Impact and Strategic Clarity alumni: Santropol Roulant’s reflections on Innoweave coaching
June 16, 2016
Santropol Roulant’s mission is to use food as an instrument to reinforce social inclusion between generations, through innovative approaches focusing on youth engagement, urban and suburban food systems, food security and community engagement.
Santropol Roulant had been active in Montreal neighbourhoods for 17 years when the executive team engaged in the Innoweave Impact and Strategic Clarity process. The timing was right: after several years of growth, and having entered a range of good opportunities, the team felt that it was time to refocus its organizational strategy and clarify the role that it plays in the community with their various partners. This was in 2013. At the end of the process in the following year, 2014, Pier Liné who is now Executive Director of Santropol Roulant provided us with his first impressions of how the organization was affected by the Impact and Strategic Clarity process. These effects continue to be felt today as they continue to unfold throughout the organization.
It should be remembered that the work team that engaged in these reflections consisted of the executive team and representatives from all the other teams, which made it possible to gain an overarching perspective of the numerous activities performed by the organization. The team enjoyed the guidance of the Bridgespan Group and of two Innoweave mentors, Lara Evoy and Stephanie Garrow, throughout the entire process.
At the end of the reflection period, Santropol Roulant had acquired an effective tool, which could be integrated into several internal procedures and specific strategic documents in future years: a Theory of Change.
“It is not just simply a process, but also a practical tool which we use every day”, stated Pier Liné, at the time.
The effects of greater strategic clarity within the organization
The ideas developed by the Santropol Roulant team during the development of this theory of change made it possible to identify the organization’s three major impact areas:
- Food security
- Social inclusion
- Community engagement
These three impact areas were to become useful decision-making tools for Santropol Roulant. Two major effects also emerged for the organization as it engaged in the Impact and Strategic Clarity process and these effects continue to be felt today:
1) Increased clarity of communications with partners
In keeping with initial objectives, communications with various partners concerning the community activities of Santropol Roulant were greatly enhanced. “ [Funders] want to be reassured that their investments make a difference. The money they invest is not just to finance a social project but also to finance the procedures of social change”, declared Mr. Liné at the end of the process. The members of the team are now able to express the work performed by Santropol Roulant with greater articulation on a day-to-day basis.
The team also developed and enhanced its ability to make clear strategic choices regarding its activities and the partnerships it develops. As a result, Santropol Roulant has engaged in development that is much less opportunistic, much more focused, and in keeping with the priorities in the theory of change. Like many other nonprofit group, Santropol Roulant must devote a certain amount of its time and efforts toward fundraising, particularly when it is applying for major funding from specific sources. The clear direction developed through the Impact and Strategic Clarity process has helped the organization determine the priority of funding applications that correspond more closely to the fulfillment of its organizational mission.
2) Development of a common language among teams
The results of the Impact and Strategic Clarity process gradually trickled down throughout the organization. Such “positive contamination” has taken the form of new strategic and management tools that fully incorporated the components of the process. For example, the theory of change is now included in Santropol Roulant’s annual reports, as well as in training provided to new employees. The theory of change has also become the “base” for the organization’s strategic planning as the two tools provide reciprocal reinforcement, as it is difficult to separate one from the other.
These organizational changes have also been instrumental in developing a common understanding of the impact that the organization would like to promote within the community. The adoption of a common language for all teams has resulted in increased internal clarity with respect to organization priorities. According to Mr. Liné, “the support provided by Innoweave helped significantly reduce the weight borne by the managers of Santropol Roulant as it helped clarify the strategic features of the organization which up to that point had been difficult to articulate”.
Santropol Roulant enjoys an international reputation as a creative and innovative organization that produces real impact within the community. The involvement of various members of the team, including executive management, in the Impact and Strategic Clarity process helped clearly identify organization’s impact areas, clarify the nature of the desired impact as well as align internal and external communications, all of which are essential for informed decision-making.