Organisational development is a crucial aspect of the journey for any non-profit or social enterprise, and when it comes to small Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME)-led organisations, it becomes even more of a necessity. 1
These organisations play a pivotal role in addressing the diverse needs of their communities, often facing unique challenges when it comes to capacity, access to funding, staffing, well-being, and sustainability. These are challenges that can be navigated with the right support from key stakeholders and decision-makers.
The Pathways to Economic Opportunities programme, managed by the London Community Fund and supported by JPMorgan Chase, ARE and the Ubele Initiative – held a roundtable in Canary Wharf last year, exploring issues impacting organisations working to improve access and outcomes across education, financial health and employment. The session also highlighted what has previously worked and what hasn’t, and envisioned future organisational development models for their sectors.
Some of the challenges shared by groups such as Youth League UK included the Cost-of-Living Crisis, in which increased demands on service provision impacted organisations’ capacity to engage in crucial 1:1 meetings with funders and key stakeholders.
John Wainaina, CEO of Youth League UK, for example, shared there is a fine balance to be struck in leading a frontline delivery organisation and managing relationships between funders and grantees.
- Networking as a Lifeline: networking emerged as a crucial factor. The opportunity to connect with other organisations provided valuable insights and a sense of community.
- Flexibility in Engagement: organisations stressed the need for flexibility from funders. The unpredictable nature of their work, often driven by emergencies or immediate beneficiary needs, necessitates adaptable support.
- Transparent Communication: clear and transparent communication from funders was highlighted. Open dialogue allows organisations to align their work with evolving funder expectations.
- Healthy Engagement Levels: levels of engagement should strike a balance. While funders’ involvement is essential, it should not be overbearing and should complement the organisation’s workflow.
- Streamlined Reporting: reporting requirements should not be overly strenuous. Simplified processes and a holistic approach to support can alleviate the reporting burden.
One of the most significant outcomes [of the organisational development support] has been the creation of a specialised tool. We now have a robust system in place that helps us measure the overall organisational impact of our services. This allows us to make informed decisions on programme improvements and adjustments. The tool has not only improved our efficiency in data capture but has also enhanced our effectiveness in evaluating our programmes success.”Rita Wahid, Aishah Help
Many leaders at the roundtable also discussed how future funding pots should factor in organisational development models that emphasise power-sharing, allowing development workers to actively contribute to developing processes and systems. Funders then had a chance to input into these discussions.
Funder’s Perspective: Co-Design as a Cornerstone
- Focus on Co-Design: There was a unanimous emphasis on co-design, recognising the importance of involving both funders and recipients in shaping development initiatives. This ensures that interventions align with the real needs of the organisations.
- Purposeful ‘SupportPLUS’: Funders stressed the significance of being clear about the purpose of support beyond funding, referred to as ‘SupportPLUS.’ This involves tailoring assistance to look at systems and processes and aiding organisations in achieving accreditation.
- Avoiding Assumptions: Funders acknowledged the necessity of avoiding assumptions about organisations, steering clear of a deficit-oriented approach. Acknowledging the strengths and unique dynamics of each organisation is paramount.
- Flexibility and Bespoke Offer: The need for a flexible and bespoke approach was underscored. While funders can offer support in areas like systems and processes, this shouldn’t become a condition for receiving funding.
- Diverse Models: Funders recognised the diversity among organisations and the importance of not enforcing a one-size-fits-all model. Different organisations may require different forms of support.
Based on these discussions ARE has made a series of key recommendations for funders looking to do more around organisational development:
- Relationship-Centred Work: funders should centre their work around meaningful relationships with organisations, fostering open communication and collaboration.
- Tailored Offers of Support: support should be tailored, learning from the organisation’s unique context and needs.
- Facilitate Networking: funders can play a role in connecting leaders from different organisations, creating spaces for sharing best practices and knowledge.
- Hands-on Support: tangible, hands-on support, such as training sessions delivered by external experts, can significantly contribute to an organisation’s development.
- Visible Points of Contact: having a visible point of contact within the funding organisation enhances accessibility and communication.
- Flexibility in Consultancy: funders should offer flexibility in consultancy, recognising the varying requirements of different organisations.
Working with these fantastic groups on the Pathways2Economic Opportunities Programme has highlighted that a co-design approach, coupled with flexibility, transparent communication, and meaningful engagement, is key to fostering the development of small BAME-led organisations.
Funders and grantees, in collaboration, can shape a more effective way of working where support is dynamic, responsive, and aligned with the unique needs of each organisation and their diverse communities, thereby fostering a more inclusive and impactful social sector.
Author: Payal Bhavsar, ARE Senior Communications Officer
Keep on reading…
- Organisational development can be defined as a systematic approach to drive business performance. It considers elements like culture, capability, values & relationships, taking an ecosystems approach to understanding them & how they influence behaviour & performance. ↩︎