AGILE FOR GOOD: Helping small charities to navigate the COVID-19 crisis using an agile mindset

April 2020

As the COVID-19 crisis began to unfold and the small charities we support were suddenly faced with a great deal of uncertainty and change, we turned to our friends at JCURV for their support and expertise. The JCURV team specialise in managing change by using an agile approach to thinking, planning and delivery.

Coalition for Efficiency has hosted an online Learning Lab series for the Measuring the Good community since early 2019. These interactive sessions have focused on topics relating to impact measurement, management and evaluation, such as building a data dashboard or developing a theory of change. With the impact of Covid-19, we decided to build on the success and popularity of previous Learning Labs and launched a new Agile for Good series.

Earlier this month, the JCURV team ran the first session: Responding and Adapting to Change, which was attended by 20 small charities and volunteer coaches.

Before the session began, participants were invited to think about the following questions:

What does working in this uncertainty mean for you right now? What is the challenge you are facing? What are the tangible effects this is having? What could this result in?

This 90 minute Zoom session began with a powerful grounding exercise to help us to take stock of where we were and accept the things that are beyond our control. We then looked at JCURV’s five-step agile model that breaks down seemingly unsurmountable challenges into small easier-to-deliver outcomes that can be implemented iteratively.

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Each participant had a template to fill out, either for their organisation or for a personal challenge they were facing. In smaller breakout groups, a JCURV coach facilitated an action learning exercise during which participants focused on what an “awesome” outcome to overcome their challenge would look like. For example, an organisation that supports disadvantaged young people might want to come out of this crisis with no loss of staff or footprint, and with an increased ability to serve and support disadvantaged young people.

We then reflected on activities that could help us achieve our awesome statement. It might be to furlough delivery staff, stop all non-essential spending or design a digital support offering. Of all the possible activities, which ones should we prioritise in the next 30 days? Which one small thing can we do in the next few days?

The shift in mood when everyone ‘came back into the room’ was remarkable. Participants were invited to share one word to describe how they were feeling at the beginning and end of the session, captured in these word clouds. It was interesting to observe the change in feelings for many from… uncertain, overwhelmed and frustrated to… positive, empowered and confident (and one panicked!).

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Here were some of the key takeaways from the session:

o  “I loved the way the session combined coaching theory with project delivery as a format. It really worked!”

o  “It was very motivating! I like the part about accepting where you are now first and then moving to action. I now know our organisation needs to be constantly dynamic.”

o  “I thought the framework template was very useful to help focus and I can see how it can be used across the whole of my organisation – even at senior levels and on an individual basis too.”

o  “I really enjoyed the session because from the sharing of stories, it really put into perspective that we are all going through the same things together but experiencing and tackling these things in different ways.”

o  “I like the emphasis in the session of not forgetting the simple things that we can do, that we can take a step back, and realise that even taking simple actions can make a big difference.” 

You can read more about how to use an agile mindset in this article written by Raj Chana at JCURV.

If you’d like to be informed of upcoming events and Learning Labs, please sign up to the Measuring the Good newsletter.

Thank you to the brilliant JCURV team for their energy, care, time and expertise. We couldn’t deliver our programmes without the support of our volunteer community.