OC&C Partner Tom Gladstone has worked on two projects for our portfolio charities. Here he recounts the highlights and challenges of his experience.
What are the skills you need to do your job?
It is quite an interesting mix. Partly, it is analytical skills; gathering evidence and interpreting data to come up with insights and recommendations that support our clients in making key commercial decisions. Secondly, it’s a set of softer skills around communications – around presenting our insight and recommendations clearly, both in writing and verbally, so clients get clear, pragmatic advice. Finally it’s around working with people – both your own team and with clients.
What did you do in your work with Impetus – PEF*?
I have worked on a couple of projects with Impetus – PEF. In the first one of these, Impetus – PEF was looking at getting involved with a charity called Leap Confronting Conflict, and they asked us to do some due diligence to help them figure out if that was a charity they should invest in (which turned into a broader piece of work looking at Leap‘s strategic focus).
In terms of the process we followed, it was similar in many ways to how we work on our commercial projects. We ran a wide interview programme, with organisations that Leap has worked with, experts within that sector, and internally within Leap. We looked at what Leap‘s competitors were doing, and how Leap‘s activities compared to them in reach, scope and quality. We also did some analysis of the programs that Leap had been running, to look at how much impact the various Leap programmes were having and what was being spent on them. Finally, we looked at how Leap ran internally and implications for what would be easy or difficult to scale up.
The first thing that came out of that was that Leap was clearly recognised as a leader in their field and had something really valuable to offer the community. The other major issue was that they would benefit from some help with their strategy. At the time, Leap had six or seven areas in which they were working, and we recommended they should focus on two or three areas, where they would add more value. We went through the process and identified those two or three areas where they would get the bigger bang for their buck, and which were more scalable.
In what ways was your work with Impetus – PEF different to what you do in your “day job”?
While the process we went through took a lot from the work that we would do in the commercial sector, because it is a charity it also forced us to look at some things in a very different way.
In the social sector, the decisions are not ultimately about how you can make more money, but how you can help more people and how you can have a greater social impact. This means that the criteria by which you judge success are very different – and much less tangible to measure than how much money an organisation is generating.
There is also a softer element that you need to be aware of when working in the voluntary sector, and it is the fact that people have invested a lot of their time – sometimes their lives in fact – in these organisations. You have to recognise why people work and what motivates them. We need to listen carefully and really understand the context, the environment in which they are working, to understand their views on the issues and what is going on, particularly at the grass roots level.
Have you personally ever worked with a charity before?
No, this was my first time.
Were you part of a team?
Yes, we had a team of four or five OC&C consultants, some working full-time on this project, for four weeks. We were structured pretty much in a similar way to how we would do it for one of our customers. I was the team manager, so I was dealing with Leap on a day-to-day basis.
In the end you concluded that Impetus – PEF should invest in Leap?
How was the experience for you?
I really enjoyed it! It was a fantastic learning experience getting involved in a sector where you have not worked before. From a selfish perspective, it was a good feeling helping a charity, especially because I was helping a charity in the way where I could add most value. I could have offered my time to paint some walls, I could have made a donation, but in many ways what made it fun for me was the feeling that I had a bigger impact by applying what I learnt from my day job – giving them the strategic advice to help them be more focused and to make the most of their future opportunities. There is a real satisfaction of making a contribution in the best possible way.
Have you stayed in touch with Leap?
Yes. Three years later, we did a follow up piece of work with Impetus – PEF on Leap, and it was fantastic to see the team again and the progress of the organisation. The amount of people they are now helping is phenomenal. They have grown three or four times from when we worked with them. They were a leader in the sector the first time we looked at them; when we met them the second time around three years later, they weren’t just seen as leaders but were now seen as an authority in their area. It is really pleasing to see how far they have come, and know that the help we gave them was useful. It is very satisfying and reinforces the fact that the time we spent working with Impetus – PEF gives real benefits on the ground.
What do you like about working with Impetus – PEF?
All Impetus – PEF projects are fantastic things to do. They give people a chance to make their contribution more effectively. It gives people the chance to learn. We make sure the Impetus – PEF projects become a platform for our people to advance. It gives them more exposure, helps them develop leadership skills. These are the sort of projects that are the reason why people join us. People are looking for this kind of thing.
What I like about Impetus – PEF is that they try to go to places where other people might not like to go. Credit to Impetus – PEF for selecting charities dealing with some of the really hard-to-crack issues in society that can get overlooked. What they do is absolutely critical.
The other thing that is very important is their multiplier effect. What Impetus – PEF does is to help charities transform themselves. Impetus – PEF in general makes you feel that your advice as a consultant is helping an organisation make a step change rather than just incremental improvements. Seeing commercial organisations change is fulfilling, but when it is a charitable organisation and you can see the impact that it has on the ground, it feels even better.
Everybody participating in these projects found it worthwhile. Working with Impetus – PEF was a really good experience and I hope there are many more projects to come.
*Impetus Trust at time of activity