4 top tips for a community organisation

I was recently asked by a community organisation for my top tips to how they should be structured based on my personal views, Bold Vision, business / third sector / life experience. I decided to share them here…

1. If people don’t know why they are there they’ll stop showing up

It’s a bit awkward not having a role. My first boss would not allow anybody in a meeting unless they had a role since no role = no value = no self esteem.

  • SO –> deciding on the roles after an early settling down period (which I would argue you are coming to the end of now) is likely to make the group more effective AND more motivated.
  • TIP: make the role 12 months so people don’t feel like they are signing their lives away. They can always do another 12 months at the end if they want to.

2. Operational issues will always crowd out strategic ones

Whatever our good intentions, very few people can develop the battle plan at the same time as digging the trench. Committees that try to do both end up having frustrating meetings and never quite getting round to the difficult questions

  • SO–> it helps to have operational teams and strategic teams. Both types of teams report back to the full committee (concisely!) especially regarding action items / key decisions.
  • TIP: this requires some trust and some “letting go”. Usually in the early days everybody has done everything. That’s not sustainable

3. Ground rules shape the space

We identified our values in Bold Vision early on (openness, courage, mutuality and potentialising) and this gives a good yardstick for decision making and process management eg “are we being open enough?”, “is that the courageous decision?”. We also found we needed rules of engagement about respect for others’ efforts, looking out for each other, honesty and so on.

  • SO–> spend an hour in a brainstorm together to identify the values and ground rules of the group then stick to them (I can do that for you if it helps, it’s part of my day job)
  • TIP: it seems like an activity that can be postponed when there is a lot going on (ref 2 above!!) but it saves a lot of time and unnecessary grief so really worth investing an hour in

4. Less is more

In Bold Vision we want maximum engagement AND decision making capacity. So we have several layers.

  • 3 directors + company secretary.treasurer (for formal stuff. More would just make admin more complex)
  • 9 on management team (we try to not use the word committee coz it makes me feel bored already). We have had more and less but this seems to be a good number. The only formal roles are chair and company secretary
  • 5 or so action teams, each led by one of management team and involving a loose gang of 5-15 volunteers
  • 70-100 Bold Backers (who have given money or time/effort) who will shortly be invited to be members. This will give them voting rights at AGM, ability to nominate directors or mgmt team members and a hopefully an increased sense of ownership
  • 500 people on our mailing list
  • SO–> consider a structure that is manageable for your group, will be transparent to the outside world and includes all the relevant interest groups somewhere
  • TIP: go for a next-12-months structure first, it can always be amended as the organisation finds its feet

If this is not specific enough then shout, otherwise have fun with it 🙂

Lastly, in my view, don’t start with what the council/funder wants (they may have no track record in this field!) it matters what works to deliver YOUR objectives while giving those involved a chance to flourish too (and not get burned out)

Behaviour research: the new generation leader

Challenge: to identify effective leadership styles and cross-reference with male / female strengths

Changes in LI (Leadership Intelligence) over time

Our approach: on-line mega-focus group run on the Synthetron platform, then online questionnaire. NB Customer Interpreter is the sole provider of Synthetron crowdsourcing software in the UK. This research was carried out with Aspire Coaching

A few of our observations about 21st century leadership

  • Participants admire inspiring vision, courage, intelligence, integrity, the guts to make change happen, innovativeness and those they believe have a vision, stand for something and have made a difference.
  • What is now being rejected is untrustworthy leadership based on ego, greed or selfishness, those that aim to divide and conquer.
  • The best leaders tend to be female and they tend to improve with age and business or parenting experience. Higher LI (Leadership Intelligence) scores are seen in the public sector and those working in professions or in the coaching/development industry. Seniority helps, but board members have lower LI scores.
  • High LI scorers take a job to make a difference and have a challengein a company they believe in. They are frustrated by hierarchies, work-life balance and lack of opportunities to do what they came for.
  • Women appear to be less of a gamble when it comes to LI –their variance is significantly less than that of men and they are less affected by the sector, seniority level or working patterns.

Timescale: 1 month
Cost:
c£5k
Full report: find it here: leadership survey 2010

Behaviour research example: Nudging A&E patients

Challenge: Understand reasons for patients coming to A&E insted of using their GP and ways to affect that behaviour
Our approach:
visit A&E waiting room, interview patients and staff, observe behaviour

A few of our recommendations to encourage better choices for medical attention

  • There are two main patient types: the health manager and the health victim. It is

    Patient behaviour: health victim and health manager

    the latter group who are heavy users of A&E for a range of practical and emotional reasons, many of which can be addressed.

  • Nudging techniques are recommended to shift behaviour in a more patient-centric way eg raising awareness of the salient “cost” of their choice
  • Encourage patient empowerment / co-ownership. “It’s not only doctors or the Chief Executive who have responsibility for this hospital. We all must look after our society. This is a public service and we are all part of the public”

Timescale: 1 month
Cost:
c£2.5k
Full report: find it here: A&E patient behaviour

Customer Interpreter and Social Responsibility. 9th in UK

 
Marketing and market research consultancy Customer Interpreter Ltd was set up in 2002 to bridge gaps between organisations and their customers. In this year’s BiTC Percent Club awards they have shown that it is also possible for small businesses to bridge the gap between work and community.Customer Interpreter’s contribution ranked 9th in percentage terms among all the UK businesses qualifying for the awards, described by Murray Armstrong in yesterday’s Guardian as “a towering 10.2% of pre-tax profits”. This is split between cash donations – mainly to Womankind Worldwide, and allowing staff time to work on community projects.”

Maggie Baxter, director of Womankind Worldwide is enthusiastic about the role of the Percent club in bringing business closer to not for profit activities, “We are delighted with the ongoing support from Catherine and Customer Interpreter. Our work involves helping women to get organised and to come together, often for the first time, to talk about what they want to change. We then help them achieve it.”

Founder and director Catherine Shovlin explained, “Often when businesses under-perform it is because connections have broken down. These may be between management and staff; often it is because decision makers are no longer close to the customer. We see close parallels in communities and are keen to use our skills to help where we can.”

Fast decision making is an advantage of small businesses. Customer Interpreter is also carbon neutral – it offsets its carbon emissions through tree planting. Catherine told us about the benefits of small business, “It is great to be able to get the whole team around the table and agree to do the right thing in a matter of minutes. We can usually implement policy the same day. We apply the same approach to the way we work for our clients”.