Maria Tarokh – co-author of the Strength in Numbers report - reveals what she learned during the project about how participating in multiple programmes can trigger positive – and sometimes unexpected - cultural change.
What I found most interesting throughout the research was simply listening to the people that had applied for funding from us – regardless of whether or not they were successful.
Unique stories emerged from interviews and workshops that painted a picture of different journeys (and struggles!) to improve resilience and sustainability. While no two charities or social enterprises are the same, they still shared the same drive and commitment to the people they support.
The people I spoke to often pointed to the value of embracing a variety of ‘readiness’ opportunities. Doing this allowed their organisations to build resilience and strength through combining unique sources of support that ultimately helped them multiply their social impact.
You might be thinking that receiving multiple grants is not a new phenomenon, and you would be right.
But there is more to building resilient charities and social enterprises then pumping them with money. Grants that pay for tailored and diverse support from third parties can help an organisation focus on the future and sow the seeds for cultural change from within.
And by participating in multiple programmes they are better positioned to navigate specific complexities, such as working with providers, or provide more detailed monitoring information to the programme manager (us!) so we know more about the long term impact of the work.
So does a greater level of engagement help organisations better assess their own support needs?
Judging from our research – the answer seems to be ‘yes’.
Strength in Numbers points to the fact that a significant amount of support is needed, and over an extended period of time, for many organisations to reach a point where they can identify areas for improvement themselves and then innovate.
For example, one workshop participant I interviewed revealed that without the financial modelling and business planning support from an earlier programme, they would never have been able to re-think the marketing for a new service they were launching. This was an unintended outcome but its effects were far reaching.
Another organisation I spoke to revealed that a combination of support around impact management and business development allowed them to demonstrate the benefits of income diversification to their own staff. This triggered a culture change which fostered greater motivation and commitment among staff to deliver their services.
These were the stories that really hit home. They painted pictures of different organisational journeys – often during times of increasing uncertainty.
The organisations we spoke to who seemed to be in more resilient positions (both financially and strategically) often stated that the support they received led to knowledge being shared throughout the team.
Indeed, even some of the providers we spoke to stated that if their ideal programme could fund one thing, their choice would be culture change.
While, it’s always going to be a challenge to quantify something that is often achieved holistically, future decision-making panels should bear this in mind when considering how to support greater impact. Ultimately, all the different pieces of support matter - and combine to deliver something more impactful.