What we think

Partnerships: An evolution

4th July 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Jane Thurlow

All good models for relationships evolve over time. Think 21st century marriages – more flexible, more diverse, more in tune with the needs of both parties. Partnerships are evolving too: to be more strategic, more targeted, more valuable for both partners. The traditional philanthropic model is being replaced by embedded partnerships, focused on shared value. Beyond that, we’re now seeing businesses looking to partners to develop their business agenda alongside them.

A partnership continuum can be a helpful way to look at this evolution. Businesses will be at different stages, depending on their journey. The positions aren’t mutually exclusive. Some businesses will be in the philanthropic space, but will look to optimise strategic partnerships with long-term partners:

PHILANTHROPIC PARTNERSHIPS: Support external messaging and internal engagement with employees. Traditionally about being seen to be good, short term and small scale; think charity of the year …

RESPONSIBILITY PARTNERSHIPS: A step on from philanthropy, these showcase the impact a brand can have. Successful partnerships are relevant to CSR strategy, focused on the cause rather than the business. The benefit? Reputation and brand building. The fit needs to be relevant and feel authentic

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS: Partnerships are integrated, delivering targeted and specific value for the sustainability agenda from signature programs to a scaleable approach, e.g. Barclays, Plan and Care Banking for Change

BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS: Increasingly businesses are looking for partners who can help them achieve a specific goal, be propositional and solve problems: plugging skills and knowledge gaps to develop new business models and markets; with a focus on social and business impact

Think about where your partnerships are now and where you would like them to be in the future. Think about where your partners are and how you can help them move their models along the continuum. How can you help partners with their business objectives? What shared assets, resources and knowledge do you have that you can leverage together?

Happy mapping ….

partnership evolution image



Jane has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors. She enjoys informing thinking and decision making, highlighting the strategic choices that an organisation needs to make.


25th April 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Rachael Clay/Jane Thurlow

‘Begin with the end in mind’ is not just a self-help rule*. It’s an effective guide to planning for impact. When we are ‘modelling change’ with an organisation or initiative, we get people to start with the change they want to see. Social and environmental change is complex. It’s changeable. Focusing on the end goal and identifying the conditions for success from there helps define an organisation’s unique interventions with real clarity of purpose. This purpose helps people navigate through change and be responsive, while remaining on course to achieve the change they want to see.
The beauty of this model is that it concentrates on your end goal, not what has gone before, encouraging you to apply fresh thinking and consider new routes to change. It will focus you on what people will need to do differently and your role in that: identifying the right interventions. The diagram shows the modelling change approach.

Start with LONG TERM OUTCOMES: Ask yourself what is the goal/change you are seeking?
For participants, beneficiaries, their communities, their services, their governments, etc.

Now consider SHORT TERM OUTCOMES: Here you need to think about more immediate changes. What are the indicators of this outcome? Who or what is needed to reach this goal? How many of that group do we need to have to have to reach the goal? What level needs to reached— how good is good enough? By when?

Next, move on to PRE-CONDITIONS: What conditions are necessary for you to achieve success? What behaviours need to change to get the impact you are after? Include your assumptions here.

Only now get into your INTERVENTIONS: Your activities, products, services, advocacy. Align them with each pre-condition for a joined-up outlook.

The additional benefit of this modelling approach is it will hone a clear, sharp message to communicate around your PURPOSE. Ultimately you’ll have a strong proposition which will feel more inspired, but also rooted in the reality of the work you do, the change that you can make that others can’t get close to. Aim to have ONE SENTENCE which talks to what makes you unique, it must be instantly memorable and believable. Test it on your stakeholders – if they don’t get it, refine it until they do.
Of course this isn’t the end but the start of an iterative process. The most successful organisations are adaptive. Revisit your change model regularly, to refine and respond to external shifts. Be evolutionary in your thinking and you will be on a pathway for change for the long-term.

