How are we doing? A quick account of the Barrow Cadbury Trust strategic review

How are we doing? Barrow Cadbury Trust

Barrow Cadbury Trust is a majority family governed foundation working on structural change for equality and social justice. Our roots are Quaker, although we are of all faiths and none. Most of our work is long-term and we use a wide range of evaluation and impact approaches. Last year, in advance of a review of our Strategic Framework, our board selected IVAR to investigate along the lines of “How are we doing?”

It quickly emerged that evaluating our impact was not the sensible use of the time or money. As IVAR told us, we do that pretty thoroughly ourselves. In dialogue, we settled on what we termed a ‘reflective review’ of our identity, relationships, distinctiveness and ways of working. Additionally, we asked IVAR to help us re-imagine how best to add value to Birmingham with relatively modest resources and from a London base.

The process of review was as important as the findings and I thoroughly recommend this rather unprescriptive and open approach to organisational appraisal. Through a series of structured interviews with trustees, staff, funded and other kinds of partners, the IVAR team built a picture that reflected our values, our identity and our distinctiveness. Critically, they found very strong values alignment between board, staff and partners, and identified this as probably a key feature determining our contribution to change. On our instruction, they also probed the areas we know could improve. “You are awfully fond of your paperwork, aren’t you?” and “We pick up a sense of hyperactivity”. Ouch! Importantly, they brought a fresh eye to our reflections, which reminded us of the old Quaker adage, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

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