Preparing for the worst to enable the best

living without abuse

"I was really happy across the board with the service we received from Action Planning. Our staff said it was a really useful process – it’s not often that we get together and think about things in that structured way. It made everybody feel valued. Action Planning were very flexible in tailoring their service to our budget and provided a really quick turnaround. The whole process has been a really positive one and David’s report is already impacting on what we’re doing."

DEBBIE HUGHES, CEO, LIVING WITHOUT ABUSE

Background:
Living Without Abuse (LWA) delivers services concerning domestic abuse and sexual violence across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. It performs its work as part of a consortium called United Against Violence and Abuse (UAVA), along with FreeVA and Women’s Aid Leicestershire. The charity had two valuable contracts through UAVA and one directly, which together accounted for 88% of annual income. With two years of the contracts to run, the trustees deemed it prudent to carry out a contingency planning exercise in order to mitigate against the possible loss of one or more of these contracts at renewal time.

Brief:
Having looked at the credentials of various charity consultants online, LWA felt that Action Planning had the experience and knowhow to provide the specific service required. The brief was to grasp the charity’s position with regard to current strategy, funding, resources and the reliance on the three contracts in question and then to draw up a plan for discussion with the trustees.

Process:
David and Paulette worked together to develop a 20-year strategic plan, meeting every two to three months and communicating regularly in between via phone and email. David asked probing questions that prompted Paulette to think hard about not only the development of the organisation but her own personal development within that context. The trustees were fed into the process early on and Paulette kept them regularly updated. Action Planning assigned the case to one of our Associate Consultants, David Green. David reviewed documents and interviewed senior staff to gather information for a thorough SWOT analysis. This identified a good number of strengths and opportunities, such as the recent move to new office premises, which had the capacity to accommodate paying tenants. The analysis was presented to directors and senior managers, who discussed it together in a workshop format and decided to focus on three contingencies: improving income generation; media; and young people. These were broken down more specifically into eight recommendations to feed into LWA’s strategic plan.

Outcomes:
David’s report was awaiting discussion at board level at the time of writing but several items were moved up the agenda as a result of its recommendations. Options were being explored for renting out part of the office space and there had been a rejig of responsibilities. One particular outcome of this was a refocus of CEO Debbie Hughes’ workload, to free up time for her to file more funding applications.

Consultant’s insight:
The way in which LWA engaged with the process leading to my report was impressive. Although we were planning contingencies that, in practice, might never be needed, there was full recognition that preparing for the worst was essential. The senior staff and trustees involved provided a useful blend of insight, knowledge and experience, resulting in positive discussion and ultimately, to a range of contingency options.

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