2016 in Review

It may be late, but you know what they say, better late than never. January is a time for reflection and it is hard not to get swept up in the ‘New Year New Me’ resolutions fever. We’ve hoped to take a more measured approach to this, allowing a little more time than we would normally before reflecting on the previous year. Partly for pragmatic reasons, we had an extremely busy month and struggled for time to blog and to set our strategic direction for the year ahead.

Following our own advice, we have started by looking back at what has really worked in our business over the past year. It is a great starting point to see what you’ve achieved, how you went about doing it, and to identify the types of project and client you ideally want to work with in the year to come. By being clear about what we’ve enjoyed and done well, we can see exactly who we need to target in order to grow our business. Deciding on the type of project we love to work on means we can aim to do more of it, and to sustain the huge levels of passion and enthusiasm for the work that our clients expect of us.

Here are a few of our highlights from 2016:

  • Drafting an Evaluation Report for a small charity to submit to Big Lottery. On the face of it, this does not sound like the most interesting thing to write, but you’d be wrong. Anna has spent almost three years working with this charity, speaking to service users at focus groups or whole day evaluations, attending volunteer courses or celebration events, mapping performance and identifying the real benefits and outcomes for the people who rely on the charity for support. We have been privileged to see the progress made on the project and to work with the charity to ensure that they are working as effectively as possible to support some really hard to reach and vulnerable families within their community.
  • Proofreading and Editing a manuscript of poetry and songs aimed at children. It almost feels like it isn’t work when you can indulge your love of nonsense poetry and get stuck into a rhyming dictionary on a daily basis. It is fantastic to be trusted with the creative endeavours of another person and to be able to add to it in a small way whilst ensuring it is polished and ready for publication is one of the things we love doing.
  • Undertaking an Organisational Review for a local charity. We were pleased to be invited to review the work of a previous client who had been lucky enough to secure five years’ of funding to continue the work they do in their community. In the process of analysing their current working practice, organisational structure and management practices we helped them identify a few areas to start working on to improve their outcomes. We advised on the strategic steps they should be taking to ensure future sustainability and build capacity (in line with the funding requirements Big Lottery put in place).
  • In terms of Fundraising, we assisted in drafting and editing three successful £250k+ bids for funding, ensuring three charities can continue the inspiring and necessary work they do in their communities. We’re proud to have helped them keep the doors open and the donations flowing.
  • Managed Social Media for a national educational campaign aimed at maintaining and boosting creativity in education. This has been great fun, we’ve assisted in creating campaign materials including posters and online content, and even live tweeted a Q&A session with educational specialists including Professors, STEAM campaigners, teaching union representatives and MPs. It was rewarding to be part of promoting a cause we believe in, creativity is so vital for development and should never be an additional extra at school, plus it was great fun for us to take part in a family activity day that involved getting our hands dirty creating protest art at the National Railway Museum in York.
  • Finally, we’ve taken over management of all Consultation and Engagement activities for a public sector organisation and two small businesses. Maintaining a higher level of impartiality that would not otherwise be available and offering all the efficiency benefits that outsourcing can offer.

This barely scratches the surface, we’ve helped write business plans to get new ideas off the ground, created website copy and blog articles to promote art classes and encourage people of all abilities to get involved, ghost written a performance management e-book and short fictional story, and drafted bids and tenders to cover topics from gardening and building maintenance to furniture supply.

We’re looking forward to more of the same this year and if you’ve got a new project you’d like some professional writing and management consultancy support to deliver we’d love to hear from you. We care deeply about what we do and aim to please. For us, the best kind of customer is a repeat one, and we are passionate about building a great working relationship with our clients, understanding and responding to their needs and implementing solutions that deliver the results they crave.

 

 

 

Cheat Sheet: SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis offers an organisation an insight into the current picture and identifies Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

You can use this analysis tool to cover projects or the organisation as a whole, it can inform strategic planning, help you establish the case for a project or to review what impact your work is having and what you could improve. It can be hugely helpful in the decision-making process.

One of the main features we love at Active Outcomes is that it acts as a springboard, allowing you to look objectively at internal and external factors and how they relate to your work. Simply working through and listing items under each of the four headings often leads to the discovery of new connections between your strengths and opportunities that you had never realised before. It also helps you see where you could make improvements to strengthen your organisation and prevent against any outside threats becoming reality.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, you can get started with a simple table that covers each of the four categories as described below:

  • Strengths: what does your organisation or project have to offer that gives it a distinct advantage?
  • Weaknesses: what characteristics might place your project or organisation at a disadvantage when compared with others?
  • Opportunities: is there anything your organisation could be doing better and fully exploiting internally or externally to gain an advantage?
  • Threats: can you forsee any environmental factors (internal or external) that could potentially cause issues for your project or organisation?

Strengths and Weaknesses should focus on internal factors, what you could be doing better and what you already do well.

Opportunities and Threats cover external factors, so consider what are you competitors doing, are there any new regulations on the horizon, do you need to update equipment, are there any opportunities to partner with other organisations to develop your service and so on.

We have included a PDF template for you to download and print (available by clicking on the ‘SWOT Analysis Template’ link below) to get you started with the process.

SWOT Analysis Template

This is what the template looks like:

SWOT Analysis Template-page-001-1

 

 

As you can see, so far so simple. We suggest you print it off and get brainstorming ideas. It doesn’t have to be completed perfectly first time, it is a tool to get you thinking and making connections. Jot down all your ideas, scribble them out when they’re not right, think outside the box. Get your colleagues involved and see if they can suggest anything you might have missed. As with any tool of this nature, it is a platform, the harder you push off the further it will take you.

Even if you don’t have a lot of time to spend completing this analysis, it is such an easy way to set down your ideas about future direction and helps you see at-a-glance how your project could expand and what might threaten that growth it is worth putting aside a little time to work on it.

So what are you waiting for? Give it a try, and, as always, if you need any help get in touch at www.activeoutcomes.co.uk and we’ll be glad to offer some pointers. We offer a range of services to help with strategic planning and organisational reviews.