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CSI must change gear to confront the new reality

Here is an article I wrote for the publication, “CSI: The Human Face of Business” which was included in the Financial Mail during October 2020. 

It explores how Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives have had to radically rethink their approach when confronted with the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown on their beneficiaries. The strategies that they had fine-tuned over the years needed to rapidly pivot and innovate.

This article explores several lessons that CSI managers have needed to learn, and which will hopefully remain.

I suggest that CSI managers must assess the stark reality of the social, economic and environmental problems that are confronting South Africans, and simultaneously cultivate hope that they can make a lasting difference.

When you apply for impact investment, don’t make these mistakes in your application!

I have been increasingly working with impact investment funds around Africa, and with organizations that are trying to become ‘investment ready’.

As part of this work, I have assessed the applications of over a hundred organizations and conducted due diligence on several.

I have noticed how many organizations make the same pattern of mistakes in their applications. These tend to downgrade their ratings, even when their proposed business venture might be good.

This inspired me to write this article and share 10 recommendations for how to prepare a winning application.

I hope that this will help organizations to submit better applications to impact investment funds in future.

Does your organization have FOGO?

Now that the lockdown in South Africa has started to lift, I’m noticing how many people are struggling with FOGO – an acronym for ‘Fear of Going Out’. 

They have established a safe bubble during lockdown, and are anxious about venturing out and confronting the turbulent world that awaits them. This tendency seems to be the antithesis of FOMO, which we all know as the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

This article explores the characteristics of FOGO in organizations, and what you, as a leader, can do about it.

I encourage leaders to realize that their organizations must venture out before it’s too late. The cost of inaction may be irreversible. This unusual moment will come to an end, sooner rather than later, and we will all have to enter the uncertain world outside.

Leaders must confront their brutal truths but never give up their hopes

It is becoming much clearer what the next 12 months will look like for our organizations. For some organizations, it looks quite bleak; for others there may be a measure of hope.

I’m writing this article in early August 2020 in South Africa. The coronavirus pandemic appears to be over the hump of the first wave over here, and hopefully in decline. People have learned how to navigate through the dangers and restrictions that confront them each day. It looks like the initial panic is slowly subsiding. 

Leaders are able to distill evidence and trends to infer what their organizations will look like over the next year. For many leaders, this outlook is legitimately distressing. Their organizations, their beneficiaries and customers, their strategic context, may look very different from how they did in the past. 

I advise leaders to consider the Stockdale Paradox, in which I’ve found solace in recent months. This paradox suggests that leaders must confront and accept the brutal truth of what they see.

10 examples of businesses & nonprofits that have adapted in response to the Covid-19 lockdown

This Covid-19 lockdown has had a profound impact on non-profit organizations and businesses in South Africa.

While a few have managed to scale their services to meet the demand, many have needed to shift how they do things to keep their doors open. Those who’ve been unable to do this, or who’ve simply been unlucky, have sadly needed to downsize or even close.

During the lockdown, I’ve been marveling at how willingly and rapidly some South African organizations have adapted.

This inspired me to source some examples from my network. This presentation showcases 10 organizations that have adapted and created positive change in the process.

I hope this will inspire you to explore new and interesting ways of doing things during this difficult time.

The four outcomes of good leadership

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently – about what good leadership is and what type of leaders the world needs right now. There seems to be turmoil everywhere, but also opportunity.

I’m very mindful of how leaders behave and the outcomes they achieve in their teams, organizations and communities. I’m fortunate to have worked with some very skilled (and poor) leaders, and witnessed a variety of leadership styles.

I’ve noticed that good leaders are able to achieve four key outcomes among their team members, subordinates and followers. I unpack these in this article, as well as the three biggest mistakes that I tend to make as a leader.

We are heading towards some difficult times with many challenges on the horizon. While none of us know how this will ultimately turn out, we can be sure that many of us need to become better leaders. Focusing on these four outcomes will help us to remain on course.

Summary of four project budgeting methods

A month ago I wrote an article on the four methods for developing project budgets which I’ve seen non-profit organizations use in South Africa. I believe its best to be adaptable and have all these methods in your project budgeting ‘toolkit’.

This 1-page Strategy Brief summaries these four methods. There is a link to the full article at the bottom of this Brief.

Recent events have made our decisions simpler but not easier

Over the past month, I’ve been helping organizations to adapt to the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown. I’ve helped them to reassess and refine their strategies and how they work. I’ve also helped organizations to downsize. This has been a painful process for everyone involved.

On the positive side, I’ve seen organizations use this opportunity to implement changes that have been overdue for some time. And some organizations that provide ‘essential services’ have even scaled their services to meet their growing demand.

But I’ve heard more sad stories than I’ve heard success stories.

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon during this time. It has seemed easier than usual to identify the constraints influencing our organizations and to make the required strategic decisions. In contrast, it has felt emotionally harder to make and implement these decisions. I’ve seen how leaders have suffered, and how they need time to grieve, reflect and heal.

This is the phenomenon that I’ll explore in this article.

Perspectives when assessing or designing a strategy

A while ago, we pitched to develop a strategic plan for an international non-profit organization. As part of our proposal, we needed to describe how we see ‘strategic planning’ and how we should adopt multiple perspectives when looking at organizations. A colleague and I drew this framework over a coffee chat at our local spot. It was then neatened up and integrated into our proposal.

I thought I’d share this short framework with you since you may find it thought provoking.

Four methods that non-profit organizations can use to develop project budgets for their funding proposals

This article will help you to think more broadly about developing project budgets for your funding proposals and donors. It will highlight four budgeting methods to include in your toolkit. This will help your organization to be more prepared, versatile and likely to build (as opposed to consume) its financial reserves.

Non-profit organizations tend to rely on grants for their survival. Fundraisers must be skilled at developing a narrative for how a project will achieve its impact, and how the anticipated activities and costs will serve this purpose.

I’ve worked with several organizations that routinely get the full funds they need for their projects. I’ve noticed they tend to use a variety of methods for developing project budgets. They have also developed innovative products, and have used marketing and PR to bolster their bargaining power.

In this article I will discuss four methods of developing project budgets. I will also discuss the issue of cost structure and bargaining power since these concepts are relevant to this conversation.

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