3 steps towards greater social impact: How we’re evolving the way we work

Authors: Camilla Göth
  • Reading time: 2 min.
  • Posted on: October 8, 2021

At Shape History, we’re constantly looking for new and better ways to create a fairer world, faster. But to do that effectively, keeping an open mind on the ways in which we work is critical, from the start of our process to the very end. 

That’s why, over the last three months, we’ve been taking stock of who we’re partnering with, how we execute projects and what we can learn from them for the future. Here are three steps we’ve been taking to discuss, learn, and reflect over the past quarter.

1. Involving the team in decisions about partnerships

We partner with organisations, groups, and individuals that are trying to make the world a fairer place — particularly those guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. That means that if someone is working towards a good cause, we want to work with them, to accelerate their potential impact. But as social impact becomes increasingly embedded in our society, a wider variety of organisations outside of the non-profit sector — commercial businesses and government bodies, for instance — are getting involved in working towards a fairer world. While this is great, it has led to some grey areas in who we choose to work with. 

So, to help us decide which partners to work with in the fairest way possible, we have put in place a consultation process that involves everyone in the team. In the past few months, we’ve held some of our first consultations and some learnings have already come out of this. 

To keep the process running smoothly, a clear briefing has been put together which outlines the different steps of the team consultation: an open staff consultation to gather opinions; due diligence through contacting affiliations and assessing organisational documents; and a brief with recommendations, which is shared with the full team for final feedback. If someone doesn’t agree with the final decision, they will not be asked to work with the partner, and should a majority (two thirds) vote against, we will not proceed with the partnership. We are always open and honest with the potential new partner about the consultations and we go to them to get clarity on any of our questions or concerns.

Since we’ve implemented this process, we’ve seen that it has worked really well and the team appreciates being involved in making decisions around partnerships.

2. Better understanding the long-term impact of our campaigns 

We believe it is really important to measure the impact of our projects. This way, we can learn from the things that didn’t go as we thought they would, as well as understand those that went really great and implement those learnings into future work. 

However, we have seen the need to establish a clearer process for measuring our impact. All the work that we do should have clear objectives with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from the onset which should be monitored and evaluated regularly. We’ve also identified the importance of these KPIs to go beyond the communication industry and measure how our work impacts the people and the planet — though we realise this impact can be hard to quantify and may even take years.

Our vision is to take partners on a journey even after the project has ended and together develop a longer-term approach to measuring impact. One of the approaches we have looked into includes bringing onboard a Monitoring & Evaluation consultant to help build frameworks that can help us evaluate better. Watch this space for updates in the future.

3. Going with the flow through emergent strategy 

Simply put, a communications (well, actually, any) strategy is planned actions to achieve a desired result. However, in a world that’s constantly and rapidly changing, the reality is that this often isn’t always the most effective way of working. Without paying attention to how the environment around you is moving, you might end up being the only one standing still and not adapting to what’s going on around you.

We call that fluid, flexible style of planning ‘emergent strategy’ — reacting as that landscape around your work changes. So, instead of spending all our time researching and planning the execution of a strategy in detail at the very beginning of a project, we might be able to inspire greater impact if we see strategy as more of a continuous process of testing and learning, regularly (and quite frequently) revisiting our strategies and plans. 

Doing this, however, does require a bit of a shift in the ways we are working. Testing, understanding, and learning takes time and this would need to be built into plans in order to take on an increasingly emergent approach to strategy.  

That’s it for this time! I hope that you have learned something from this so that we, together, can make this world a fairer place, faster.