Community Links

early action

Classifying Community Links spending

As part of Community Links' strategic planning process in 2012 our Senior Management Team analysed our overall programme activity and budget along a spectrum from early to late. Mike Davidson, our Business Strategy & Planning Manager, has written this short paper about the experience.

In it he describes how we tested the use of the following categories: 

Enabling services:
Preventing harm before it occurs, equipping us to deal with setbacks and seize opportunities, to flourish.
Working well away from the cliff edge.

Prompt interventions:
Detecting and responding to early signs of difficulty, forestalling problems which could lead to more serious consequences.
Building fences at the top of the cliff.

Acute interventions:
Reducing the impact of an already-occurring strongly negative situation.
The ambulance back to the top of the cliff, with a newly-built fence.

Mike plotted each area of work on a grid according to how early or late it acted and where it fitted in to our strategic aims. He then looked at how the split occurs not only in budgets, but also in numbers of users and staff, and outcomes.

He found: 

"The analysis was useful on multiple levels, providing a strategic ‘snapshot’ of the balance of our support, how this had changed through time, and how this might develop in the future...It focused the strategic debate on the users and the positive changes we are here to make, deflecting attention from the internal perspective of specific projects or departments, which encouraged more objective strategic development.

"What is important to stress here is that for us the process – and the richness of the debate – was as important as the result.

"The classifications proved beneficial for supporting the strategic process (we found them less useful in the initial exercise when we were more operationally focused). They helped us to map out our portfolio of activity succinctly and clearly, without getting trapped in the detail of individual projects or the silos of departments. They made sense when we explored our portfolio from an operational, financial, and impact perspective. They helped us present what we do in relation to our users and what we are trying to achieve. They afforded us a fresh and unbiased perspective that encouraged both comment and analysis. They showed themselves to be versatile in their application – enabling analysis, and supporting scenario planning. And they aided the way we communicated our intent to our staff, our Trustees, our funders, and our friends."