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  • Writer's pictureДиана Манолова

"Sustainable Organisations: Operationality and Stability in the NGO Sector"


"Go listen to them - they take some things out of their own kitchen to serve it to you ready-made! They want you to have a good meal." 😊

In today's dynamic world of challenges, NGOs need the knowledge and skills to manage their internal dynamics robustly to offer successful solutions to society. In Sustainable Organizations, a practical training format whose pilot edition we held on 29 and 30 April 2024 in Sofia, we focused on this task and set ourselves the goal of bringing professionalism and efficiency to the operational management of CSOs.


The practical workshop is part of the Impact HUB series of training events. The HUB focuses on CSOs' long-term ability to offer new ideas and approaches to societal problems. It aims to ensure that organizations operate sustainably and flexibly in an ever-changing environment by equipping professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to work effectively.


Training Focus


"Sustainable Organizations" is designed as a practical learning workshop based on experiential and hands-on work with various situations and tools to build useful skills, internal processes, and tools and ensure efficiency and optimal use of resources. It focuses on developing and monitoring action plans, organizational management (internal procedures, people and volunteer management, pro bono support, flexibility, and change management), and evaluation of the impact of the work.

Aimed at organizations' management teams, the workshop assists participants in operationalizing their strategies daily through appropriate tools and effective people management. The workshop provided a basis for assessing the individual needs of organizations and developing plans for follow-up support through consultation and mentoring. The event in late April was attended by CEOs, board members with operational roles, and people with key operational roles in the teams of 10 organizations. An important highlight of the workshop was that the teams from the organizations represented worked through their case studies and related the assigned practical exercises and games to their actual situation and agenda. Beginning of the journey


Theodora Ivanova-Valeva was the leading figure behind the training, bringing together a team of trainers with diverse experience and expertise to create a program that inspires and provides real and practical skills for effective management.

"My role is to provide learning and sharing opportunities for participants, supporting the process for group dynamics, self-assessment of needs and setting personal/team goals for learning and reflection."

The coaching team

The team was carefully selected to provide a diversity of knowledge and experience:

  1. Theodora Ivanova-Valeva (host) is a founder and director of Impact Drive, with extensive experience in project management and training in the public and NGO sector, consultancy management, and change management.

  2. Ivelina Gadzeva is a leader in inclusive design, process design, and social innovation. Founder of Design for All Bulgaria Foundation and expert in context mapping and human-centered design.

  3. Galya Khubanova is an HR and organizational development expert, founder of Matterfully, and certified coach.

  4. Angel Spasov is a European representative of PYXERA Global and an expert in pro bono programs and internal capacity.


Sustainable Organisations training


Day 1: From strategic to operational plan


The first day was dedicated to group dynamics and creating an environment where participants could freely share their concerns and expectations. We began by presenting the participants' personal and professional perspectives and sharing the vision and key strategic priorities of the organizations represented. This gave us a basic and directional focus for the coming two days.

In the panel, we stepped on the Mission Model Canvas, which has become our key tool for strategic planning and the transition to operational management. In it, organizations brought the real world to their organizations.

The process continued with mapping roles to responsibilities and context. This session was crucial for understanding the dynamics between different organizational processes. Through gamification and hands-on exercises, participants learned how to map and model internal work processes and their relationships. In a series of practical tasks, we "played out" the path of organizing roles and work into steps and responsible persons. We analyzed the textures that influence work, including the balance between diverse professional and personal roles and the dynamic context of NGO work.

At the end of the day, we put the processes in the context of time. We looked at the specifics of internal communication and its effectiveness and role in overall operational and time management, including meetings.

With the help of practical time management tools and workload analysis, participants discussed ways to be more efficient and keep their teams from burning out. They highlighted types of meetings and tried out specific models for managing team meetings. As the day progressed, the Impact Drive coaching team shared specific operational tools and models for working.


Day 2: Working with people. Pro bono support. Monitoring and evaluation.


On the second day, Galya Khubanova moderated a discussion and teamwork on two key issues: planning, effective team use, and better motivation for a career in the cause-oriented sector. Participants identified specific needs, prioritized positions, and determined which factors motivated their teams best.

We returned to the Mission Model Canvas with Angel Spasov, and he led a practical session on using the tool to plan and prioritize organizational needs and recognize when to seek external support. He and I discussed possible sources of support and pro-bono as a model of systemic support in specialized topics. We told stories and shared experiences.

The second part of the day was devoted to unraveling ongoing monitoring and internal evaluation in organizational and operational management. We looked at the steps and different tools and discussed the monitoring steps, types, and approaches in performance evaluation and their impact. Participants also tried out a short but very effective risk assessment exercise across various programs and projects we run. We ended the workshop with a group reflection on the learning process and its practical application. We then discussed the next steps and an action plan.

The second part of the day was devoted to unraveling ongoing monitoring and internal evaluation in organizational operational management. We looked at the steps and tools and discussed the monitoring steps, types, and approaches in performance evaluation and their impact. Participants also tried out a short but very effective risk assessment exercise across various programs and projects we run.

We ended the workshop with a group reflection on the learning process and its practical application. We then discussed the next steps and an action plan.

"A great opportunity to gain useful practical skills and ideas in a short period of time."

Feedback


The participants' scores were extremely high—an average of 8.92 out of a maximum of 10 points. Among the most interesting things for them were:

  • The organization of the tasks

  • The roles and relationship between monitoring and evaluation

  • Mission Model Canvas (MMC)

  • Practical tips and digital tools

  • Pro bono work and sharing experiences

  • Examples from Impact Drive practice


"You were able to give us valuable tips and tools to organize and renovate our home to be more prepared for the chaos outside."
"You'll hear from people who want to combine the business model with NGO work."
"I had the pleasure to be both a spectator and a participant in a very enjoyable and useful training. It has inspired me to do things the right way and to achieve more results with less effort."

Conclusion


The "Sustainable Organisations" training has become a platform for learning, sharing experiences, and inspiration. With the practical tools and strategies the Impact Drive team shares, participants feel more confident and equipped to manage their organizations more effectively.


This training was not just another event - it was a catalyst for change in the sector, empowering NGOs to discover their true potential and become agents of social change. We conclude the pilot edition of Sustainable Organisations as a successful and important beginning. We look forward to seeing you in the upcoming editions of the practical workshop, which we will announce in stages on our website.


"Sustainable organizations" are no longer impossible to achieve.

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