Recently I (and my dog Belle) drove from Devon to Tintern Abbey to meet and spend the day with a couple of friends. Despite the trials of the M5, the journey went fairly smoothly. But two things happened that started me thinking about my lovely clients and their beneficiaries.
The first thought occurred to me as I saw the roadworks sign that read: Await Rescue – Free Recovery. I have helped many different people via the charities and social enterprises I have supported. They range from homeless people, older people, those with debt problems, children with special needs, those isolated and those lonely. And whilst these issues are very different, for the vast majority of the beneficiaries they have reached the point in their lives where they have done all they can to help themselves and now they need someone or some organisation to help to ‘Rescue’ them. And by in large that help is Free or greatly reduced in cost.
The next thing that happened on my journey was that shortly after reading the sign, whilst still driving through the roadworks, an HGV passed me and then abruptly pulled into the inside lane in front of me. The load on his lorry teetered back and forth precariously, I held my breath until it recovered its balance. Within seconds it pulled out again, the load swayed, it overtook the next vehicle and pulled in again, the load wobbled, teetered and as I held my breath for a second time, finally settled. The driver repeated this again and again, weaving through the narrow lanes of the roadworks, each time on the verge of causing chaos. Having done a lot of motorway driving I am pretty thick-skinned, but this driving caused me to cry out in alarm.
I thought about the traffic and how our lives were like it. We pass through life, usually gently with few ripples, going up or down a gear as needed, avoiding obstacles in our way without causing too much distress to other people. But sometimes our journey through life is more chaotic, more precarious and challenges affect us and our loved ones dramatically. Sometimes we are that HGV driver.
The charities and social enterprises I work with make a clear difference to those they aim to help through the support they offer. Many charities and social enterprises are very good at celebrating and communicating the difference they make, using impact reports based on recording and measuring. But others find it harder to do so because time and resource make it too difficult to capture that information.
Being once removed from the immediate beneficiaries, I have started to think about the impact we make to client’s beneficiaries. Over my career I have raised a huge amount for charities both nationally and in the South West, but it is about so much more than numbers. It is about the difference Jane Phillips Coaching makes and the changes we bring about and how we engage with people to make that happen.
There is an increasing need for organisations to have a Theory of Change Model that explains not just the changes they bring about but also the precursors that enable them to do that. A Theory of Change model starts with the end result achieved by a project and works backwards to explain what needs to be put in place to make that happen. It helps to work out what has been termed as the ‘missing middle’ – the ‘how’ bit between what an organisation does and the result it achieves.
An increasing number of funders are asking charities and social enterprises to develop a Theory of Change model. Whilst I have developed a Theory of Change with some clients, I have not developed one for Jane Phillips Coaching Ltd. So shall be developing my Theory of Change model shortly and I look forward to sharing it with you in a future blog.
I have to confess that my lovely Welsh Spaniel, Belle is in therapy. OK – I admit – those savvy dog owners amongst you will know that it is never the dog that needs therapy. It is always the owners who need it. So yes, I admit, I am the one in therapy with the pet behaviourist.
Since moving out of our house for building work and then moving back in once the building work was completed Belle has changed from being a calm, friendly dog to an anxious, skittish, highly-strung but still friendly dog.
Our aim from visiting the pet behaviourist is that Belles general wellbeing will be improved. She will change back into that lovely calm, relaxed dog, rather than the slightly hysterical barking one she currently is. Those of my clients who I have conference calls with will have heard the ‘hysterical vocal’ version of Belle. (And I apologise now for the disruption to our calls).
I have been working on Theory of Change models for a number of clients over recent months, as well as one for Jane Phillips Coaching. I realised that seeing the pet behaviourist is a bit like running a charity project. We expect to make a positive change to individuals and deliver long term outcomes. The requests for a Theory of Change model are becoming more frequent. The principles that we all know and love of inputs, outputs and outcomes still holds true for Theory of Change, but it goes one step further and asks how and why a long term outcome will be achieved.
Using a backwards mapping approach, we work through a number of steps, which start with the long term goal and working backwards to consider what earliest changes that need to occur to make the long term goal happen. This is the opposite to the way we usually think about planning because we have to start thinking about what preconditions need to be in place, rather than starting with the question ‘what can we do to change something’.
The diagram shows the backward mapping steps required. My Long Term Outcome or Final Goal for Belle is that she will be a relaxed happy dog. The activities that we can do with her are Agility Training, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. The immediate outcomes are that;
1.) I am exhausted from doing so much running at Agility although I am fitter, but on a more serious note
The evidence can be found by researching dog behaviour and theory. Enablers are things that either need to be present or absent to allow a project to succeed. So for Belle, an external enabler is that Agility classes are available locally, that we as parents can afford to pay for them (internal enabler), that we have the transport to take her to the classes (internal enabler) and that she is the sort of dog that is happy meeting other dogs and has a desire to please (internal enabler).
So, the same model holds true for charity projects and organisations and I will share the Jane Phillips Coaching theory of change model in the future. But I thought you would enjoy hearing how I had applied it to Belle first.
Post Script….I am pleased to say that Belle is doing very well, enjoying her agility and is a much happier dog.