Helping a foundation board evaluate and pick new strategic priorities for the following years
The European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM) is a purpose-driven initiative of 25 private foundations who pool their funding and expertise to strengthen civil society. They work together to build inclusive communities and develop humane and sustainable responses to migration Europe-wide.
At a strategic turning point, EPIM’s board wanted to evaluate five years of funding, and establish whether it should respond differently to new geopolitical developments.
Our client’s big question
Are our strategic priorities still relevant?
The board needed to look back on the last five years, and establish whether the organisation should respond differently to new geopolitical and policy developments. Gathering board members responsible for this strategic review was key to reviewing strategic priorities for a fund of several million euros.
Usually the team would meet in person for two days, but COVID-19 restrictions made this impossible. We were briefed to take the strategic review online.
What we did
What we didn’t do was to simply transfer the two in-person days online. Copying and pasting in-person events straight into the digital space just doesn’t work, because parameters and participants’ experience differ profoundly.
Instead, we created a programme leveraging the best of what online tools offer:
- Shorter session times and more breaks
- Time between meetings (from a few days to a fortnight) for genuine reflections and asynchronous contributions
- Less talking at participants, more genuine discussion during and between sessions
- Using a purpose-made tool, XLeap, to support effective decision-making through commenting, voting, ranking and visualising group opinions
- Adapting to participants’ technological know-how and security requirements
In short, we freed ourselves from the constraints of a physical event while offering participants recognisable structures and rituals to take decisions.
We delivered three different days across two months:
- On day 1, the board heard from experts on the state of the migration field, and from foundation beneficiaries dealing with these challenges daily. Board members then reflected on what this meant to them and to the organisation.
- On day 2, after two weeks to reflect and research, board members met again to share their thinking and prioritise suggestions.
- On day 3, after another two weeks of light work by board and staff, board members reviewed updated suggestions with their budget implications, and made their final strategic recommendations by consensus.
Impact and feedback
The board unanimously adopted 9 strategic recommendations for the years ahead. 6 came with specific budgetary implications. EPIM staff and other committees already started implementing these recommendations.
The committee also identified 9 positive practices that were not part of this strategic review but were felt important to stress as particularly relevant in continuing EPIM’s work.
Board members all reported being very satisfied with the process. They appreciated having ample time to discuss each suggested idea’s nuances and implications in live meetings, together with deeper written conversations between meetings. They appreciated having time between meetings for their views to evolve and mature, and to work in pairs.
The Programme Director said the outcome went beyond her expectations.