A new five year strategy for an international development charity
“We wanted to think quite big and ambitiously and were looking for people with experience to help us. David stood out immediately. He and Mary were really thorough with their research, but also very creative and imaginative throughout the project; we were amazed and surprised along the way: it’s been even bigger and better than we’d hoped.”
Charlie Hay, CEO, AfriKids
AfriKids is an independent development charity that protects and promotes the rights of children in northern Ghana. It comprises two separate legal entities, one in Ghana, which designs and runs the programmes on the ground, and one in the UK, which helps to raise funds. As AfriKids draws to the end of its current four year strategy, they wanted to reflect on the impact they have had over their 17 year lifespan and think boldly about the future. They wanted to explore the opportunity to share what they have learned and the evidence they have collected on effective, locally designed solutions, to reach more children than ever before. Action Planning was invited to tender for consultancy.
To carry out research and facilitate the development of an ambitious new strategy for AfriKids, which will build on the charity’s success to date and put it on a firm footing to grow and do more.
We assigned the brief to two consultants with abundant experience in running international development and human rights projects. David Bull CBE, who has been CEO of Amnesty UK and Unicef UK, led the project, assisted by Mary Robinson, former Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International.
They broke the project down into three phases:
- To understand the external environment in which AfriKids is operating;
- To carry out an internal analysis of the charity;
- To consult with internal and external stakeholders in the field.
The first two phases involved a lot of desk work, carried out by another consultant, Froeks Kamminga, and interviews with Board members and senior staff of AfriKids in the UK and Ghana, as well as experts and other organisations working in Ghana. The third phase involved a trip to Ghana to speak to staff, hold discussions with communities and gather opinions from young people and school children. David and Mary enlisted some young Ghanaian former AfriKids beneficiaries as facilitators, which proved a highly successful decision.
The research revealed a number of clear and achievable needs. These included closer communication between the UK and Ghana Boards, more resources and organisational capacity and a greater strategic coherence. It also revealed some things that AfriKids did very well, such as working with communities and protecting children’s rights.
Being focused on one area – northern Ghana – was a strength, but now there needed to be greater leverage of outcomes here to raise awareness and support at national level. A key part of the new strategy was advocacy. It was identified that by focusing on projects that lend themselves to advocacy, and measuring and documenting the difference they were making, AfriKids could scale up the benefits by engaging other actors, including more work with the Ghanaian Government. A list of such projects was drawn up.
With the right narrative, this heightened level of engagement could have a knock-on effect on fundraising in the UK, potentially doubling annual income from the current £2m, as well as raising the same amount from partners in Ghana, thus quadrupling turnover.
The strategy was received with genuine excitement and David and Mary were asked to facilitate a get-together of the UK and Ghana Boards to begin the process of building a closer connection between them.
AfriKids is a really wonderful and innovative small charity. They work in a unique partnership between the UK and Ghana and make a real difference to children’s lives. But they were struggling to find a clear vision that could unite both parts of the family, bring them together and take them up a gear or two. Vision, and the steps to turn it into strategy, have to be built in a way that responds to the complex challenges of the changing world (of fundraising as well as the social, economic, cultural and political realities on the ground). Change needs to be built on a common vision, embraced by all parts of an organisation and translated into a sound and deliverable strategy. It isn’t enough to have great ideas, you also need the organisation, systems, culture and governance to make it work. And you need always to keep at the forefront those whose lives you seek to improve, engaging them and giving them agency in their own future. It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to work with AfriKids.