Khulisa’s North Star: our CEO’s plan for the future as she returns

Eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog called “learning to sail in a storm”, sharing my journey as a newly appointed CEO who had taken on the role just as the Covid-19 outbreak had happened.

Young people needed our support more than ever before but our traditional ways of reaching them wouldn’t work. We had to innovate, digitise and develop new programmes within weeks rather than months or years.  Through our focus on innovation, we found many positives, including:

  • A catalogue of ‘new’ programmes, including new digital programmes
  • The ability to reach new beneficiary groups, including parents, carers and less “vulnerable” young people seeking support
  • The ability to reach new parts of the UK, including a major delivery hub in Birmingham
  • A bigger, stronger team with new skills and expertise
  • An organisational confidence and resilience that we’re proud of
  • Stronger relationships with our trusted prison and school partners, as well as funders and peers

Whilst I am glad that Khulisa rose to the challenge and delivered outstanding results for young people, the relentless focus on innovation really challenged our ability to do the other things we promised to do. For example, we committed to acting with integrity and wanted to avoid stepping outside of Khulisa’s areas of expertise whilst also trying to be responsive and innovative. We wanted to take care of our people and avoid burnout whilst also knowing that speed and responsiveness was important to our young people and to our partner schools and prisons.  

Our 21-24 strategy has enabled us to remain focused during this period, but as we emerge from the crisis period, we need to reflect on how much of our Covid-19 experience we want to leave behind and how much to take with us into the future. New opportunities for innovation and expansion continue to present themselves but before we can respond, we need to ask ourselves:

  • Which of our new programmes will remain core to our work, and why?
  • Which of our new beneficiaries will we continue to support, and why?
  • Will our digital work continue as a complementary part of our face to face programme?
  • How do we ensure we’re making a difference at a systemic level?

The route to making these decisions will be to re-do our organisational theory of change (ToC). This process will enable us to reflect on what we’ve learnt during lockdown and to make sure we’re having the greatest impact possible over the next 5 years. The Theory of Change process will take 6-9 months and will involve our team, our Board, our young people, our trusted partners and peers. 

If you’re interested in leading this work for us or you’d like to contribute your ideas, please contact us by emailing – we look forward to hearing from you.

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