Monthly Reflections: January 2020

Most of January has been spent working on how best to take a large children’s charity’s offer to market — proactively creating opportunities to partner with others and support young people. Most charities operate in a competitive funding environment, with funders demanding increasing impact and value for money on programmes and services delivered. However, our organisations are challenged in how they are able to package these offers up in a consistent and compelling proposition that enables us to meaningfully engage with funders and supporters and better leverage funding.

Perspective is everything

With various people in and outside of the organisation, we have spent time developing a process which allows a step back from the solutions focused, frenzied process of proposal writing, bidding and tendering — to one of greater proactivity in shaping markets and opportunities. Basing this on the double diamond design approach, the diagram below demonstrates the activities we have undertaken as part of this process.

Simplified Double Diamond Design Process (Innovation Academy)
Activities undertaken formed by the Double Diamond

The key parts of this process are as follows:

Young People’s Mental Health Systems Map

3. We spent time validating these problems in the system and the dependencies in the maps with practitioners, policy advisors and young people across the country. The map below demonstrates the needs young people in the refugee / migrant / on the move system have told us they have.

Refugee and Migrant Young People and Families Systems Map on Needs

4. Using design thinking, we established a number of ‘how might we questions’ based on the problem areas we identified, to enable us to ideate (find solutions that tackle the problems).

Problem translated into a ‘how might we’ question to help formulate a solution

5. Our groups came up with loads of solutions to problems, so prioritising these was important. We filtered these by ‘the most rational’; ‘ the darling’; the ‘most delightful’; and ‘the long shot’ (pie in the sky). The most fun part of this was selecting one from each category and developing physical and digital prototypes while thinking about what we would like the user experience to be.

6. We have transitioned some of these solutions, the newer more innovative ones, into a service design process to ensure we build the personas the service is targeted at and have navigated their user journeys to understand the pains, frustrations and barriers they experience — with the purpose of building a solution that is fit for purpose. I’ve written a blog about some of the ideas we have put through this process.

7. Possibly my favourite part of the proposition building process was developing the value proposition, which is essentially that sweet spot where offer meets market. We have started to use the value proposition canvas more which enables our fundraising and marketing teams to really connect our ask with our cause in a much more robust way.

Value Propositions Canvas (one of hundreds)

8. The final stage — which we are yet to test in this process, is using the business model canvas. I’d like to see us have a set of business model canvases for all of our propositions. The point of this is more the viability — ensuring we have a full costed model (which demonstrates full cost recovery) which generates incomes and increases supporter engagement through the right channels.

I’m sure at some at some point, I will produce a more in-depth blog about this process but this is all I can muster for now! It is important for me to reflect on and share the learnings from establishing this process. I intend to share the learnings from this work over the next couple of blogs I write.

In other news, I’m doing some work for a couple of clients on funding systems change work. Now I could go on forever about what this is and what it means but I think there are some good articles which demonstrate this. I love the work The Children’s Society has done to share thinking, resources and approaches from its programmes so that this can be tried and replicated across the sector. The second which really draws out tangible examples is written by emrosebaz on the four stories of systems change. Well worth the read.


What has struck me about funding of these types of programmes (focused on systems change) is that funders have to develop a greater appetite for risk. This doesn’t mean instilling a risky culture that funds without due diligence. Rather, it means honestly and explicitly discussing and forming a position on the organisation’s risk tolerance and putting in place measures to support this.

Developing a risk culture is not only an internal exercise, but should involve grantees and partners as well. Funders should communicate their risk culture externally and involve the perspective of their grantees, asking them about the risks involved in their projects and how they can better support them in their work. This requires developing a relationship and building trust to enable more transparent and honest communication to ensure the grantee feels comfortable discussing problems that occur without fear of repercussion or losing funding. I personally like the framework developed by Tony Macklin on the types of risks in philanthropy and a series of questions that can provide insight into risk culture.

When looking for examples of how funders have taken these kinds of risks to achieve greater impact, I’ve found two excellent case studies which detail the approaches, challenges and outcomes and can serve as an inspiration for other who wish to pursue more risk and change across a system.


The launch of The Children’s Society’s Give Joy Pilot, giving people a chance to give a real gift to a child over Christmas. So how did it fare? How did opening up the opportunity for potential supporters to buy real gifts for young people fare during this pilot over the festive period?

It was fantastic to see that the pilot has smashed it target roughly three times over. It has also reached and attracted new supporters, engaging them at a very reasonable cost. It was even featured in the Telegraph amongst the 10 brilliant ways to give back this Christmas.

What a massive boost for our team working on this — and I look forward to seeing the next phase go live over Easter. I love the quote attached from our London Operations Manager on how this will make a difference to our young people.

I’m also celebrating the completion of an innovation mini-MBA. Myself and 14 other colleagues spent last week learning and working through about the three keys elements of innovation (empathise and define; validate and ideate and prototype and pitch) — the best part about it was actually getting to ‘try it on’ for ourselves.

The areas of focus on my Innovation mini-MBA

The whole process resulted in us producing 3 new fundraising products for the Children’s Society, which we pitched to a ‘dragon’s den’ type panel of professionals from the private sector. This was super exciting and energising — and I really enjoyed spending time getting creative with colleagues I don’t necessarily see or work with on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with my doodlenotes from Day 2 of the training and some of the pics from our endeavours!

Business Consultant: Charity & Public Sectors | Director of New Ventures: The Children’s Society | Advisor: Social Switch Project; Bethnal Green Ventures; #YANA