What we think

Don’t Ask ‘Why?’ – Creating Behaviour Change

7th December 2014 Posted by: Rachael

Beliefs have a powerful influence on our capability as individuals and also as organisations.  Beliefs can be empowering, enabling us to achieve our potential.  But beliefs can also be limiting, based on generalisations from our own experience.  For example, ‘That campaign won’t work, we tried it before’, or ‘Our organisation is too big to respond quickly’.   Listen to yourself or others in your organisation and you will hear such limiting beliefs often.

questions questions

As researchers, we are often asking ourselves ‘WHY’?  Why do employees, consumers, policy makers, behave as they do?  We want to understand what drives behaviours in order to make positive behaviour change.  It is good to keep searching for truth.  But when it comes to actually changing behaviours, ‘why’ is not the question to ask.  We have been looking to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to help create the change we want to see.

NLP challenges the very beliefs that are limiting people in their life and work.  Asking questions about the belief itself, NLP begins to shake the limiting belief.  For example, ‘In what way is this campaign different from before?’, or ‘When has the organisation responded quickly?’, ‘Never, really?’  For an organisation or individual to move forward, they need to form beliefs that will empower them to achieve the change they need, supported with all the evidence they can muster.  NLP is a great resource to support behaviour change.  If you want to dig deeper, we strongly recommend  David Molden and Pat Hutchinson, with their book Brilliant NLP.

So, whether it is in personal or organisational development, do keep asking yourself ‘why’, ‘what’s behind this’ and ‘what’s holding people back?’.  But, when you are ready to create the change, look to the beliefs and how to empower people.


A little bit of love and understanding

7th December 2014 Posted by: Rachael

We have been musing: are charities really in the right space when it comes to communicating with donors, particularly major donors? New Philanthropy Capital’s excellent report, Money for Good, explores what motivates donors to give to charity. You could be forgiven for thinking that major donors are all primarily driven by responding to ‘needs’ and that if only charities were to share that need: the stories of beneficiaries and their work, that our prospective friends would respond. But take a look at this report, and others like it, and they tell quite a different story …


The truth is philanthropists are often persuaded by causes to which they have a personal connection or some link in terms of their own personal experience. What’s needed is less information and more understanding. Don’t just tell, ask; don’t speak, listen…

Philanthropy differs from mainstream giving, in that major donors are much more likely to say they define themselves through the act of giving. It makes sense that appealing to their own personal concerns and values will have more cut-through than simply emphasising there’s a problem to fix.

If you’re a reader, dip into Beth Breeze and Theresa Lloyd’s fascinating book, Richer Lives, Why Rich People Give. Take a look at a few of the great verbatims, and you’ll be wholly convinced of the need for greater love and understanding:

“You can only persuade people to give by appealing to an interest or a passion … the case for support has to be personal and powerful’ HNW donor

Although times are changing, charities largely operate a broadcast model, telling major donors what they’re doing, their aims and objectives.   This can lead to a breakdown in understanding, with the charity thinking “if only we tell them, give them more information…they’ll understand” and then the philanthropist’s response, “you really don’t understand ME!”

So comes the case for a little bit of love and understanding. Let’s think about major donors as individuals with their own preferences, experiences and passions. Profile them to get up close and personal: to understand not just what they do, but how they feel about things and why? Remember it’s less about you, and more about them … always!

Jane Thurlow

What came first, the impact or the profit?

18th December 2013 Posted by: Rachael

We have been exploring social value recently. Why? Because business needs to get better at analysing and communicating the value it adds to sustainable development. In conversation with international NGOs and multinational companies we are exploring the killer measures, the values they track to help make real decisions on their operations. There is a very constructive overlap between business and development measures. Just look at Bond’s Impact Builder and Anglo American’s Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT) to see the direction social impact measurement is moving.

Paul Polak is the author of’ “The Business Solution to Poverty.” He insists that we give far too little attention to achieving attractive bottom line profit and too much on detailed measures of impact. We asked him to identify the social value measures that help transform business, and this is what he said on Business Fights Poverty…

Here’s my approach to impact measures:

1. What is the basic mission built into the DNA of the company, and to what extent is social impact inherent in the basic mission statement?

For example, if bringing electricity to customers without access to it at a price they find attractive and doing it at scale is built into your mission statement, and you are successful in accomplishing your mission, then the impact is built in. There is plenty of convincing information about the contribution REA made to development in the US south, for example, and it should be pretty easy to outline some related key measures of impact

But then the key challenge is making attractive profits, which requires applying all the principles of running an excellent business, and this is far tougher to do than measuring social impact.

2. From interviewing thousands of poor people, I am convinced that helping them increase their net annual income is the single most important social impact measure. From the perspective of poor people themselves, all the other impact variables, like improved quality of life, improved education, empowerment, education, and health, flow from improved net income. So I put a major focus on measuring improved net income, compared with people who are not company customers.” PAUL POLAK

It is a powerful point. For those businesses with a mission to serve the base of the pyramid, profit and income are the two powerful measures. Of course, business profit and impact can get a bit chicken and egg, but let’s not talk about that now.

The three ‘N’s

6th October 2013 Posted by: Rachael

At a meeting with an international NGO last week I was asked for three trends for the ‘business of development’. Based on research we have been conducting over the past year, here are the three ‘N’s that rose to the top:

1. Measurement of NET impact. Business increasingly needs to monitor the impact it has, not just in terms of numbers of jobs and investment dollars. But what is the quality of impact, and the consequence of its actions that support the business development model? And can you measure that in an accessible way? Sounds like the challenge NGOs and governments have. So there’s an opportunity here for the development community to develop the measures that can be applied to the ‘business of development’, and monitor sustainable development.

2. The NEXUS of social and environmental challenges. Leading global business are working on a nexus of social and environmental issues that cut across stakeholder groups. Problems are far bigger than any single actor. Social and environmental NGOs are sensitive to each others’ issues and positions, but how can they respond to this nexus of issues most effectively?

3. NEW partnerships. Business partnerships, NGO and business collaborations, public private partnerships… The scale of the challenge requires the ‘management of impact’ rather than the ‘management of projects’. More transformative partnerships are needed and this will no doubt lead to a consolidation of ‘projects’ and a challenging process of negotiating multiple agency, scalable programmes. The effort required in forming and storming through such partnerships will be immense, but NECESSARY!

Our research, whether desk research, case-studies, stakeholder research or online listening is constantly stimulating issues and ideas. A top ten set of trends will need to emerge next.