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Learnings from launching a new organisational strategy – the midway point

2 August 2022

Disclaimer: Strategies rarely arrive on the day you plan them to. It’s pretty difficult to coordinate all your workstreams, dependencies and marketing towards an immovable date. In fact, I heard someone say the other day that, if you did, you probably did it wrong. I hope they’re right!

As the Head of Communications at Co-op’s charity, the Co-op Foundation I know the challenges of launching a new strategy all too well.

As of today – August 2, 2022 – our charity provides flexible funding to help build fairer communities. I say, “as of today”, because we’re busy launching a new strategy, vision and narrative this autumn. And I say “autumn” because as I’ve already stated, I’ve learned that strategy launch dates move a lot.

It’s good to learn as you go, though, so with that in mind here is our process so far, what our highlights have been, and what we’ve learned.

The process

Co-op Foundation has been without a strategy for a couple of years as we’ve been learning about the impact of covid in communities from our Foundation colleagues, Co-op and funded partners. In pre-pandemic times, we were well known for tackling youth loneliness, running the Lonely Not Alone campaign and helping to build financially sustainable community spaces.

Nick Crofts was appointed CEO in January 2021 and turbocharged us through a process of recruiting new colleagues and developing an exciting and bold organisational strategy.

True to our values, co-operation was at the heart of our strategy development. We worked with our partners at Impact Works Associates to engage Foundation colleagues, funded partners, sector leaders and Co-op to develop a new five-year strategy. This strategy will see us strive to build communities in 10 years’ time that are fair and built on co-operative values.

We then asked young people to help develop our vision of communities, so we knew what to fund to make them a reality. This was important because we knew young people would inherit whatever our funding could build. Bringing them into discussions now was the right thing to do.
This work is now almost complete, and we’re on to the exciting job of bringing it to life!

Our learning so far

1. Know why you’re doing this, and who it’s for

Every Comms project at the Co-op Foundation begins with our team answering the questions: “who” and “why”.

For our strategy launch, we wanted to (1) inform Co-op colleagues about our work; (2) engage community groups in our funding, and (3) inspire the philanthropy sector to follow our ways of working, and support us long term.

Once we had this nailed, we knew we would know more about what was possible. It’s vital to always have your ‘who’ and ‘why’ front of mind so you can ensure what you are creating is right for your audience.

2. There are so many potential assets you could create!

At its most basic, promoting a new strategy can be as simple as designing your PDF and winging out a press release. But, considering our ambitious aims, we actually listed six stages of work to complete, starting in January 2022:

  • Impact Report (January 2022) – we had a raft of case studies to choose from to tell our 2021 story, but we wanted to include those that would still be relevant post-launch, and use language that would work, too.
  • Thought leadership (all of 2022) – we wanted to share what we’ve learned so others can get better, too. We’re currently six blogs into a 12-blog series of learning updates, including a piece on participatory grant making and one on being world-class at learning.
  • New narrative (May to Aug 2022) – we’re finding a new way to talk about the Foundation to help achieve our ‘engage’ and ‘inspire’ aims.
  • Marketing assets (May to Oct 2022) – we are in the midst of creating videos, PDFs and ethical merch that will bring our strategy to life.
  • Launch events (Oct 2022) – we’re planning a roadshow of events for Co-op Leaders and colleagues, virtually and in-person. An online launch with social ads will help us to reach the funding sector, too.
  • Integration (Oct onwards): Strategies aren’t made to be put in drawers. We need to find a way to help colleagues use our narrative so they’re clear with stakeholders about what we do. Our operational plans should also be measured against tangible aims.

We’ve only been able to work through these stages by bringing the full Foundation team together. A weekly planning session with representatives from our Comms, Learning and Funding and Partnerships teams also helps us to think up new ideas and challenge existing ways of working.

3. Prioritise planning

A joiner will tell you to measure twice and cut once. I’ve learned to plan 20 times, do some copy and then rethink it all when another idea comes into my mind.

I’ve recreated my timeline over and over again but that’s okay. It helps me keep on top of my workloads and it makes me think more strategically, too.

So, what’s next?

We’re more than halfway through our strategy comms work and we’re on track with our comms planning.

We’ve begun to build a new narrative with our partners, Eden Stanley, and we’ve even done some filming. Things are starting to get exciting!

Watch out for my next blog after we launch in the autumn to wrap up what we’ve learned and what you can do to make your strategy comms work for you. In the meantime, you can reach out to me on Twitter and LinkedIn to find out more.

Banner Image: Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

Andy Mortimer

head of communications, Co-op Foundation

Andy is head of communications at the Co-op Foundation. Andy has more than 10 years’ experience in charity communications and specialises in youth-led campaigning. He is a former journalist and feature writer.