Shifting to a convening model of operation
The Child Neurology Foundation (CNF) re-defined itself and strengthened its role in the sector by becoming a convener that could bring together estranged members of the community. Specific results again the project objectives include:
- Financial Health: The inherited US$400,000 debt has been erased. CNF increased revenues and established a significant surplus at a time when many others in the sector are struggling.
- Reputational Health: CNF is now acknowledged as the leader in its sector, relied upon by its colleagues for financial support, technical assistance, education and programming.
- Service: CNF has moved quickly to address emerging needs in the sector—for example, related to COVID-19 and the financial crisis—and quickly filling gaps others are unable to tackle.
Context and challenges
CNF is a collaborative centre of education and support for children and their families living with neurologic conditions. It connects families to services including education, access to resources, training, and financial grants. It supports clinicians through education, training and access to resources. It is staffed by 9 full-time employees.
CNF’s sector is highly fractured. Pharmaceutical company funding has encouraged the establishment of hundreds of small groups dedicated to an often-rare disease state, typically run by a family member lacking managerial experience. The National Organization for Rare Disorders lists 280 organizational members on its website.
The sector has a history of inter-organizational rivalries, infighting, petty deceits and intense competition for resources. This has led to distrust, conflict, duplication, wasted energy and strong resistance to consolidation.
CNF was not immune to these trends. After its first decade of existence, the organization laboured under a US$400,000 debt and had severely damaged its reputation as a trusted partner with clinicians, other advocacy groups and corporate funders.
Under its new leadership, CNF wanted to reconceptualize itself as a convening organization. The objective was to focus on convening, collaboration and facilitated dialogue to enable the organization to:
- Put itself on a solid financial footing.
- Rebuild its reputation.
- Serve its clients through targeted programming.
- Support efficiency and financial resiliency through operational consolidation.
Over a two-year period, Paul Cooper, an IAF CertifiedTM Professional Facilitator, from Face to Face Strategies worked with CNF and its stakeholders to design and facilitate a series of interactive events to shift the organization to a convening model of operation.
Facilitated processes are now the ‘currency’ of CNF in its role as a convener.