Every month in 2014 Inyathelo hosts a #GetResourceful session on one of the Ten Elements of Advancement. The August offering was STRATEGY AND PLANNING!
After an informal breakfast gathering in the Inyathelo Resource Centre, the roughly 50 attendees from the Cape Town NPO sector crowded into the Inyathelo Boardroom for a panel discussion with Gaby Ritchie, Inyathelo Programme Director, and Gillian Mitchell, consultant and Inyathelo Associate.
The discussion quickly honed in on the need to think of strategy and planning as something other than a once off event we do every year (usually around January, just before writing the annual report). The concept of strategic planning can be so daunting to some organisations avoid the topic entirely, that is until the "strategy and planning session" during the staff retreat.
A better approach, the panelist advised, is to treat strategic planning as ongoing process, one subject to constant monitoring and evaluation. As such, it's often a messy. You might have to "change engines in flight," as Gaby put it.
It's not that staff retreats and annual planning sessions are wasted exercises in and of themselves. The problem, Gillian suggested, is that organisations rarely follow up on their resulting revelations and recommendations. After the retreat is over, it's business as usual.
Both pointed out that monitoring and evaluation need not be complicated. They only need to be incorporated somehow into the regular staff workflow. Even something so routine as submitting regular reports to your board can be a means of ongoing evaluation. This prompted an exchange during the audience Q&A on how to get and keep board members interested and engaged.
Some of the more savvy audience members suggested various forms of food and entertainment as a means of stretching the attention span of an otherwise disinterested board. Not bad advice actually. Gillian and Gaby, however, offered a more fundamental solution, that of recruiting board members who are interested in your work in the first place. So often it seems NPO board members are either celebrity figureheads, or friends and family members of the founder/director.
“When choosing a board,” Gillian advised, “look for the three W’s: Interest in your WORK, access to WEALTH, and WISDOM.”
For those not able to attend in person, Cape Town TV recorded the session for broadcast at a later date. Edited clips will be made available on Inyathelo’s YouTube channel. In addition, all of Inyathelo’s Get Resourceful sessions are live tweeted. Watch for the tag, #GetResourceful on the day of the event.