Blog : December 2016

Designs in Mind

Designs in Mind

WHO WAS THE CLIENT AND WHAT WERE THEIR CHALLENGES?

Designs in Mind design and make products for local retail, and working in textiles, wood, wire and glass, transform spaces with bespoke commissions. All their designer-makers are adults referred through mental health services and are members of Designs in Mind. Through this work they aim to challenge mental health stigma and the predominant culture of low expectation which surrounds their makers.  Having been established as a spin out group from the NHS nearly 15 years ago, they were at an important inflection point with the desire to secure their future by investing in a new retail brand, making then less reliant on grants and government funding through the local Clinical Commissioning Group. The challenge was to plan this effectively and ensure everyone within Designs in Mind was both aware, aligned and fully behind what needed to be done and the investments they would have to make.

HOW DID WE HELP?

We ran an away day with the staff and many of the members of Designs in Mind to look at their current approach and really explore and refine their goals over the next 12-24 months.  This also involved one to one chats in advance across the team, to make those coming on the day feel more comfortable and to give them an opportunity to share any of their concerns in advance, so we could make sure to cover it on the day.  Following the day, we worked together to agree an action plan for the immediate future and the following 3-4 months.  Over a period of around 6 months since, we have become a sounding board as plans have developed and helped introduce the senior team to a range of people in our networks that have helped them to realise their goals, including impact measurement specialists, experienced experts in delivery and commissioning of mental health services, and national sector bodies.

WHAT IMPACT HAS THIS HAD?

The session and subsequent follow-ups have enabled some internal frustrations and fears to be aired and discussed.  Over time this has ensured these have been properly address, easing tensions as the organisation changes.   It also helped to galvanise the team around a common set of goals and drive towards them, not least the development of the retail brand.  Designs in Mind agreed to invest in new staff and materials to support the retail operation shortly after the away-day and have since secured high profile contracts, e.g. to design and make the annual Social Enterprise UK awards.  We know this is the start of big things for this fabulous social enterprise.

“It feels like something significant was unlocked as a result of the away-day we had with Practical Governance, and we haven’t looked back since.  Many of the staff and members were sceptical about the need for a day like this, and more than a little nervous about it.  The way you approached really helped change the dynamic – I had people going in to the pre-event calls with you under serious duress, and coming out feeling energised and excited about the day!  The ongoing support and connections since have also been invaluable for us.  Without that I really don’t think we would be where we are today – on the verge of something truly game changing for the future of Designs in Mind”
Catherine Wilkes, Social Business Manager, Designs in Mind CIC

WHAT DID WE LEARN

We actually lost the write-up of the away-day work on the way home from the event.  A major panic.  As it turns out, however the reflection from the client was that having the full write up of the day may have actually been counterproductive in that it may have burdened the team with a range of very specific actions points.  As it was, everyone left feeling in a very different place to when they arrived, with a clear sense of the most important decisions and understanding of how to resolve any fears or frustrations.  We learnt as we have with many clients, that the detailed planning and actions are not what drives the change ultimately and that keeping things tight and focussed in the big decisions and cultural shifts is often what really matters.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

This work took around 4 days in total mainly focussed around the preparation and delivery of the away-day, plus some additional ad hoc advice and introductions which we provided free of charge.

Power to Change

Power to Change

WHO WAS THE CLIENT AND WHAT WERE THEIR CHALLENGES?

The Power to Change Trust (PTC) is a new charitable trust, set up in 2015 with a £150 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund to support, develop and grow community business across England.  As a new organisation in early stages with a first-time CEO, PTC experienced many ‘start-up’ challenges and needed support to operationalise the strategic plan and ensure there was clarity around staff roles, responsibilities and internal reporting.

HOW DID WE HELP?

Practical Governance supported the CEO and executive team to work through its strategic objectives and operationalise them.  This involved reviewing roles and responsibilities across the staff team, establishing clearer links between individual job roles and the overall organisational strategy, supporting the re-design of internal and board reporting including delegated authorities, management accounting and key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as project managing the initial phase of the outsourced customer relationship management (CRM) system.

WHAT IMPACT HAS THIS HAD?

