Why an assessment is much more than an assessment
September 26th 2017, by Cláudia Pedra.
A few months ago, Stone Soup worked in Lisbon with an amazing organisation called Oblatas. They are a religious organisation whose mission is to help women that are in prostitution and those that are victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
We were hired to do an organisational assessment. For a consultant, this is a task that is almost second nature to us. We are used to entering organisations, applying participative methodologies, finding out all the details – the good, the bad (sometimes the ugly) and recommending good practices. Simple? Maybe in some cases. But as not all organisations are the same, not all procedures could be equal.
Oblatas are nuns. They have an organisation where technicians and nuns work together. They convey their Christian values, and live based on them, but they never pass judgement. Nor on their staff nor on the women they help. They are a quite controversial organisation. Nuns that work with women prostitutes that hand out free condoms in their field work. Many do not understand it, some condemn it, but some also appreciate the way they are truly concerned with the women’s wellbeing. So concerned that they are willing to leave moral judgement behind.
So why speak of this when speaking of an organisational assessment? Because people and organisations are living and breathing beings and the consultant that stays in an office trying to look at them through a lens of formal practice may never understand them. That is why the Stone Soup team went to the street. We saw the team interact with these women. We saw the women complain, unburden and laugh. It was like witnessing two good friends that crossed each other on the street. Never does the team offer more help than asked for. It was so interesting to witness how their methodology works.
The Superform, the tool that will boost your funding applications
September 21st, by Pilar Balet
What will make your funding application a success? What are the key ingredients that will gain your initiative access to a new donor? Preparing a funding application can easily turn into a headache or a time waste feeling for many of those working in the social sector. However - and although nobody has the recipe that will guarantee your application’s success -, years of experience in the field can get you closer to your funding goals.
A long path dedicated to working in charities, evaluating hundreds of funding applications, supporting social entrepreneurs and leading our own social initiatives have given Stone Soup good knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when applying for funding. It has even inspired us to create the Superform, a tool for clients wanting to improve the technical quality of their funding applications and be a step closer to their financial sustainability.
“One of the major issues in fundraising is that applications are generally very poorly done”, states Stone Soup’s Managing Partner Cláudia Pedra. To her experience, the vast majority of submitted applications are not technically correct and objectives, results or impacts are misconstructed. But most importantly, the justification of the project – the most valuable aspect of a project for most donors - is usually unclear or not focused.
B Corp - A tale of interdepence
By Cláudia Pedra, managing partner of Stone Soup Consulting.
Stone Soup was asked to share a story of interdependence at the B Corp Europe Summer Summit (20-22 June 2017), which we have attended as a certified B Corp. As some of you may know, every company that joins the B Corp movement signs a Declaration of Interdependence. When I reached Cascais, the Declaration was on the table, standing out in its simplicity but also meaning. It certainly inspired my talk.
The story we chose to share was nothing more than a story of how to create a new concept of community and how it is tangled with the story of Stone Soup Consulting. It all started eight years ago, when five people came together to create a company that could be a force for good. When we reflected on our Theory of Change and decided that Stone Soup would help organisations and social entrepreneurs increase their positive social impact through strategic consultancy, we also reflected on the concept of community. We had this crazy idea, that this community could have the founding partners, consultants, clients, commercial partners, but also competitors that sometimes could be partners. We scheduled several presentations to those competitors and spoke of the concept. Although they smiled politely, the majority looked at us as if what we were proposing was too strange even to consider.
About four years after these early presentations, we were challenged by two major foundations in Portugal to collaborate on the creation of a platform that would help social entrepreneurs and organisations to reach long term sustainability. The only condition for this collaboration was that the concept and operation would have to be done by four organisations (two companies and two NGOs - ourselves, Call to Action, IES and TESE). It was a strong opportunity to implement our original idea of community and finally work on an interdependent model with our competitors/partners. One year after the kick off in Portugal, GEOfundos is a success and on a weekly basis this consortium of four partners meets and works together as a team.
Creating social value: how can we be sure?
By Susan Balet, Stone Soup consultant specialized in social impat measurement
On April 10th and 11th, Stone Soup Consulting had the opportunity to be part of the Social Value Matters conference in Istanbul. This annual conference, organised by Social Value International and KUSIF, was aimed at how best to amplify voices, inspire change and maximise value while raising awareness on how social value matters. It might seem something obvious for all of us participating at the conference – we were all related to the social sector and social value drives our work. But the topic of the conference made me ask myself the following question: do we stop in our daily busy lives to check and reflect if we are really adding social value through what we do? Do we talk to our stakeholders openly enough to find out if we are or not creating value for all sides? Are we creating the space in our organisations to discuss if we could be generating a negative impact? Do we let that reflection happen?
If I give myself a minute, my response is clearly and unfortunately “not really”. Not so often in the social sector and neither in the private sector. I truly believe we still have to integrate a learning approach in our work. We need to keep evolving towards management models that allow us to integrate those tools and practices that will firmly help answer clearly to these questions. As well as social impact measurement and evaluation, that will let us stop for a minute and think. By doing this we will be able to observe, feel and maybe fully understand the social value we create, if any. The worst news is that we might find we are creating negative externalities. Although never intended, we must be aware that good intentions can sometimes lead to negative consequences.
The Grantee Experience and Insight Review (GEIR)
The Grantee Experience and Insight Review, or GEIR, is a unique global enterprise dedicated to bolstering the impact and success of foundations around the world. The GEIR is grounded upon the conviction that foundation effectiveness is greatly bolstered by relationships of openness, trust, and mutual accountability on the part of foundations and their grantees.
The GEIR helps to enable such relationships by allowing grantees to provide confidential feedback on their financial supporters.
Ø Through a PRACTICE component, grantees provide candid feedback on how they experience the grantmaking process, including proposal and reporting requirements, communications, and more.
Ø Through a VALUES component, grantees shine a spotlight on a grantmaker’s values, checking them against their own experience.
The GEIR’s data-gathering methodology—unique in the domain of grantee feedback evaluation protocols—is one-on-one interviews conducted by experienced professionals with strong cultural competency within local contexts. This distinctive approach allows grantees to share their stories, experiences and insights in a way that on-line surveying simply don’t allow.
On its own or as part of a broader evaluation program, the GEIR delivers evidence-based, actionable insights to improve foundation practice and boost effectiveness and impact.
You can find more information on our webinar "The GEIR Evaluation Protocol"