by | Jan 31, 2023

A rich year of consultancy with so much more to come

SMK’s consultancy is framed around our unique analysis of social change and the potential for power in civil society. In 2022, we worked with over 20 clients – including charities, funders, and umbrella bodies – to interrogate their campaigning practice and tactics through bespoke training packages and campaign strategy support.

Tailored training helps clients use their voice

We delivered tailored training to diverse charities across the social sector ranging from Welsh Women’s Aid and Sheffield Young Carers to Asthma + Lung UK.  We work with progressive funders, infrastructure organisations and professional bodies too.  The Barrow Cadbury Trust invited SMK to run a workshop for Birmingham groups who are at the forefront of making the local economy fairer and through Clink’s Stronger Voice programme we worked with organisations across the criminal justice sector to find and use their campaigning voice. We are delighted to be rolling out our second four-part ‘foundation in social change’ training programme for the Institute of Physics to increase staff confidence and equip them to be active regional influencers across the UK.  This breadth of current experience gives us a robust overview of what’s going on in campaigning that usefully informs our client work.

Social Change Grid maps how change happens

SMK draws on its own robust research to help training participants understand how the complex political landscape is impacting on current campaigning efforts. We spotlight SMK’s Social Change Grid as a practical tool to map how change happens, and crucially, where the gaps are that civil society organisations are well placed to fill.  One participant in a recent workshop said ‘SMK made all the content relevant for our sector, but we still had space to think beyond the issues we campaign on day to day, to step back and consider the campaigning environment more objectively’ and another said it had been ‘really insightful and useful – something I had not previously come across’.

More organisations are moving into influencing space

Throughout 2022, SMK observed organisations who previously focused on service delivery now necessarily extend their reach into influencing for social change. One client, the u3a movement are facing a huge battle to protect local community centres and libraries as crucial venues for lifelong learning.  SMK worked with staff and organisers to develop a ‘training for trainers’ package to cascade learning about the potential for local influencing through their regional networks.  We also worked with the Consumer Council for Water on equipping staff to take their emerging campaigning programme to the next stage.  You can find out more in this recent blog.

SMK can be a critical friend to your organisation

Increasingly, SMK is playing a ‘critical friend’ role with organisations who are grappling with big strategic questions. We worked with the senior staff team at Children England – the umbrella body for child welfare groups -on prioritising their strategic challenges at a time when resources are thinly stretched.  We also helped The Wildlife Trusts with big picture thinking around their shift to a community organising model through producing a strategic workshop for the Chairs and CEOs of nearly 50 independent local organisations.  SMK led a dynamic discussion around power dynamics using our new Power Framework tool, including uncovering the barriers and opportunities to solidarity.

Building towards a more positive future

Despite the turbulent political environment and the heavy impact of the cost-of-living crisis, it is heartening to see clients still finding ways to make progress, even if on tactical issues rather than systemic changes. At the same time with the prospect of a general election on the horizon, we are glad to see signs of charities sharpening their reforming instincts again. At the same time as it is trying to negotiate political power, the sector is on a journey to interrogate its own power and legitimacy, and how best to work with those with lived experience of issues. Alongside the sector, SMK is also thinking about power and how to build greater solidarity in our work for social change.

We look forward to supporting even more organisations in 2023. Contact Kath Christie at [email protected] if you think SMK can help.

Kath Christie

Kath Christie is Head of Programmes at SMK.



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