We were able to highlight where there were ‘unknown’ gaps and work with the team to design ways to address those challenges. With our help, PTC has embedded stronger and more fit for purpose operational structures and decision making processes, embedded new internal reporting procedures including KPIs and a bespoke CRM system.  The net impact has been for the organisation as a whole to develop a deeper sense of collective responsibility for the future of the Trust from the Board down.

 “One of the most valuable things about the way Practical Governance work is that you become ‘insider-outsiders’.  You are insiders, because you really got to know the team and our needs – we all felt you were on our side and committed to our cause.  But you were also outsiders, because you were able to gently challenge and identify ‘blind spots’, making suggestions that you believed in and were clearly in our interests, even if they weren’t always comfortable at first.  We really appreciated that you took the time to sit with the team and plan and test things together, building our internal capacity, giving us tools we could use, and guiding us through the harder work of actually driving through and embedding changes”
Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive – the Power to Change Trust

WHAT DID WE LEARN

In some cases, the ideas we came up with were perhaps over processed or over-engineered for the size and stage of Power to Change.  We learnt quickly, adapting as the work progressed but the key learning for us is to remember to always keep things simple, taking one stage at a time.  With every piece of work we do, we are now asking ourselves if we could simplify it.  This has really helped us and our clients to focus on the must-do’s rather than the nice-to-have’s.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

This work took place over a period of 6-9 months and was intensive at times, comprising more than 50 days of work.  We continue to provide support and guidance to the Trust on some aspects of governance, with our latest project focussing on helping review and strengthen the Trust’s commitment to its organisational values.

The Bevy

The Bevy

bevy

WHO WAS THE CLIENT AND WHAT WERE THEIR CHALLENGES?

The Bevendean Community Pub (the Bevy) in Brighton opened in December 2014 as the first community-owned estate pub in the UK. Funded by over 700 local shareholders, re-built and dedicated by an army of volunteers and operating for community benefit through a huge range of events, engagement and services the Bevy is definitely ‘more than a pub’.  Having made the difficult transition from a community campaign group to running an active community-led business, the Bevy nearly went out of business in late 2015. Having a secured a lifeline grant and operating under a new general manager, help was needed to ensure this didn’t happen again by ensuring the management committee fully understood their roles and responsibilities and that information was being shared and understood by everyone, particularly regarding the financials.

HOW DID WE HELP?

We worked with the staff team and the Management Committee to clarify roles and responsibilities, put in place additional, external support for HR and finance, develop robust financial procedures, reporting and management accounting, work through cash-flow management and ensured legal responsibilities with the FCA, HMRC and the Bevy’s membership were fully complied with.

WHAT IMPACT HAS THIS HAD?

Through a series of chats (down the pub naturally), an away-day for the staff and Management Committee, attendance and support at an AGM and a number of Management Committee meetings we were able to help the Bevy ‘steady the ship’ so they can focus on running the day to day core business and delivering community benefit.  Through the period of our support the Bevy has now established robust financial reporting and forecasting enabling it to take action to improve its financial position, negotiate effectively with its major creditors to help secure its cash-flow, put in place strong, external HR support and adapt and strengthen the way its Management Committee and sub-committees operate and share information.

 “Rather than having some consultants that only know what they’re doing in theory, Practical Governance have been there – supporting, involved in, or on the Boards of organisations like ours so they get what it’s all about.  They also roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, make introductions to people they know and that can help us, and try to keep things straightforward.  They don’t always get it right, but they’re not afraid to admit that and keep trying out new things until it really works.  Everyone finds them easy to get on with, pretty important here because they wouldn’t have got very far without it.”
Warren Carter, Chairman, the Bevy

WHAT DID WE LEARN

Improving governance takes time and covers so many different aspects it can seem over-whelming, particularly for community groups without prior experience of running a business.  At times, we may have been too anxious to push things forward more quickly than was possible and talk about ideas steeped in sector jargon which can be difficult to engage with.  We focus really hard now on just the most important things at each stage, on doing everything we can to simplify reporting and our language.  At the Bevy Management Committee meetings, we even introduced a ‘jargon jar’ costing a pound every time someone says something that others don’t understand.  That has cost us a minor fortune, but it really works.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

This work took place over a period of 6 months and took a total of around 10 days.  For full disclosure, following our work, Bob Thust one of the Practical Governance partners who lives locally, couldn’t keep away and has now become Treasurer of the Bevy providing many more hours than that, but that’s a whole other story….