Case Study: Child Dynamix
Coaching is helping Child Dynamix deliver on its core strategic objectives, improving relationships, accountability and, importantly, funding. Jan Brause, from the family charity’s partner and coaching provider, Community Performance Partnership, charts its journey
By Jan Brause
Charity Child Dynamix works with children, young people and their families to help them thrive. To do that, it too needs to flourish, despite a challenging economic environment. Over the past three years, coaching has been supporting the charity.
Formed in 2005 by managing director, Jane Stafford, on the back of a 10-year regeneration scheme in the UK’s Humber region, Hull-based Child Dynamix provides services, including community childcare, youth work, sports development and family support across the region. Since 2009, Child Dynamix has been using its strategic planning to diversify income streams and ensure it remains capable of delivering its charitable objectives despite falling income from traditional routes. But it’s been tough and the support of Community Performance Partnership (CPP) from 2012, came at an ideal time.
CPP was formed in 2012 to help voluntary sector organisations improve efficiency and performance and be better placed to meet future challenges. CPP offers its services to a limited number of organisations each year including Regional Children, Young People and Family Charity Child Dynamix, providing up to 20 days of pro-bono tailored support. This support includes consultancy on organisational development and leadership and performance development coaching for senior managers. All support is aimed at improving organisations’ sustainability.
According to Stafford, partnership with CPP has helped embed important behaviours among executives. These include increased accountability and improvements in relationships, including honesty and trust. And it has helped the charity increase funding, delivering on its four core strategic objectives, which include increasing efficiency, raising visibility and improving branding.
“I see the partnership with CPP as a catalyst for changes in behaviours across the team, which have been significant and lasting,’’ she says.
The timeline of success
At an initial meeting between CPP and Stafford, four key strategic objectives were identified:
- Improving the efficiency of the organisation, looking at everything, including IT and people
- Raising visibility and branding
- Improving performance appraisal processes
- Delivering on financial diversity and sustainability.
2012: how we started
The programme begins with a development day in which the executive team analyse the value base of the organisation and consider how behaviours affect successful outcomes.
This is followed by six one-to-one coaching sessions over six months for each member of the executive team with a coach from CPP. The overall theme for the development is to support strategic objectives, although each member of the team also has personal objectives. Both sets of objectives are agreed with their coach and the managing director.
2013: one year later
Improving efficiency The executive team reports a change in mindsets, with individuals working on limiting or unhelpful beliefs. Team members have ‘stepped up’ and are more accountable, taking the initiative rather than waiting to be instructed.
There is a new level of honesty in the executive team, more freedom of expression and a willingness to challenge and have direct conversations. The team is now working much more efficiently and effectively.
Visibility and branding Although this is still an area of challenge, an overall improvement in professional confidence is enabling the team to be more positive and focused about its contribution. For example, a team member successfully engages a long-term partnership through networking.
This shift in confidence is impacting on the organisation’s ability to deliver against targets and is raising its visibility in the sector.
Improving performance appraisal There is more emphasis on measuring impact and showing results, with the team sharing and refining these quarterly. Benchmarking is starting to influence decisions and practice.
Delivering on financial diversity and sustainability It’s early days yet, but one executive team member describes taking a new responsibility for funding bids and successfully achieving £20,000 this year, with an expected £50,000 in a new area over the
At this point, Stafford says, “There has been a step change in behaviours which I truly believe is irreversible… the priorities are becoming more visible in development plans across the organisation, creating greater clarity about our direction.”
2014: two years on
Tangible changes continue to show as a result of the initial intervention, with continued improvements in the four strategic areas.
- Improving efficiency The executive team reports new levels of understanding, connections and trust that have impacted daily working relationships. The team decides to share an office space for the first time and this is enabling relationships to continue to grow and shape the way it works. The team has a very clear view of the benefits of a shared office, including noticeboards for strategy and the mantra for the year: “simplify”.
There is still work to do on consistent use of documents and a shared drive. Team members ensure they stop and consider policies and procedures or check in before they tackle issues.
The employee survey continues to highlight improvements. Communication and opportunities for development, in particular, are areas in which positive responses have increased by more than 8 per cent in the last year.
The people strategy is clear and shared across the organisation. In addition, a customer service standards document has been created and shared to ensure consistency.
- Visibility and branding The executive team now take a different approach to networking and building relationships with external and potential stakeholders, recognising the importance of this. As one executive put it: “Being prepared more to put yourself out there…’’
Social media activity and monitored reach on electronic campaigns has increased; MailChimp is being used for this and all contacts have been shared with the evaluations marketing officer to promote different aspects of the charity more widely. The charity has had increased coverage in local, regional and national newspapers, been interviewed by several radio programmes and seen two individuals win national awards for their work.
- Performance appraisal The performance appraisal system has changed during this time, with more focus on expectations and behaviours and linked to the vision and core strategy of the charity. Work is now needed to refine the system and ensure briefing sessions are provided.
- Financial diversity and sustainability New funding and strategic toolkits have been designed and used, with team members holding each other to account in monthly meetings. This includes the recording of all bids and amounts. The charity is also building relationships with new funders.
A growth strategy for childcare is underway and the Memorandum has been changed to include a wider geographical area of the Humber sub-region to create future scope.
2015-16: what’s ahead
Some three to four years on from the original programme, Child Dynamix continues to thrive. Its Memorandum has been fully reviewed. Its first pre-school opened in Grimsby in June 2015 after Child Dynamix secured a tender in December 2014. The childcare offer has been expanded and is expected to expand further across the area this year (2016) and next year.
A new sports venue in East Hull has being taken on and the delivery of youth, sport and play is expanding. The family support offer is being diversified through key initiatives which sit underneath Child Dynamix’ overall three-year strategy. The charity turned over around £2.2 million, year ending 31 March 2015 – a significant growth.
Off the back of the work with CPP, Stafford put herself forward for – and won – a Fellowship with ACEVO WHO (one of five nationally). This gave her the opportunity to attend a Leading with Impact residential in Ascot run by the Leadership Trust.
Relationships built through this connection led to the delivery of the charity’s new bespoke Leadership programme, which welcomed its first 14 delegates in April 2015. Another residential took place in October 2015, and all leaders or aspiring leaders have gone through the programme.
The work goes on. For CPP, it has been a pleasure to have played a small, but significant part in the development and sustainability of this great charity.