So, we’re in the middle of an Organisational Strengths Review. No, actually, we’re at the end of the first bit of it, and the intelligence gained so far is really useful. But probably no real surprises if I’m honest. I’m not going into any detail as I don’t want to let any cats out of any bags before our ‘everyone awayday’ in November, but there are things on which I already need to focus and think about.

One of the things I was expecting to come up (and which, truth be told, forced a groan and a five mile treadmill run!!) was communication. And, in particular, communication about what CaVCA is. What our strategy is. What is in our Strategic Plan.

There appeared to be acceptance that ‘Mel wrote it’ and there was some acknowledgement of a kind of consultation process, but there was very little fluency in describing our plan. Of course, participants in interviews weren’t tested on the fluency with which they could articulate CaVCA’s mission, vision and strategic objectives but the consultants both came out with an overwhelming impression that people don’t know the detail of the strategic plan (to varying degrees) but that ‘its ok because its Mel’s plan’. It isn’t Mel’s Plan, but am I surprised it is seen is such a way?

What is our plan? Well, to a certain extent, it is dictated by a number of things:

  • What our vision and mission and objectives are, as agreed by Trustees and members
  • What is written in our governing document (we have the governing document of a Local Support and Development Organisation)
  • What we’re actually funded or resourced to do and what we have an obligation to do (any contracts, funding agreements or other legal agreements – in our case particularly fulfilling our obligations as both landlord and tenant)
  • Opportunities that are known about or strongly anticipated.

After these are all carefully organised in terms of those objectives, where they fit, where they will impact, why we are doing them – I identify gaps and opportunities and match these as best I can in relation to the availability of organisational resources. This is based on what I hear, observe, am directly involved in or is reported to me. There seriously isn’t much scope for masses of creativity. We don’t have the freedom of resources for that. But I do try to include development opportunities. And everything we do has to fit within the frame that is created by our organisational objectives.

I don’t mean to sound defensive, because I completely understand. I have though previously tried to secure active engagement, but there is traditionally little feedback. And I completely understand the ambivalence – who wants to read a strategic plan? It’s hardly a scintillating read. And I’m not sure I can make it into one either.

At the end of the day, the Strategic Plan is simply a guidance document of what we need to do, and how we intend to do it, in order to fulfil our charitable aims.

Whilst I dearly want all staff, volunteers and trustees to be absolutely wedded to the plan, to be totally in tune with what we, as an organisation, stand for, I know that it is a difficult task. I’m genuinely delighted that all the team appear to know how their role contributes to the bigger CaVCA picture, whatever that may be. And I’m happy that everyone involved shows a commitment to what CaVCA is, whatever that may be! And I’m probably quite satisfied with that level of engagement for now – we are still a relatively new organisation following merger. But if people want to be involved in shaping it, then I would genuinely welcome that, honestly.

So the mystery of the Strategic Plan is solved. Is it solved? The plan is no more or less than a paper document which articulates our role in far too many words. All people need to know is that CaVCA exists to do what it takes to support people to come together and do stuff together for the good of their community.

CaVCA responds to community need – so if there’s something a community needs and a few people who want to do something about it, CaVCA can help. So we may be criticised for being responsive, reactive and not sufficiently proactive – but therein lies our skill, our agility, our ninja-like ability to grasp an issue and move with it. Our plan is a point in time – the general principles of delivery and examples of practical steps we are contractually or otherwise bound to deliver – but our strategic framework, the plan on a page, is more important. If it fits with that, then, subject to existing resources, we will take it forward.

I made a pretty little infographic type thingy – our strategic framework or a plan on a page perhaps 🙂