MDN Event: Visioning the Future

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed some changes in the pattern of my own work, but I hadn’t realised it was part of a bigger picture for consultants in the UK voluntary sector.

As part of a process of thinking about it’s own future, MDN (Management Development Network) organised a day of discussion on our changing role as consultants. MDN was set up in 1991 as a forum for the then relatively new field of consultants working in OD with the voluntary sector in the UK. It still has over 80 members, and regularly organises events that bring us together with leaders in our field, such as Alan Lawrie who led this session.

Many people reflected that they are often working with small and medium charities who are struggling with their future,  – often just aiming to ‘keep going till next year’. There is a lot of thinking about details, pessimism about resources, and drivers such as political expediency or avoiding risk. It is our role to get people talking more about their successes, to challenge and question assumptions, and to get them to see things from a different angle so that new possibilities open up.

Here are some key trends we identified for our own work as consultants:

Past: exhilarating, risky, not many other consultants arounds, longer term processes welcomed, more preparation time paid for, pioneering work, managers less confident, fewer tools and resources around.

Future: clients are now our competitors (e.g NCVO), more collaboration between consultants, bigger scale work, new skills are needed, more specialist/niche work, younger profile, IT skills and strategy are key, boundaries are blurred betwen private/charity organsiations, tendering is routine, our work is driven by funders not client.

So how should we respond to this? Some of the ideas we discussed included the need to collaborate more between us and with other organisations, to develop more connections, and have a greater focus on our own learning so that we can stay relevant and bring real value to our clients.







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