Developing Resilience in Voluntary Sector Organisations
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Developing Resilience in Voluntary Sector Organisations

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This paper outlines the concept of resilience and how it forms part of an overall approach to achieving a sustainable organisation.

This paper outlines the concept of resilience and how it forms part of an overall approach to achieving a sustainable organisation.

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Developing Resilience in Voluntary Sector Organisations Developing Resilience in Voluntary Sector Organisations Document Transcript

  •    Developing  Resilience  in  Voluntary  Sector  Organisations  Overview  Our   constant   challenge   is   the   development   of   sustainability   and   capacity   in   the  voluntary   sector.   My   perspective   is   that   sustainability   is   in   fact   an   outcome   of  three   dynamic   systems   working   together.   These   are   strategy,   leadership   and  resilience.   This   paper   addresses   the   concept   of   resilience   –   the   need   for   inherent  flexibility   that   allows   organisations   to   respond   to   events   whilst   maintaining  focus  on  their  core  purpose.  Understanding  the  nature  of  Resilience  I  think  we  need  to  start  with  regarding  the  notion  of  resilience  in  a  more  positive  way   than   is   sometimes   quoted   in   the   literature.   For   example,   a   definition   of  resilience  has  been  given  as  “the  ability  to  withstand  or  recover  from  a  situation  or  shock”.    In   Wikipedia   we   find   organisational   resilience   defined   as   “the   positive   ability   of   a  system   or   company   to   adapt   itself   to   the   consequences   of   a   catastrophic   failure  caused  by  power  outage,  a  fire,  a  bomb  or  similar  event”.  However   in   the   current   climate,   definitions   of   personal   resilience   are   more  helpful   to   use.   Personal   resilience   is   often   presented   as   two   phases;   an   initial  focus  on  responding  to  adverse  situations,  and  then  the  ability  to  return  to  (and  maintain)   homeostasis   –   i.e.   a   steady   state.   So   resilience   is   as   much   about   an  ongoing  adaptive  (flexible)  state  as  it  is  about  surviving  crises.  “Resilience   in   psychology   is   the   positive   capacity   of   people   to   cope   with   stress  and  catastrophe.  It  also  includes  the  ability  to  bounce  back  to  homeostasis  after  a  disruption.   ……   it   can   be   used   to   indicate   having   an   adaptive   system   that   uses  exposure  to  stress  to  provide  resistance  to  future  negative  events”  -­‐  Wikipedia  “Homeostasis  is  the  property  of  a  system,  either  open  or  closed,  that  regulates  its  internal   environment   and   tends   to   maintain   a   stable,   constant   condition.  However,   any   homeostasis   is   impossible   without   reaction   -­‐   because   homeostasis  is  and  must  be  a  "feedback"  phenomenon”  -­‐  Wikipedia  Rather   than   focusing   on   an   adaption   to   failure   –   let’s   look   at   the   ability   to  maintain   a   healthy   status   quo   in   the   face   of   changing   priorities,   increasing  complexity   and   ambiguity.   Our   intention   is   to   build   an   approach   that   ensures  we  thrive  and  not  just  survive.    So  if  resilience  is  primarily  the  ability  to  react  and  then  bounce  back  to  a  steady  state,   we   want   to   encourage   an   adaptive   system   –   one   that   learns   from   events  and  starts  to  develop  what  we  can  term  protective  processes.        ©  Andrew  Porter  2013  
