This article is aimed at providing some guidance for those who are considering realigning their impact strategies and making it more flexible and adaptable for a fast-changing environment. None of us know for certain what the future will hold, but by being more flexible, agile and responsive – we may still deliver on our strategic objectives. Our prediction is that 2022 may very well be the year that we use the insights from a very difficult year to create a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable future.
In the table below we provide guidance to guide and inform strategic discussions and planning. This guidance is based on our proprietary framework that we use in developing impact strategies for our clients. We are prepared to share this guide on request. Please let us know if you are interested in this self-assessment tool.
In the first column we provide the guiding principle and in the second column we provide guiding questions for strategic planning sessions. We trust philanthropists, grantmakers and social investors will find it useful:
A new vision for the future
What have you learnt during the past year – what worked, or not? What do you want to change, leave behind, built on in the future? Is what you focus on still relevant or do you need to realign/ adjust/ change your focus? Is your focus still relevant for the problem you want to address? What impact did technology have on your interventions?
Find your focus:
What do you care about and how relevant is that in the context of the communities you serve? Are there new priorities to consider or are some focus areas more important than others? Who else is working on the same problems you are? Are they successful and can you collaborate?
Articulate your goals:
What do you want to achieve and how relevant and realistic are your expectations? What assumptions and biases are driving your thinking and how correct are these in the context that you operate? Do you have to change your portfolios, focus areas, interventions and the organizations you work with? Will it mean you have to conduct more research or more intensive engagement?
Take a long view:
Realistically how long will it take to achieve your goals? Do you have the correct baseline data to inform your decisions and assumptions, will the problem you are trying to solve require more than what you can offer? Are you trying to solve past (historic) or future (emerging) challenges?
Reconsider your resources:
Do you have the resources it will take to achieve your goals? Are your goals too ambitious, will your current human resources be able to cope with and execute the new vision? Can you afford your future vision, or do you need others to co-fund your ambitions?
A new way of doing things
Does your strategy align across all portfolios, focus areas and individual programs and/or interventions? Can you create economies of scale, reach and depth? Is your governance, due diligence and vetting processes adequate and aligned? Do your policies, mandates and impact theories of change align? Does your strategy align with your branding, marketing, communication and engagement strategies? Is your guiding frameworks and standards aligned and up to date? Are you clear on how value will be created internally and externally?
Is your funding guidelines, funding criteria and due diligence processes shared publicly and up to date? Are your portfolios and focus areas clearly described with outcomes and impact clearly defined? Are your application processes described and available publicly?
Do you have clearly defined theories of change, logic model frameworks and performance indicators for your interventions? Do you have a clearly defined impact management and measurement process – from data collection to data analysis and verification and reporting?
Have you provided guidance for: developing interventions (program design); developing concept notes and business cases (planning and application phases), developing project plans (management phase); developing M&E plans (implementation phase); defined roles and responsibilities (contractual phase); key performance indicators (measurement phase)
Reana Rossouw is the owner of Next Generation – a management consultancy that specializes in impact management and measurement. She is also the creator of the Investment Impact Index™ which is an end-to-end solution for managing and measuring impact. She has assisted numerous social and impact investors across Africa with impact strategies, impact and performance management plans as well as impact verification, analysis and impact reporting.
If you want to know more about our experience, please visit our websites for evidence of our work, case studies, published articles, research and learning resources. And if you want to have a look at our impact strategy framework, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org