Along with many others I am reflecting on 2015 whilst getting ready for a very exciting 2016. Keeping the focus on my favourite topic social outcomes whilst connecting with the most relevant governance arrangements I reflect on the best lessons I gained from 2015.
The dialogue around social outcomes and governance arrangements has been topical throughout 2015 but unfortunately not always together. Having led a demonstration model of how social outcomes and governance arrangements can be aligned through #GoodSave (Good Beginnings Australia becoming part of Save The Children Australia) I have learned a lot about what it takes to be collaboration ready. The importance of being collaboration ready is one of the key ingredients of the Social Connect platform and key to keeping the balance of power between social outcomes and governance arrangements.
Throughout the later part of 2015 there was a lot of talk about the risk of the smaller local charities being dominated by larger charities should a merger or acquisition take place. I feel rightly placed to respond to this debate from two experiences namely leading #GoodSave and through my PhD studies. My studies are focused on better understanding of governance arrangements that influence decision–making at the local level and my explorations are based on the most contemporary and global thought on this topic.
With any statement of smaller charities being at risk I argue that whilst this must be mitigated the bigger risk is for Not For Profit organisations or Charities (no matter their size) being focused on organisation growth rather than growing their outcomes. This is so important I shall repeat this message:
Grow the outcomes not grow the organisation (JMT2015)
Keeping the sentiment of growth in its rightful place ensures that no matter the size of the For Social Purpose organisation the most fitting governance arrangements become a secondary decision. #GoodSave provides a great example of this. During the first half of 2015 much of the work on #GoodSave was standard due diligence which is reported well in many of the Not For Profit governance and performance guidance documents (AICD; HLB Mann Judd; NOUS Group– there are many more!)
In the second half of 2015 #GoodSave has been developed as a case study and throughout the year I have shared the focus on outcomes and purpose discussions. These began as far back as mid 2013 where the ‘being collaboration ready’ journey really began. Much of this journey was discussed at the Community Council CEO and Board leader forums throughout the end of 2015.
Mid December 2015 Pro Bono promoted the thoughts of George Liacos (Spark Strategy)and his reflection of ‘ The Not For Profit Year That Was 2015’.
Liacos’s presented an excellent summary and expressed some great sentiments regarding the future focus for 2016 and beyond:
What’s needed is an alignment of interests, from a coalition of courageous leaders, unearthing and trying models of practical sustainable and enduring impact.
I also like Liacos’s summary of what this involves and particularly his suggested focus for each sector:
- A strong, dynamic and sustainable social sector
- A purposeful private sector
- A solutions-focused philanthropic sector
- An enabling and bridge building public sector
All of the above requires a focus on growing the outcomes first rather than the growing of organisations –again it’s not the size of the organization it is how collaboration ready it is and of course how clearly the outcomes are articulated and understood.
Unfortunately it is a fact that social issues are increasing and funds to cover these are decreasing. I hasten to add this is not something that the Community Council of Australia or anyone else has fabricated – it is an unfortunate global statistic. It is futile to focus efforts on how best to raise funds, placing increased energy on growing governance arrangements, as this is so pre 2016!
What is needed for 2016 and beyond is quite the opposite. Being clear on outcomes to be achieved and then considering the most effective governance arrangements to suit. The governance arrangements could be in the form of an alliance or merger or acquisition or combination like #GoodSave was (merger/acquisition). It is also important to encourage these discussions and particularly the media to not antagonize the debate but to encourage the discussions that need to be held. I add to Liacos’s list of focus a fifth bullet point representing the fourth sector – media:
- A conduit for communication that enables social outcomes
Throughout 2016 and beyond as the media writes about the For Social Purpose sector lets ensure the social outcome is set as the priority call for action.
As part of the 2015 November and December CEO and Board leaders forums a great call for action was made encouraging leaders of For Social Purpose to put self-interest aside to minimize duplication that is creating significant amount of wasted effort. Collaboration and possible mergers should be part of future planning and not just an item on Board agendas. So in thinking about #GoodSave and the period of becoming collaboration ready between 2013 – 2015 with my minds eye on 2016 and beyond I summarise my reflections.
#GoodSave What went well:
The most important development from #GoodSave was the opportunity for enhanced outcomes. The ability to expand to 150 locations across Australia and be measured through a bold goal that Australian children will be school ready enabled the vision of Good Beginnings Australia to be immediately expanded – a good beginning for every Australian child.
In addition expertise of Good Beginnings Australia staff is being preserved at Save The Children and their role is critical as ever in supporting families in need.
#GoodSave – What didn’t go well:
The biggest challenge was getting the culture of the two organisations to align and although much attention was applied to this it is an area that could always be improved. A great example was how the two organisations treated flexible working arrangements – one with more structure and one with more spontaneity. Another example was how much communication about the possible change could and should have been shared at varying levels of both organisations #GoodSave: What do differently:
A key area of change would be to engage an independent source (preferably not legal) to over see the whole process at Board and CEO level. For example the 12 principles that were agreed between the two Board of #GoodSave were not all upheld and last minute changes and timing made this difficult to positively effect. Expect the famous 11th hour and without the independent oversight progress is affected.
#GoodSave: What to celebrate:
It is do-able and possible?
#GoodSave presents as a useful demonstration case study in social outcomes and governance arrangements. Lessons can be learned and application can be made for future considerations and other organisations.
As a result of the merger/acquisition #GoodSave can now operate more efficiently focusing on working with families rather than raising funds.
On a personal level there is still much to share – all in good time! I gave myself a target of one Blog a month and with this being number 12 I have that awesome feeling of achievement! I have doubled the target for 2016 and with the For Social Purpose sector set to do what it needs to do there will be plenty to write and share!
In the mean time Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2016 and beyond!