Organisational Resilience: The story so far...

In 2019, we launched our Organisational Resilience programme to help support small and local charities to help them become more resilient. Here, Emma Tregear, Development Associate, discusses our findings so far.

Man writes report

Earlier this week we shared the findings of our Organisational Resilience work with a group of stakeholders who were interested in hearing about our work, what we are doing and why we are doing it.

So, what is Organisational Resilience? Well, Cranfield School of Management defines it as "the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper". And why are we doing it? Because we see charities struggle in the face of adversity when they want to build capability and create capacity to respond and adapt.

In 2019 we started work to look at how charities secured income and how they might be supported to think about it differently.

After some research and a couple of false starts we had a review and in January 2020 a number of stakeholders got together to look more deeply at income diversification and what it means to small charities.

We found three key findings;

  • firstly, others are already looking at how charities can diversify income, this isn’t a new approach;
  • secondly, that it needed to be a collaborative piece of work; and
  • thirdly, that it is more than just generating income, charities need to be resilient across the whole of their organisation. This is a bigger piece of work than simply focusing in on one area of a charity.


The work quickly started; kicking off with the ‘Discover’ stage, research focusing on revealing what did or didn’t make a charity resilient; what else was happening out there and to collect the experiences of charity leaders, funders and commissioners and others who could offer insight.


As this work got underway in March 2020, the world was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown became everyone’s reality. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 was a test but was not the first time charities faced crisis, especially in the shadow of austerity and facing a post-Brexit world. The speed at which charities had to respond to the pandemic quickly intertwined into the conversations we were having at the start of this work and interesting information was being gathered. Clear indicators that strong and collaborative leadership, peer support and innovation were important to charity leaders.  Those who had diversified their income didn’t necessarily come out the strongest as opportunity to earn money was taken away with the closure of services and premises but that adversity is sometimes a catalyst for change given the right conditions.


So, next steps: well with a backdrop of a second lockdown, the work moves into the Define, Design and Test phases, and will be piloted in Telford and Merthyr Tydfil, two communities we are working with through our People and Communities work.


The pilot will involve partners and stakeholders in those places and will be looking at three areas: Money, People and Mission. Linked to each area are principles that a charity already has or can work towards as well as personas, which are representations of different types of people within the system highlighting their assets and potential.


The importance of being resilient and what that means has never been more timely. We have involved charities throughout and as Norah Al-Ani, CEO at Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre said “time for reflection has created space for action and this is a live learning process. It has created a safe space for collaboration as our real selves, not just our best selves.”

Cookie Notice