An actionable innovation strategy for SOS Children’s Villages

We enabled the NGO to co-develop an innovation framework, re-map ongoing projects, and align innovation efforts internationally.

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Challenge

Co-developing an
innovation framework.

SOS Children’s Villages is a non-governmental, non-denominational organization that works with communities, partners, and states to protect the rights of children globally.

Their vision is to build a world where “every child belongs to a family and grows up with love, respect, and security.” Through innovation, partnerships, and by providing the best possible care, the NGO aims to ensure that no child is forced to grow up alone. They want to reach this goal by 2030.

But as a global organization operating in over 136 different countries via 118 national associations, they’ve had trouble keeping their various fundraising departments on the same page.

Unsurprisingly, aligning international programs and ensuring each project is efficiently contributing to the organization’s long-term goals is no easy feat without a structured, shared innovation strategy in place. Which is why SOS Children’s Villages decided to collaborate with Board of Innovation. 

Together, we developed a common innovation framework and methodology for all their fundraising departments. The goal of this blueprint is to ensure each association works on the right projects for their business goals without duplicating efforts. 

Sound familiar? We can help.

Using this methodology, you can see how you can stop projects that are not working before you spend too much money. By testing and piloting, you’re going to save money and resources, which is really important for NGOs.

Line Fauske-Ilstad, Campaign and Donor Development Manager, SOS Children’s Villages Norway

Solution

Sprinting, pitching, &
achieving leader buy-in.

With so many teams in so many countries, the prospect of bringing relevant parties together for an extended period of time can seem daunting logistically, which is why we determined that an innovation strategy sprint would be the ideal initiative for SOS Children’s Villages International.

The energetic, high-intensity strategy sprint format enables teams to co-design an innovation blueprint with input from various parties. In addition, it means that the busy, high-level team members required to participate only need to align their schedules and convene in 1 place for 4 days.

Representatives from associations in 7 different countries and 2 regions (Europe and Latin America) attended the workshop in Vienna, Austria. They were guided through the process by our innovation consultants, who provided innovation strategy tools and methodologies.

We split the participants up into different teams so that people from various locales and disciplines would be working together and contributing their unique, varied perspectives to the blueprint. They tackled business model mapping, business model design, and prioritized key business challenges.

In addition, the participants worked in regional teams to tackle portfolio and status-quo mapping, challenge analysis and relevant action points. The structure of the workshop evolved dynamically as the teams’ priorities emerged.

Over the 4 days, they learned to use the innovation strategy tools provided to critically assess the organization’s various ongoing and planned projects to see whether they were, in fact, contributing to the business goals. Our innovation consultants contributed their innovation strategy expertise while guiding the process, training participants, and assisting where necessary. 

Throughout the strategy sprint, it was invigorating to see the teams energetically work towards solving the challenges using the innovation methodologies and tools we introduced. In short, the participants hit the ground running and it was a privilege to collaborate with them. 

On the final day, senior leaders from SOS Children’s Villages International joined the sprint. After being briefed, they heard pitches by the 7 country representatives while our innovation consultants acted as challengers.

The senior leaders debated the merits of each of the strategies, before selecting their preferred options. Securing approval and buy-in from senior profiles within the organization is an essential part of the sprint process as it gives the action points the best chance of being realized.

Our regional teams are now committed to applying this common innovation framework to their local contexts. The language, tools, and methodologies we refined with Board of Innovation will help us foster more collaboration globally.

Dimitri Caetano, Team Leader for International Product Development at SOS Children’s Villages

Impact

40 action points to ensure
strategies become results.

By the end of the process, we’d determined in which horizon each of SOS Children’s Villages International’s 57 ongoing projects fell. 32 of these projects were identified as short-term horizon 1 initiatives, 23 were horizon 2, and 2 were horizon 3 projects with the potential for long-term, disruptive business impact.

Additionally, the participants’ efforts enabled them to co-develop a customized framework called the SOS Children’s Villages Innovation Funnel. With this, we determined that very few of their projects were in the exploration, validation, or pilot stage. What’s more, their new initiatives weren’t entering the innovation funnel at the right stage – they were skipping essential steps. This was due to the fact that, without shared innovation methodologies and toolkits, they weren’t ideating at the right moments and were either killing projects too early or too late.

To remedy this going forward, we set up an innovation roadmap to identify, prioritize, and start solving their most urgent business issues in an effective way. We arranged design sprints and training sessions for SOS Children’s Villages International’s directors and senior leaders. These initiatives will see them develop solutions with validation and testing while ensuring they tackle challenges that their stakeholders are truly facing.

And to ensure the outcomes of this strategy sprint become results going forward, the participants left with a plan to share the refined innovation framework featuring the funnel, the methodologies, and the playbook (which includes the tools used) with their co-workers. “All the teams went home with some key action points in order to restructure, adjust their portfolio, and increase their efficiency,” explains innovation consultant Shervin Fekri. All in all, the participants took 40 post-workshop action points with them.

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