Scenario planning for a post-crisis world

(originally published at

  • Scenario planning is a strategic tool designed to help organisations prepare for a range of possible futures. It is not about predicting the future. Fundamentally, it is about accommodating uncertainty.
  • The obvious temptation is to wait for the ‘next normal’ to emerge before thinking about the future. But what if you’re waiting for the dust to settle – and it never does?
  • Thinking about the future should reveal the work you need to do in the present.
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The death of fundraising

Even before the pandemic, traditional charity fundraising was stagnating.

The pandemic has turned a conversation about the challenges of long-term decline into one about short-term collapse. 

Thinking about “fundraising” in a silo misses an important bigger picture.

When it comes to fundraising income, charities do not compete with other charities. They compete with everything else a person might be trying to do to lead a meaningful life.

There is a big prize here. Charities need to think urgently about this wider framing, especially in the face of the current crisis

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Choices in a crisis v choices for renewal

[This is based on a quick twitter thread we published]

“We’re out of the whack-a-mole phase” according to one CEO I spoke to this week.

As organisations move beyond the day-to-day crisis mode of the last few weeks, they are starting to turn to longer term questions.

The tools you use to make decisions in the first phase of a crisis are different to the ones you need to plan for the future. Crisis planning tends to be inward-looking. Longer-term thinking must be outward-looking.

This needs a different set of questions and a different set of tools.

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Complexity on purpose

This article is the third in a series on making strategy in social progress organisations. 

It explores three recurring themes in our conversations with our clients – about participation, platforms and power – and draws five practical implications for people trying to make an impact in the world. 

Our first article in this series argued that the traditional model of “doing strategy” isn’t working for most charities and social progress organisations. The challenge facing these groups is to move from “strategic planning” to “strategic thinking”. 

But as our second article argued, this is really hard in practice. 

In the summer, we brought twelve senior charity executives together over breakfast. They shared their thoughts about strategy, the real choices they were facing in their roles and some of the new approaches they were taking to “making strategy”.

This article tries to put some of those challenges in context. 

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