There is no doubt, she was invaluable!
The biggest difference that we find between this pro bono work and our commercial work is the huge appreciation that we get when we are doing work with the different charities, which creates a different energy in the team from what you would typically see in a commercial project.
Everyone who has been involved on Impetus projects will say that they feel completely privileged to have been part of them because of the huge amount of enthusiasm and support the charities give to the work that is done. They definitely come away from these projects with a sense that they have done something valuable and have enjoyed being part of it. The CSR work we are doing with Impetus is definitely one pillar that shapes a BearingPoint culture that our people want to work in, and our culture is a key factor in retaining our people. What I love the most about Impetus is that it has great vision, great people and you are part of a strategic plan to take a charity from where they are, to much greater scale and impact. That is very satisfying indeed.