Rachael Clay set up Ethicore in 2008 to help organisations have a bigger impact through insight, engagement and partnership. She has over twenty years experience working with business, NGOs and institutions. Rachael is expert in research, stakeholder engagement, facilitation, strategy and partnership.

Jane has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors. She enjoys informing thinking and decision making, highlighting the strategic choices that an organisation needs to make.

*Stephen R Covey, Habit 2 of ‘The 7 Habits of Effective People’.


15th March 2016 Posted by: Rachael



Insight for Impact (2)

Genuine insight is based on deep understanding.  Understanding  your stakeholders, your environment and your future.  In Insight for Impact, the fourth in our Design for Impact Series, we consider how to  go deeper to access genuine insight, and build a solid platform for sustainable impact.

Empathy for M&E

1st March 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Madeline Nightingale, Ethicore Associate

As an interested observer, much seems to be asked of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) professionals:  uphold the highest possible quality standards; use appropriate and robust methodologies; attribute change excluding any contradictory factors; be cost effective and capture the theory of change.

This is tough with unanticipated effects and broader, more diffuse consequences than those identified in the theory of change. It can be challenging at an organisational level, particularly in smaller organisations, whose capacity and resources are more limited.

How, then, can organisations think creatively about impact? Here are three possible routes in a complex and resource-limited environment:

  • A flexible, iterative approach to measuring impact. As well as being set before the programme starts, evaluation criteria and metrics may be adjusted in response to what is happening on the ground. Melinda Gates urges NGOs to create a “continuous feedback loop” in a recent Ted Talk, rather than relying entirely on post hoc evaluation. You can think about your theory of change as a work in progress, informed by an ever-expanding evidence base. Any theory of change is a model, a framework built on the best available evidence. Programming is increasingly agile and adaptive, and so an iterative approach can enhance learning.
  • Thinking about impact in terms of how and why. Are large-scale quantitative or experimental designs, such as Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) or quasi-experimental studies, the only credible causal approaches? A broader range of methodologies may offer insights into causal processes. Qualitative and participatory methods can aid us in understanding how and why programmes achieve or fall short of stated objectives, going beyond establishing or quantifying impact. They may also offer insights into broader, perhaps unanticipated, effects. Rather than being inferior or supplementary to experimental data, mixed methods can build a richer causal picture. Integration is key:  take a look at  Michael Quinn Patton’s blog, where he describes qualitative and quantitative evaluations too often behaving like two year-olds refusing to play with one other.
  • Collating evidence to assess impact. Even if primary data collection is small-scale or otherwise limited, it is still of value in the context of a broader evidence base. We have to avoid generalisations or tenuous assumptions, where interventions and contexts differ.  However, the overall weight of evidence, particularly when informed by systematic reviews, gives strong grounds for making claims about impact. As stated by DFID[1], “individual studies, no matter how rigorous or scientific, are not a sufficient evidence base from which to make informed policy and practice decisions”.

The narrative of monitoring and evaluation is becoming increasingly important, with greater emphasis placed on effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Looking to the future, data synthesis will become key, pulling together data from a range of sources, including open data and social media. New technologies and digital tools also provide opportunities to streamline and innovate. With greater attention paid to M & E than ever before, an ever-expanding evidence base and new tools and methodologies on the horizon, we can embrace fresh opportunities to think creatively and constructively about impact.

Madeline Nightingale is an experienced social researcher who has worked across the public, private and non-profit sector. With an MSc in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford, she is currently working towards her PhD in social policy, focusing on working poverty in Europe. [Department of Social Policy and Intervention].

Planning for Impact

11th February 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Jane Thurlow, Ethicore Associate

Planning for impact builds on our Design for Impact series where we outline 3 steps for good planning:

  1. Identify where you are
  2. Define where you want to go
  3. Design the journey

So follow our plan for more influence, and unlock your potential for genuine impact …

Planning for impact infographic

Jane has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors. She enjoys informing thinking and decision making, highlighting the strategic choices that an organisation needs to make.