What we think

Strategy Like you Mean It

8th December 2016 Posted by: Ethicore

By Rachael Clay

slide1“Can you help us develop our strategy for [insert theme here]?” “Sure”, we say, “Is that a piece of paper, or the actual impact you want?”  

Strategy can be about so many things… securing funds, keeping a board happy, demonstrating team worth. Often, the focus is on getting a strategy signed off. But that is just the beginning. If you do ‘strategy like you mean it’, you want to understand what it will take to deliver your goals. You are going to need depth, diffusion and delivery.


A strategy for impact needs to be built on deep insight in the internal as well as the external issues, opportunities, markets, trends and targets. But you also have to…

  1. Think about the plan right from the beginning. Where could the energy, influence, budget, capacity and impact come from?
  2. Understand what it will really take to deliver your objectives. You have to actively listen to your stakeholders and immerse them in your work.
  3. Keep your blockers close. Listen hard to their challenges and respond to them, letting them be part of the solution.


A strategy for impact needs ownership and commitment to the strategy diffused throughout the organisation. You can facilitate diffusion by encouraging the freedom to develop the strategy at all levels:

  1. Co-create the direction with others, both internal and external. New online collaborative tools mean there is no excuse for working in splendid isolation.
  2. Socialise the strategy to inspire and engage all stakeholders, e.g. create moments to immerse teams in the strategy.


The impact is only achieved when the strategy is implemented well.

  1. Capture the energy and commitment for the direction in a plan. Make it smart and deliver some quick wins.
  2. Demand, reward and enable leadership of the strategy with simple, empowering and positive communications.

We all know that a strategy on paper doesn’t make change happen. It is the people who shape it, own it and deliver it that do. So, let’s do strategy like we mean it: develop it with depth, diffuse it and deliver it for impact.

Rachael, Director of Ethicore, established the company in 2008 to help sustainable businesses, influential NGOs and institutions have a better impact through insight, engagement and partnership.

What can Partnership Development Learn from Sales?

21st October 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Jane Thurlow,  Ethicore Associate

Talking to a friend with a lifetime’s experience in sales, I was struck by how good sales strategies can be used to inform approaches to successful partnerships.  Astute sales people understand the art of collaboration and relationship building more than most and have a battery of tools, which can be equally valuable when approaching a  partnership.

The key to having a successful sales relationship starts with understanding your customer’s perspective.  Being a good listener helps.  If you’re a naturally collaborative problem solver, even better.  You’re looking to help your customer define the problem and then co-create solutions with them.  Sound familiar?

Good sales people will help their buyer recognise the problem, rather than seeking to define it for them. There are specific types of questions that can help[1]:

  1. Build context and understanding: Discover facts and background information, as partnerships are often situation based.
  2. Help your partner ‘self diagnose’ the problem: Asking about problems, difficulties or dissatisfactions can help with problem diagnosis.
  3. Enquire about the effects or consequence of a problem, examining the implications. These questions are particularly powerful and can stimulate the need for action.
  4. Explore the value or usefulness of a proposed solution to understand the need-payoff. Skilled questioning can encourage people to recognise the need for a particular solution.

Equally important is understanding the ‘buying’ process: who the users, influencers, buyers, deciders and gatekeepers are.   This is complex stuff and understanding how to match individuals from your own organisation to your customer’s (or in this case partner’s) is key.  Think about their organisational roles, but also their behavioural styles. [2]  Got a highly analytical influencer?  Bring your best technical people to the table to explore possibilities.  An expressive gatekeeper? Then you’ll need to consider a communicator who can incentivise them.

Building relationships is the first step in developing partnerships. Once you’ve built a solid base, you’re onto long-term value creation for partners. More on that another time…


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.

[1] SPIN selling, Neil Rackham, McGraw-Hill Education

[2] Social Style Model, Tracom Group, http://tracomcorp.com/social-style-training/model/

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’.