Change Conversations: Transformation in the third sector

In today’s era of change and disruption, the most successful charities have transformed their organisations to adapt to new realities facing the sector and wider economy. These organisations are boldly embracing change. Some by necessity, some by choice.

For our third event in our GOOD Change Conversations series, Transformation in the third sector was our theme. We were joined by three leading charity Chief Executives who are driving change within their own organisations and setting progressive visions for the future of charities; Baroness Delyth Morgan, CEO at Breast Cancer Now, Juliet Bouverie OBE, CEO at Stroke Association and Richard Kramer, CEO at Sense.

Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion

It’s okay to be vulnerable.

‘It’s alright to be vulnerable. It’s alright to learn from everyone.’ Richard Kramer

The pandemic has encouraged people to open up, to talk to one another more and to learn from each other. There’s a shared trauma we all feel after the pandemic, and it’s important to acknowledge this as role models and leaders of organisations.

Part of this openness comes from listening to staff and their expertise. Richard stated that he is ‘humbled’ to lead a charity. He states: ‘I’m surrounded by teams that know more about their areas of expertise than me.’ Juliet shared that she felt, over the course of the pandemic, she has learnt how important it is to support staff members and listen to what they have to say. ‘If we’re not listening to our beneficiaries, to our staff and to our volunteers then, we will be not be providing the kind of services and delivering on our mission that we need to and that’s where the sector will come adrift.’

The importance of values

The pandemic has meant that huge decisions were made quickly, with no precedents or data to guide them. Juliet commented that this was incredibly scary. However, it was here that the importance of strong, anchored strategy and values came into their own. Juliet said at Stroke Association, ‘it was like all this energy got unleashed and our staff just immediately knew how to pivot’ as their decisions were guided by their established values.

All three leaders felt that they were able to pivot and launch successful initiatives to support the people they serve due to the ‘power of purpose’ as stated by Delyth. She commented that focussing on ‘why we are here and what we are trying to do’ is at the heart of everything. In an unprecedented year for the sector, their organisations were able to support both their employees and the people they serve.

Collaboration is key

All three panellists agreed that the spirit of collaboration we’ve seen in the past year needs to continue and that moving forward, these relationships will be crucial for organisational growth and survival. Juliet commented that ‘if the sector doesn’t collaborate, it will put its own financial health and sustainability at risk and it will compromise public trust. But it will also mean that we’re not providing joined up support for our beneficiaries.’ The discussion centred on the need to put beneficiaries first.

Both Delyth and Juliet mentioned they hoped the collaboration between chief executives continues beyond this year, and Richard gave a great example of Sense and RNIB collaborating to pool resources to help shape the delivery of an information helpline that provides invaluable support.

All three panellists gave our audience a message of hope, similar in their sentiment: to believe in yourself, remember why you work in the sector and to lead by example.