By Cláudia Pedra, Managing Partner.
Stone Soup Consulting’s first ever Honesty Report has to start, obviously, by explaining why it has such an outlandish name. Shouldn’t a social consultancy working on increasing impact be producing an Impact Report and not an Honesty Report? Is there a difference?.
We are borrowing the expression “Honesty Report” from Leonora Buckland and Caroline Fiennes’ work on reporting. We apologise for this, but it was too good to let it pass. Too good because when we were thinking of such a report we wanted it to be truthful and sincere, free of deceit, which is exactly how the Oxford Dictionary defines honesty.
Our idea is to showcase the impact of Stone Soup Consulting‘s work. Impact on organisations and on people; all impact, not only the positive impact, which of course everyone loves to show. The tough reality is that to be honest you have to show the good, the bad and the ugly. In this report we try to do exactly that. We do not sugarcoat our lack of impact in such areas. We are even honest about what we did not track, although we are experts in measuring impact. From failure comes change, innovation and improvement. In eight years, from September 2008 to August 2016, we have worked on 89 projects with 66 clients. We have also given many trainings. We have developed a network of over 40 consultants in 10 countries and worked in Europe, Latin America and Northern Africa. We have worked with social entrepreneurs, small cooperatives, large and tiny NGOs, foundations, town halls, universities and companies.
We consider that Stone Soup Consulting is on the road to achieve the goals it has set out. All clients interviewed said our deliverables were useful and 73% of them said we helped them increase their social impact. This report shows that our clients largely appreciate the technical quality of our work, so much so that the majority have repeated projects with us, but it also shows how much they value our human qualities, even more than the technical ones. For us, this is a measure of our success. Our values and principles translated in the team that we have brought together in our Stone Soup community is the way Stone Soup Consulting is changing the world and with it the perception of consultancy work. Over the years we have faced many challenges. Many times, traditional consultancy leaves dependent organisations behind that have to revert to consultants for even the simplest tasks. Many clients fear that our consultancy will do the same. Thus, building trust is always a major challenge. However, our reputation is now hopefully preceding us and clients hire us believing that Stone Soup Consulting brings capacity and empowerment to organisations, creating stronger and more efficient organisations able to tackle complex societal problems. For the coming years we wish to keep on strengthening the training and capacity building aspects of our work, in order to make that contribution even clearer for the organisations and entrepreneurs with whom we work. Capacity building is definitely part of our DNA and a top priority in our learning and innovation efforts.
Since the beginning Stone Soup Consulting has brought innovation to its business model and, freeing ourselves from the shackles of corporate norms, we decided to create a virtually based company with a strong sense of community. To keep in line with our own Theory of Change and to value personal and professional development of all individuals, we have strived to maintain a close and tightknit community – bringing together partners, consultants and clients. But it hasn’t been easy, as the report shows. As people are relational beings, it has been hard to keep a strong community that stretches over thousands of miles and doesn’t have the privilege of speaking face to face on a daily basis. Technology is as useful as it is tough for human relationships.
As the reputation of the company increases, we are working on more and more projects as well as longer term, pluri-annual projects. This gives us the time to build stronger relationships that translate into more visible and sustainable impact.
When creating this report, we focused on assessing the impact on two major stakeholders - our clients and our consultants – although the impact goes beyond these stakeholders. In the enlarged Stone Soup community we have created, we are fortunate in having access to many experts in different parts of the world who share their knowledge with us. Based on our combined experience and knowledge we produced a document on the trends of the social sector which we summarise at the end of this report. It is our contribution to the future of the social sector and to the effort of organisations and entrepreneurs in further developing their organisations and initiatives. The trends show a dynamic, forward-thinking, innovative sector that is striving to better itself in order to better the world. They also show us that traditional barriers are being erased. That all types of organisations can have a social purpose and play an important role in a world riddled with complex social problems that nobody seems to know how to solve. They are also, increasingly, working together and that is why collaboration is one of the trends we highlight.
So, are we producing an impact report or an honesty report? The answer is both. We really hope you enjoy our Honesty Report. And that is the honest truth.