Image from Bryn Arau Duon - a managed forest in Wales - here the planning horizon is well beyond ten years at a time...
Innovation alone won’t work here.

The executive director of Nesta sets out in a recent article what she thinks are the factors that will make voluntary organisations thrive in the coming ten years: 

“What makes charities more likely to thrive? Which charities will do well? Like in any sector, it is the organisations that best adapt to change and innovate in a deliberate way that will prosper.” – Helen Goulden, ED at Nesta.

She specifically suggests that key areas of innovation will be around Skills Exchanges and Crowdfunding (Nesta having thrown a significant amount of cash and resource at some initiatives across those two fields already) – I agree based on the work I did with colleagues and councillors during my time at the RSA – and will continue to do my bit advance both.

However, I’d argue that the most important predictor is in a single word in the quoted paragraph: deliberate.

The voluntary (and corporate sector) is awash with change and innovation – it is those who find ways to do it in a deliberate way that stand out from the crowd. That’s what I am learning from my research – and there’s of course a fair amount of third-party data to back it up (Kotter et al.). Linked to this, I’m pleased to see that Nesta is also continuing to put resource into The Alliance for Useful Evidence.

Five words from each participant going through a deliberate and deliberative session exploring strategy options
Feedback from participants going through a deliberate and deliberative session exploring strategy options.

So if you want your organisation to stick around for another ten years, focus less on the proverbial shiny objects: innovation and change as the talking points. Instead – start doing things in a deliberate manner – from which change and innovation are likely byproducts.

Those that have good governance, and within that, a clear structure for risk taking (and evaluation) will prevail. A sense of urgency for any change is critical, but it can’t do the job alone.

One place to start is with your board – making sure that you have an aligned group setting the direction, and an appropriate structure to make it reality. If you need help with that, get in touch.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of // Align Your Org – follow @michaelambjorn for more of the above. You can also join the conversation: #ALIGN.

P.S. For those overseas and perhaps unfamiliar with Nesta – it is now a well-heeled independent charity but started its life as the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts.

P.P.S. define: deliberate /via Google



1. done consciously and intentionally.
“a deliberate attempt to provoke conflict”
synonyms: intentionalcalculatedconscious, done on purpose, intended,planned, meant, considered, studiedknowingwilfulwanton,purposefulpurposive, premeditated, pre-planned, thought out in advance, prearranged, preconceived, predetermined; More
2. careful and unhurried.
“a conscientious and deliberate worker”
synonyms: carefulcautiousunhurriedmeasuredregularevensteady; More



1. engage in long and careful consideration.
“she deliberated over the menu”