Sometimes I cringe a little when being introduced as a consultant, especially in these anti-establishment times. It’s almost as if some folks keep a garlic necklace handy to fight off an unwanted bite.
I’m certainly no fan of many consultancies that build in dependency, centralize authority, “manage up” a little too well, and charge too much to do things of often questionable value.
But I’m also not big on the NGO tendency to default to “we have staff so we’ll just figure it out”.
When it comes to unraveling complexity, moving quickly, or cutting through internal politics, blindspots and taboos to access deeper truth, it’s hard to always be your own guide. I’ve seen a lot of precious resources wasted by operating within this scarcity mindset. There’s a way to strike a balance.
Can’t we make it bite sized?
One good reason to be wary of consultants is thinking engaging one means you’re signing up for a giant, open ended commitment that will cost piles of money and lead mostly to thick tomes with little practical impact or lasting value.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
I admit I still love the “big reveal” at the end of a multi-month process. An in-depth process offers tremendous value for bigger institutions working on high stakes, difficult problems where a lot of energy and minds need to move to get somewhere substantially new.
But we also see big impact when breaking our work down into smaller bites, oriented around more rapid analysis and supporting leaders like you to lead and solve your own problems, smarter.
Coaching and training for clarity and skills
We’re increasingly supporting leaders and teams with coaching and training, which can deliver a lot of impact for a surprisingly low cost.
In coaching, clients take advantage of our graying hairlines, er, decades of experience, frameworks and tools, global base of stories and clear outside perspective to accelerate their own campaign planning, team structuring, skill building or organizational change work. We act as a mirror to you, providing honest but helpful feedback – which 9 times out of 10 is very positive and confirming what you already know to be true but perhaps weren’t quite ready to see or say out loud yet.
I find coaching refreshingly authentic, regularly profound, and usually really fun! It almost always leads to breakthroughs of some sort.
Groups like RAN, Global Zero, Friends of the Earth UK, and Consumer Reports have recently hired us for this. We sell our time in as small as a one day block, which can be used over a few months.
Training is another model many folks love. The way we structure it is basically a mini-consulting gig where we do an intake session and custom deliver content based on where you are and what you are needing to level up your staff on.
Our trainings offer deep dives into new campaigning frameworks, distributed organizing, and organizational change. We’ve recently trained at the Center for Biological Diversity, Code for America, Sierra Club USA, the Alberta Environment Network, and in Australia and New Zealand.
Analyze a problem or opportunity – fast and furious
Our final small bite tool we offer is audits or assessments. Orgs or funders looking to evaluate the performance of a program, team, new initiative, tech platform or campaign can benefit from an external perspective and our fairly unmatched experience working for all kinds of networks, institutions and campaigns. We can quickly find out what’s working, what needs improvement, and identify easy, medium, and hard opportunities for change.
While I’m often a better fit for bigger institutions with a high degree of complexity, multiple stakeholders and cross-silo issues, my partner Tom has a very sharp mind for rapid insights that pack a punch.
We’ve done smaller assessments or evaluations recently for The Leap, International Drug Policy Consortium, The Sunrise Project, and larger more comprehensive ones for the Center for American Progress and the David Suzuki Foundation.
So see? Not all consultants are looking to sink their fangs in and suck you dry. If smaller scale coaching, training, or assessments sound of interest, contact us and let’s start a conversation.