By: Lynn Fergusson
So you’re thinking of applying for an Innoweave program. Great idea! Though perhaps you’re feeling a little unsure of what you’d be getting into. As an Innoweave coach in both Collective Impact (CI) and the Impact & Strategic Clarity (I&SC) programs, I wanted to share a bit from my experience and words of wisdom from clients, to help you check for fit and prepare you to get the most out of the opportunity.
First off, no matter the program, Innoweave has come to realize that being clear and aligned about specifically what it is you are trying to achieve (your intended impact), and how you will go about doing it (your Theory of Change), are critical to increasing your impact and overall success. The CI and I&SC programs address this directly, so I’m going to focus this article on those areas, but feel free to reach out to a coach directly to think through your readiness before applying for any program.
So what makes a great candidate for participating in an Innoweave program? If you’re reading this, that’s a good start. I’m going to assume your organization is interested in making a greater impact and the idea of having a process and coaching support for working through that is appealing. Perhaps you’ve even heard good things about a program from peers, and despite the effort they said was involved, you’re curious to find out more. The reality is, it takes both interest in working to improve your impact (the specific good you are doing in the world, i.e. 80% of youth are housed within 30 days of identifying as homeless, or our community’s high school graduation rates are above the provincial average, or reducing the poverty rate by x% by 2020), and the ability to do the work to get there. These two ideas seem pretty simple, but let’s break them down a bit more.
First, you want to improve your impact.
- Perhaps your organization is pulled in many directions and has a hard time knowing where to focus your always limited resources, but you know that if you could focus you could have a greater impact.
- Perhaps you want a clearer message for funders on what you will deliver in order to encourage them to provide their support.
- You likely recognize that the need in the community is beyond what you are currently addressing and you want to find a way to serve more people, and see if you can do more to address the root cause and prevent the problem.
- Perhaps the issue is significant and requires not just your organization, but many organizations (non-profit, business, government) to come together to make a real impact on the issue, as in the case of Collective Impact.
- Regardless, based on data, research, and the knowledge of various participants, you’re willing to set a specific objective (intended impact), determine key strategies and activities for getting there (Theory of Change), and be held accountable internally and externally for delivering it.
Wanting to make changes to have this clarity of purpose and commitment is an important component to being ready for an Innoweave program, but it’s not enough. You have to be able to do it!
Second, you are prepared to actually pull it off.
- You have the leadership in the organization or the community to bring together a team of participants (from within the organization for the I&SC module, and across organizations for CI) for whom this is important work that aligns with their day jobs. Ideally, they will each carve out a half day a week of dedicated, thoughtful time and energy to this work, together and individually. This work can be a priority, which may mean other work needs to be put aside. If your organization is constantly struggling to manage the day to day work, shuffling staff to put out fires, then Innoweave work will be a challenge. As much as gaining focus and clarity might help you in the long run, you’re not currently in a position to take this on.
- You are able to meet as a team, with and without your Innoweave coach, to openly and honestly discuss the issue, question the status quo, and develop and challenge ideas for addressing the issue. Without your coach, you can facilitate meetings, reach decisions and determine the next steps. You have identified a point person to coordinate meetings and document the work. You can have productive meetings both in person and via videoconference.
- You recognize this is a long, iterative process. Developing your intended impact and Theory of Change (what you are going to accomplish and how you are going to do it) take time, and the first draft will not be the last. You are open to learning and adjusting accordingly, throughout the process. Your coach is there to provide a proven process and facilitate your team moving through it. You are the content experts and will bring in other experts. Often, the coach plays a devil’s advocate role, questioning your assumptions and conclusions, getting you to look for data/research to prove that your plan makes sense, revisiting your point of accountability, gaining clarity around what you mean by various terms and specifically what actions you will take, and generally pushing you to make your intended impact greater and more realistic.
If, after reading all of this, you have confirmed you are committed to improving your impact and that the timing is right, then you are ready to reach out to a coach for a conversation, and apply for funding!