The Lasting Difference is the result of consultancy and research we’ve been carrying out since 2012. The toolkit was written by Graeme Reekie, an organisational consultant specialising in not-for-profit organisations. It’s maybe more accurate to say Graeme produced it, as most of the ideas came from the thousands of organisations Graeme has supported over a career spanning 25+ years.
Graeme first started working with funding bodies on sustainability in 2012 as part of an MBA action research project. Back then there was no shared understanding of the term. The literature didn’t help: traditional management theory focuses on how to attain sustainable ‘competitive advantage’ – in short, protect and exploit your resources. There’s a lot to be said for that definition, but it is too narrow. It doesn’t really fit a sector that is characterised by values, openness and involvement, even if it feels more competitive than ever. And even the most commercial companies have realised the importance of being open to and connecting with users.
Other organisational sustainability resources do exist (some of them are in our Resources section), but they tend to emphasise finance and funding. Obviously, money is hugely important, but it’s not enough. After all, it’s not difficult to think of examples of well-funded organisations that have been unsustainable because of poor management, incompetent governance, ineffective working practices and so on.
The Lasting Difference helps you think about finance and funding as part of a holistic self-assessment and action planning framework.
It is designed to:
Make it easier for organisations and their projects to assess, prioritise and take action on sustainability
Create a shared framework and language for discussing the subject
Provide practical tools to help not-for-profit organisations make a lasting difference
But it will also give you inspiration; definitions and templates; practical ‘how to’ ideas; planning tools; timelines for action and exit strategies. This makes it a unique – and uniquely valuable – resource.
By 2017, just a year after it launched, the toolkit had been downloaded over 1500 times, and there were over a thousand print copies in circulation. But we didn’t just want to know how many people were using it, we wanted to understand how and why. So in 2017 Jennifer Curran, Wren and Greyhound’s lead associate, conducted a piece of research, carrying out 16 in-depth interviews and analysing 40 survey responses.
The survey told us that:
- Most people use the Lasting Difference with colleagues, not alone. This is good to know, as it’s how we designed to toolkit to be used!
- Board and staff development sessions are the most popular ways of involving others. Again, this matches our own experience, with high levels of demand for away days and strategy sessions.
- People can use the tools confidently and independently, very often with no other input than having heard Graeme speak at an event:
- 9 organisations had used the tool to develop a sustainability plan
- 9 had developed work plans based on the toolkit
- 7 had used it to develop strategic plans
In interviews, people told us the Lasting Difference works because it:
- Takes a holistic approach to sustainability.
- Is designed for the not-for-profit sector and reflects these values.
- Is relevant to the challenges organisations face today.
- Helps people to prioritise activity and plan actions to address sustainability.
- Can be used across the whole organisation and with different groups.
- Is thorough and thought-provoking, but straightforward to use.