From authoritative to bold?

…goes the famous quote from Peter Drucker. The values that drive behaviour within organisations – ‘how we do things around here’ – have as much influence on success as any strategic plan, however well thought out.

NCVO exists to help voluntary organisations and volunteers make the biggest difference. As we embark upon a year of reflection and refocusing, we are thinking not only about what things we should focus on, but also on how we should work.

What kind of organisation should NCVO be? What values will support us to make the biggest difference? How should we behave?

In October, we took time with our staff team and our board of trustees to think about these questions.

How would we describe NCVO now?

Like many charities, NCVO has a statement of its values. We developed ours alongside our vision, mission statement and strategic priorities back in 2014. Five years on, we wondered how our staff and trustees would describe how NCVO really behaves and what we truly value.

This word cloud shows what staff said. Everyone proposed two words – the larger the word, the more frequently it was mentioned.

Image of a word cloud

We can see some key themes.

  • We believe that we use evidence and are seen as ‘authoritative’
  • In our style, we worry that in being ‘authoritative’ it can veer into being corporate, serious, or even arrogant or superior
  • We think we make decisions based on knowledge and expertise, and feel its important to be trusted and perceived as leaders within the sector
  • We believe that we are supportive and collaborative

What kind of organisation do we want NCVO to be?

To think creatively about the kind of organisation we want NCVO to be, we broke out the glue sticks, scissors and stacks of papers from our comms team. Through words and images, teams created collages to describe the NCVO they wanted us to become.

Picture showing three collages

We then repeated the exercise of asking all staff to propose two words – this time to represent the values that they want NCVO to adopt. Again, the larger the word, the more frequently it was mentioned.

Image of a word cloud

The first thing that leaps out are words around the idea of being bold (or radical, courageous, brave, outspoken, loud). These are not words that are frequently used to describe NCVO now.

Also prominent is the word inclusive, along with supportive and diverse. Inclusive is one of NCVO’s official current values, but its clear that staff want to see this value more at the forefront and embedded more.

We repeated the exercise with our trustee board. Most prominent in their feedback were also themes around being bold and inclusive. It was encouraging to see such synergy between the staff team and trustees.

Less frequently suggested, but still different to how we describe ourselves now, is the idea of being a progressive, visionary or forward-thinking organisation.

But it’s not all about change. The importance of being evidence-based and of being knowledgeable still come out as being important to staff, not for its own sake but because our members tell us that they look to us for trusted expertise that saves them time and helps them to make a bigger difference.

What's next?

We’re continuing the conversation with our staff and board to narrow down on a set of organisational values. From these, we’ll develop a behaviour framework, which will describe how these values will be lived out in practice, across our work. We will be focusing on making these values real, and holding each other accountable for living them in practice. We know this won’t be easy, but it is very important to us. We’re taking inspiration from other organisations who are working hard at bringing their values to life, like CAST, and we’d love to hear from other organisations that have been through a similar journey and would like to share their experiences.

What kind of NCVO do you want?

We are your membership body. We want to make sure that the values we land on are the ones that you want us to have. We will be testing what’s emerging with members at events over the next few months.

What kinds of values do you want to see us embody in how we work with and for you? Come along to a Members' Assembly or send us your views.

Find out more about Members' Assemblies or tell us your thoughts
Get involved