Seven insights into volunteering in Scotland and designing an effective volunteer programme

There are over a million volunteers in Scotland and this is evident around me.

Over the past year, I have tried to understand this phenomenon as I have worked with several charities and social enterprises that use volunteers.

Fortunately, some of my Scottish colleagues are very experienced in designing and managing volunteer programmes. They have taught me many of the basics and improved my thinking about this topic.

Here are seven things that I have learned so far about volunteering in Scotland.

The likely impact of the cost of living crisis in the United Kingdom on charities and social enterprises and what they can do about it

The ‘cost of living crisis’ refers to the rapid inflation of core essential goods and services that constitute a sizable proportion of household budgets in the UK. Its impact will be especially severe among low-income households who tend to rely on social grants. These households are likely to experience greater debt and poverty. The government is scrambling to limit the fallout. The cost of living crisis has afflicted the UK since late 2021 but has recently gained more media attention as its consequences become evident.

This article focuses on the likely consequences of this crisis for charities and social enterprises. It also suggests six sets of tactics that organisations might use to survive this crisis, become more resilient and increase their impact.

Nine-month reflection on living and working in Scotland after almost five decades in South Africa

Here are some reflections that I wrote at a local coffee shop while contemplating the differences between Scotland and South Africa.

I moved from Cape Town in South Africa to Paisley in Scotland in November 2021. Paisley is a large town near Glasgow.

I am management consultant who helps charities (non-profit organisations) and social enterprises to improve their strategies. This is the perspective that I adopt in this article.

Strategy & social enterprise glossary

We’ve designed this glossary to help social enterprises and non-profit organizations in South Africa think clearly about their strategies and business models.

Strategic clarity involves clear thinking, and clear thinking requires clarity of language. Many of us also rely too much on jargon, which clutters our minds and encourages lazy and fuzzy thinking.

Here is some of the terminology that I regularly use in my consulting practice and lectures, and my short descriptions of what each term means in simple English.

Year end reflection for 2021

The year is coming to an end as I write this reflection in early December. It has been another exhausting year with many changes.

The Covid pandemic still rages around the globe. The new Omicron variant has recently been identified by South African scientists. While vaccines, lockdowns and other measures have managed to stabilise the pandemic, the socio-economic impacts have been especially severe for poorer countries.

This article contains my end-of-year reflection for 2021. I believe in the value of openly sharing my after-action reviews.

I write these reviews to help orient myself and reflect on how I must do things differently in the future.

This has been a year of massive change for me, and I moved countries in early November.

The OODA loop can help your organization to become more adaptable

The OODA loop is a mental model that can help organizations to adapt to changes in our environment. It explains how we observe our surroundings, orient ourselves, make appropriate decisions and act accordingly.

This model is especially useful for leaders who want their organizations to thrive in our interconnected world where unforeseen events appear rapidly on the horizon. Recent events, including the Covid pandemic and riots, have caused devastation in South Africa. These events impacted our organizations and our lives. The future is unpredictable and has more surprises in store for us.

I have closely observed which organizations have been able to adapt to shifts in their environment versus those that have floundered. Those that successfully adapted were able to cycle effectively through their OODA loops.

This article explains the OODA loop and shares tactics that organizations can use to become better at defending against threats and unlocking opportunities that emerge through changes and shifts in our environment.

This article is a long read of approximately one hour for the average reader. I wrote it intermittently over the span of a year and a half during South Africa’s ‘lockdown’ due to the pandemic. The examples I cite will reflect my work in the field of socio-economic development, as well as my interest in history and military science, which is where I came upon the OODA loop. Nevertheless, the insights will also apply to leaders of all organizations.

It is so much easier to destroy than to build

I remain distraught and saddened by the recent events in South Africa – the mass rioting and looting that afflicted KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.

It has been a traumatic series of weeks for millions of South Africans and I recently mentioned how distressed I was by these events.

The situation has somewhat stabilized thanks to the good work of communities, police and SANDF troops. However, the news is fraught with stories of the consequences of this attempted insurrection that occurred over the course of these past weeks. Humanitarian work has begun to alleviate the present suffering and help rebuild.

On the 16th July 2021, President Ramaphosa described the destruction as a result of a “deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democratic order”.

This cataclysmic event led me to one conclusion – it is hundreds of times easier and quicker to destroy than it takes to create! It has also challenged my hope in South Africa.

Nevertheless, there are some key shifts that would bring some hope to my country.

Feeling distressed about the rioting and looting that is taking place in South Africa

Rioting and looting has engulfed parts of South Africa in July 2021. KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces are currently the most affected.

These riots appear to have morphed into a short-sighted destruction of infrastructure and thousands of businesses. The news is full of images of mass looting. People even seem to be driving to distant shopping malls and warehouses to steal without remorse.

I am very distressed by it. I am unclear about how I can influence the outcome of what is happening. It is a struggle to retain hope right now. The people that I have spoken with feel the same.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Five ways for a non-profit organization to earn more income

Last week, a new client asked me the following question, “How can we earn more income and gain more control over how we can spend it?”

This resulted in a productive and impactful discussion. I thought it would be useful to share the highlights with you, and link to other articles and presentations that explain some of the principles in more depth.

Non-profit organizations need to increase their income, and have more control over how this money can be spent, in order to increase their social and environmental impact, and to reduce their financial risk. This is all part of becoming a sustainable non-profit organization.

Inductive and deductive reasoning can help us to solve complex strategic and social problems

Strategy emerges from how we think about the complex problems facing our organizations. These problems might relate to our environment, the challenges faced by our beneficiaries or something inside our organization. To become better at developing strategies, we must learn how to think more clearly and avoid cognitive biases.

My ability to think strategically has benefited immensely from understanding the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning, and understanding when and how to apply them. Inductive reasoning involves ‘bottom up thinking’ – constructing theories from details. In contrast, deductive reasoning involves ‘top down thinking’ – starting with a theory and assuming details that must be true if the theory is valid.

We all have our preferences for one of these types of reasoning when solving complex problems that affect organizations and communities. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to master both types of reasoning so that we can use them when the need arises.

This article summarizes what I have learned so far while diving into this topic. It is a detailed and technical article that will interest people who want to enhance how they use reasoning to solve problems.

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