David Saint

Dec 16, 2019, 10:18 AM

What chance of 2020 vision in 2020? And then what?

I like to think I was perhaps one of the first people to harness ‘2020 Vision’ as the title of their strategic plan, when I wrote Action Planning’s first strategy in 1996. One of the things that really excited me about that title was the sheer scope of it – what couldn’t I achieve in 24 years?!

Twenty-three years later I have a pretty clear answer to that question – there was quite a lot that I couldn’t achieve! And yet that vision gave me an ambition, a drive – even a confidence – to strive for so much more than if I had gone for something more prosaic, more realistic even.

It is perhaps all too easy to lampoon charity boards for their lack of strategic planning, as we did in our Christmas card this year and last. Sadly, several people responded to say that our cartoons absolutely hit the mark in their experience; and to be fair I have seen several examples of Boards failing to see the bigger picture. But mostly I see charity trustees eager to play their proper strategic role – although not always knowing how to go about this.

Meanwhile, the recent General Election campaigns once again highlighted the extraordinarily un-strategic way our country is governed. This was starkly illustrated in a comment reported in The Times, from NHS Providers Chief Chris Hopson: “Once again we see politicians responding to popular support for the NHS, presenting themselves as its advocates and champions, but not really addressing what’s needed to sustain the NHS long-term.”

Thus some of the biggest and most strategic issues facing our country today are addressed through focus groups, sound bites, cobbled-together statistics and selectively quoted reports, on the basis of what will play well with the electorate (especially those in marginal constituencies) rather than what is in the best strategic interests of the population as a whole. Perhaps, by comparison, the way our charities are governed isn’t so bad after all!

But what of the future? My 2020 Vision horizon (if not the actual vision set out in my plan) is all but upon us. The General Election is over and we now watch and wait to see which promises come to fruition. So how might we now frame our thinking for the future? Well, here’s an idea.

At the recent EUConsult Conference in Edinburgh, we benefitted from a series of sessions around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all the UN member states in 2015; they follow on from the Millennium Development Goals. Their purpose is to provide “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals in total:

A lot of work has gone into selecting and defining these and there is a lot of detail behind each brief description.

So here is my thought, my strategic challenge, for you in 2020. Why not take a look at the Strategic Development Goals and map them against your charity’s strategic plan? You certainly won’t be able to contribute to all of them, but you may be able to contribute to several, and perhaps seriously major on one or two. This could be through a combination both of what you do do and what you don’t do. I doubt that there is a single charity, voluntary organisation or social enterprise for which these Goals have no relevance at all.

These are the UN’s Strategic Development Goals for 2030. Might they add serious ambition, drive – even confidence – to your charity’s strategic planning process? What couldn’t you achieve in the next 10 years to make your charity’s contribution to “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”?

Happy planning!

David Saint

David Saint established Action Planning in 1990 after working for 16 years in the sector. He is recognised as one of the not-for-profit sector’s leading authorities on strategy, management and fundraising. Over the years, David has advised the Boards and Senior Management Teams of some of the most significant organisations in the sector.

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