Personal stories

Hear from your peers who've done strategic analysis

Find out what they thought were the benefits and challenges. Get a feel for how you could do it yourself.

Richard Boyd from Disability Essex talks about the benefits of undertaking strategic analysis for his organisation. Listen here (password: foresight)

Watch the video:

Benefits of Strategic Analysis from Kathryn Cook on Vimeo.

Robert Boyd of Disability Essex, a Foresight network member, talks about how his organisation has benefited from carrying out strategic analysis. 


What's he saying?


The benefits of strategic analysis

In this video, Richard Boyd, director of Disability Essex, explains how strategic analysis helped Disability Essex and how planning for the future moved the charity from near-bankruptcy to being a leading disability charity.

When Richard joined the charity in 2000, he put in place a new system designed to help the charity to continue to dispense money from very wealthy donors towards activities such assupporting clubs and individuals and arranging holidays and breaks – which led to the charity becoming a ‘very wealthy auntie looking after disabled people’.

 ‘Look ahead, prepare for the worst and hope for the best’.

Richard’s system was built around  foresight and strategic planning. He analyzed the situation of the organisation at the time, trying to figure out what it  would look like in 5 or 10 years time. Then he tailored the charity’s strategy to create services and support mechanisms to meet the needs of both current and prospective customers. He took into consideration trends and forces that would impact on the charity’s future, looking particularly at demographic changes, the ageing of the population and the further diversification of disabilities. The charity then prepared to adapt its services and infrastructure so as to meet the needs of people with disabilities that had new causes, such as the stress of today’s busy lifestyle.

Based on Richard’s experience he thinks the only way for a charity to survive in today’s climate is to ‘look ahead, prepare for the worst and hope for the best’. He identifies market anticipation and planning for the future as key aspects to ensuring business success. 

‘Planning for the future means you’re preparing your organisation for what is to come’.

Although at the moment there is a lot of  support for disabled people in looking for and finding employment, this might not be relevant in 10 years time when the jobs that the disabled people are being trained for at the moment, will have disappeared.  This sort of support should be tailored not only to disabled people’s current needs, but to their future needs, taking into consideration the changes in the labour market that might affect their chances of employment.

Summarizing the benefits of strategic analysis in their case, Richard says that:

Planning for the future for Disability Essex meant that the charity would be placed in the right place, at the right time, with the right services to meet the demands of the future, when we and our clients had to be there to benefit, not looking at the past, at what was comfortable, but was no longer there.    



How could you respond to a change in funding?

Hear how Voluntary Action Kirklees reacted to a shift in VCS sources and levels of income.


Voluntary Action Kirklees benefit from responding proactively to a changing funding environment

When the local council announced a move from grant-funding of support services for voluntary and community organisations to commissioning, Voluntary Action Kirklees recognised that the changing environment would pose challenges to them and other local support providers. NCVO Third Sector Foresight training and tools enabled them to better understand the risks and to identify and act on the opportunities.

Voluntary Action Kirklees (VAK) provides support to local voluntary and community organisations to strengthen them and build capacity; it also actively promotes volunteering. These services had, traditionally, been grant-funded by Kirklees Council.

In 2008 VAK was informed by the council that its existing grant agreement would be renewed on an interim basis only as they planned to move to commissioning. This would require VAK and other service providers to bid competitively for contracts.

VAK were concerned that they and other local support providers could lose out to larger national organisations who would be able to bring to bear economies of scale and their greater reach. In the face of this, VAK’s local knowledge and experience might be undervalued. They feared that the final council ‘services specification’ would not match their own experience of local needs and could look for specialist requirements that they had not prepared for.

The council’s new announcement also worried staff about their job security and they felt the value of their past work was not being recognised. The council’s new direction for funding resulted in VAK feeling as though they were no longer in control of their strategic direction.  

Training and tools

Faced with the concerns this shift in their operating environment had raised, VAK decided to take action. VAK’s Chief Executive, Val Johnson booked into NCVO Third Sector Foresight’s Making sense of your environment training. These bite-sized sessions were targeted at leaders and designed to fit around busy schedules.

The workshops explored key external trends and forces (drivers) that are relevant to voluntary and community organisations. It also addressed how to develop and evaluate options for an organisation’s strategic plan.

Commissioning emerged as a key driver and it was immediately useful to be looking at this in a more structured way,” said Val.  “It was also good to share experiences with people from other organisations, hear their perspective and listen to how they have responded to change.

Val says that the training was “first class” and a particularly good way to get people who are immersed in day-to-day demands to step back and “think strategically, not in an academic way, but in a way that is rooted in real life”.

Val and her colleagues now regularly use the tools on the NCVO Third Sector Foresight website and the 100+ drivers identified and summarised on the website that could influence the UK voluntary and community sector. “Everyone I’ve shown them to is impressed about how up-to-date, accessible and well-written they are,” she says.  She has also found the strategic planning templates helpful.

Facilitated workshops for a stronger sector

The training prompted VAK to organise a series of facilitated workshops with other local support providers. Exploring  the challenges and opportunities presented by the commissioning agenda, they discussed their options for responding.

The workshops and discussions helped staff at VAK realise that the change in funding could be a positive shift in VAK’s external environment. They identified the potential opportunities, including

  • greater influence of the voluntary and community sector over the services specification and how it is delivered
  • development of an independent, strong and consistent voice and a joint negotiating platform
  • the potential for closer working relationships and a more coordinated approach to service delivery
  • the potential for more effective engagement with specialist support providers and improved coverage across the district.

Building a voice and taking control

The working group agreed to set up a consortium. They would use this to bid jointly, review existing service provision and evaluate the key drivers that would influence the council’s specification.

They identified areas where the skills in the consortium could be improved by expanding membership beyond the original working group. The group looked to involve organisations with experience in areas such as community engagement,social enterprise, and back office services (accountancy, IT, human resources, etc), drawing in a wide cross section of the sector.

Reflecting on the process, Val says:

Setting up the consortium gave us the feeling that we were taking control of the agenda rather than waiting for things to happen. We feel we are building the consortium in a proactive, considered and informed way. The NCVO Third Sector Foresight training and tools, and the facilitated workshops, played an important part in this.



Last updated at 16:42 Fri 26/Jun/09.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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