  •  Developing  Resilience  Resilience   is   an   active   state   where   there   are   protective   processes   at   work.   These  protective   processes   can   be   likened   to   the   development   of   the   organisation’s  own  immune  system  in  a  way  that  that  allows  the  maintenance  of  homeostasis  (steady   state).   These   processes   allow   a   response   to   an   immediate   situation  followed  by  organisational  learning  and  the  embedding  of  this  learning  for  future  reference.  So   we   need   to   start   and   look   for   the   protective   processes   that   are   at   work   and  that  contribute  towards  the  achievement  of  homeostasis  (steady  state)  and  that  stimulate  the  development  of  resilience  in  an  organisation.  From  a  fairly  simplistic  viewpoint,  we  could  define  resilience  as:  Resilience  is  a  function  of  the  protective  processes  that  are  in  place  to  respond  to  external   inputs   from   the   environment   in   a   way   that   is   learned   (past),   reactive  (present)  and  that  promotes  learning    (future)  in  order  to  flex  and  strengthen  the  protective  organisational  ‘muscle’.  Or  to  put  it  more  visually:   Maintaining  steady   state  of  homeostasis   • Input  from   • Organisational   External   • Protective   Resilience   Environment   Processes   Development  of   Dynamic  Reaction   further  protective   processes    I’ve   mapped   a   few   of   the   common   parameters   that   we   often   encounter   when  evaluating  resilience:  Inputs  from  the  External  Environment:    Changing  priorities  (of  stakeholders)    Changes  in  nature  of  funding    Competition    Economic  environment  (cut-­‐backs)    Changing  demographics      ©  Andrew  Porter  2013  
  •  Protective   Processes   (part   of   the   resilience   processes   that   enable   and/or  encourage  homeostasis)    Shared  purpose    Strategic  anticipation    Strong  leadership  and  governance    Learning  organisation  (Senge  1994)    Performance  focused    Decentralisation    Externally  focused    Summary  Adopting   a   structured   approach   to   developing   resilience   may   well   be  counterintuitive   in   terms   of   developing   an   inherent   flexibility   of   response.  However   it   gives   us   a   template   to   follow   -­‐   but   one   that   is   focused   on   dynamic  processes  rather  than  static  systems.  We  look  at  the  ability  to  respond  to  and  learn  from  external  events.  This  includes  the  way  in  which  the  organisation  is  structured,  the  way  information  is  collated,  managed  and  disseminated,  the  level  to  which  decision  making  is  delegated  and  the  way  in  which  the  core  purpose  is  both  communicated  and  interpreted  at  all  levels.  By  evaluating  an  organisation  and  identifying  the  key  factors  that  are  currently  impacting   on   it,   we   can   then   look   at   the   processes   that   are   in   place   both  generically   and   specifically   to   ensure   resilience.   These   will   vary   according   to   the  unique  context  of  the  organisation;  thus  bespoke  solutions  need  to  be  developed.  What   we   are   seeking   to   achieve   is   the   shift   from   an   outdated   predict   and   control  model,  to  one  that  is  based  on  sensing  and  responding  –  reacting  the  way  a  living  system  would  react.    Next  Steps  The   first   step   is   to   conduct   an   in-­‐depth   review   to   ascertain   the   key   issues,  challenges  and  opportunities  that  the  organisation  is  facing.  Next,  the  protective  processes  are  benchmarked  against  a  generic  template  that  has  been  modified  to  reflect  these  specific  issues.  This  gives  a  robust  and  accurate  framework  to  both  quantify   the   existing   level   of   organisational   resilience   and   also   to   provide   the  template   for   a   programme   of   actions.  These  are   designed   specifically   to   increase  both  flexibility  of  response  and  the  maintenance  of  a  steady  (dynamic)  state.    Andrew  Porter  February  2013      ©  Andrew  Porter  2013  
  •  About  the  Author  Andrew  Porter  is  a  business  coach  and  mentor  who  specialises  in  leadership  and  organisational   development.   He   is   the   Midlands   regional   lead   for   the   social  enterprise  Primetimers  and  associate  coach  for  Penna  plc.    Andrew   is   currently   developing   a   Sustainability   Tool-­‐Kit   specifically   for   the  Voluntary  Sector  that  evaluates  Strategy,  Leadership  and  Resilience  as  dynamic  systems  operating  together.  These  will  be  available  as  individual  diagnostic  tools  or  as  an  overall  evaluation  framework.  Further   papers   will   be   available   shortly   on   developing   a   strategic   route   map   and  sustainable  leadership.  ©  Andrew  Porter  2013