A Fresh Spin on Nourishing a Community

March 28, 2014

A year after completing Innoweave’s Impact and Strategic Clarity Module, Santropol Roulant shares how their Theory of Change helps them stay focussed on their impact goals and make better decisions.

For Santropol Roulant, a non-profit that uses food as a vehicle to break social and economic isolation between generations and cultures, participating in the Innoweave Impact and Strategic Clarity module provided major breakthroughs.

One-year since completing the six-month process, Pierre-Alexis Liné, Director of Human Resources and Operations, speaks animatedly the way in which the Roulant views its work has shifted since the team completed the module.

“In the past, we thought about our work in terms of activities. Now we talk in terms of impact. So, for example, instead of talking about our rooftop garden project, we now think about our food security project. It’s all about the intended impact.”

This shift is the result of a deliberate effort to clarify the impact that they want to have and to more rigourously align their activities around generating that impact.

“Now when we are asked to go above and beyond what we’re doing, we have a way to evaluate and ask, “Is this the impact we want to have and does this help us achieve it?”. So, when something doesn’t fit, it becomes easier to say no. And also, when an opportunity comes up that aligns with our strategic impact, it becomes easier to say yes.”

In the case of rooftop gardens, Santropol directly advances their mission of using “food as a vehicle to break social and economic isolation between generations and cultures” and “strengthening and nourishing their local community”, by directly increasing access to local foods. Produce grown on the roof of Santropol Roulant is used in the Meals-on-Wheels kitchen, or sold in the Fresh Basket Program and at neighbourhood markets.

Developing a Theory of Change

Every organization that works through the Impact and Strategic Clarity module develops a Theory of Change (TOC). The TOC  “is a visual map that shows all the interconnected steps for how an organization will achieve its intended impact,” says Innoweave Impact coach Stephanie Garrow. “It’s a map of all the key ingredients necessary to realise an organization’s long term impacts” – what activities you will deliver, with what specific groups of people, using what approach, and then a description of the short, medium and long term desired changes you expect to see as a result of  mixing all these ingredients together.”

“We now really have a better understanding of our work,” Liné says. “We have our good-enough Theory of Change and we made it into a poster. It hangs in the office so everyone can see it. So it’s not just a process, it’s a practical tool that we use every day.” As a touchstone for the organization, he also explains that it has also made decision-making so much easier.

Financing social change

Gaining greater clarity is not only helping Santropol more effectively implement strategic changes – it’s also helping them communicate more effectively with partners and funders.

Why do they consider improved communication with funders such a big deal? “Because funders want to know how their dollars make a difference.,” explains Liné. “So now they’re not financing a social project, they’re financing a social change.”

Gaining momentum

One of the most common reflections from the organizations that participate in the Impact and Strategic Clarity module is how intense the process is. Teams are required to commit a day or two a week across their management team for six months and there’s a lot packed into these sessions.

Is it all too much?

Liné doesn’t think so. “We were being helped a lot during the process by the coaches and being accountable. It was hard after the process was over to keep that momentum. The deadlines were super helpful and we got a lot done. I wouldn’t change it much; it felt good at the time. I don’t think we’d have accomplished what we did if there had been less pressure.”

This clarity is helping them be more deliberate – and impactful – with the resources they have. As they move forward with implementation, the team at Santropol feels confident they will be able to use their Theory of Change to develop and refine programming that will drive the impact they seek.

To learn more about whether Innoweave’s Impact and Strategic Clarity module might be right for you, click here.