A View from the Engine Room #2: Turning up the Dial

March 3, 2015

Posted by in Blog.

The engine room has been working round the clock on a number of competing deliverables: scoping and framing the 2015 Business Plan, developing an agreed process for new member due diligence and delivering on it, recruitment to support delivery of the Business Plan, modifying the Start Fund framework for a longer-term intervention in West Africa and Cameroon, finalising the constitution documents for an independent Start Network and much more.

Our big challenge when moving on so many fronts is getting the sequencing right and ensuring the Team are aligned internally and with the Membership. We want to move quickly, be flexible in our ability to respond and minimise complexity while adhering to accepted principles of good governance and transparency.  In everything we do the principle of impartiality to all Members is paramount.

The big themes of the moment are: building the infrastructure for spin off and programmatic delivery, ensuring good governance and gearing up to deliver the business plan.

Infrastructure for remote working has been slower to implement than anticipated due to delays in obtaining clearance for our use of file sharing software, being provided by Box.org.  We are continuing to develop and disseminate best practice processes for contract management, procurement and expenses building on those for SCUK.  Additionally, policies and procedures for an independent Start Network are being framed and will be shared with our Board imminently. The Articles for an independent Start Network are close to being finalised and the bye-laws have now been drafted and will be shared with the Membership for comment.

The external evaluation of Information Systems for project management on Start Fund and the DEPP projects is continuing and we expect to have recommendations by the end of March.

Programmatic delivery continues to challenge our logistics especially on recruitment.  We have a number of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) posts to fill on the DEPP and have been granted additional longer-term funding for interventions on West Africa Ebola preparedness and support for Cameroon Refugees, for which additional MEL roles are required. We are planning to modify and apply the Start Fund framework to both opportunities.  MEL is a key area of focus for us in distinguishing the Start Network’s delivery and will require investment in recruitment, processes and systems to ensure we meet the high standards expected of us.  We are also running induction sessions for DEPP project leads and others to aid understanding of the Start Network, its services and ways of working.

Governance is a major theme this year New member applications that met the first round review by the Membership Committee are now being taken forward for due diligence.  We expect to report the outcomes in a few weeks’ time.  We have identified suitable independent trustees and will put their names to the Assembly for approval before inviting them to join our Board.   Our recruitment of an independent Chair continues and we have advertised this position with a closing date of 4th March.   We are also planning a number of design changes to simplify and improve alignment across the Start Fund committees.

We shared our Business Plan with the Board at the end of January and will finalise it this month.  The process of consultation on the plan and detailed work to establish resources required for delivery has been useful in identifying the need for additional support on fundraising, project management and communications.  We are planning to recruit a Start Fund Head of Business Development to support fundraising and relationship management, a Head of Evidence to bring industry leading MEL thinking across a significantly expanded portfolio and a Head of Communications.  We will also bring a Digital Officer on board to put the right information systems in place for the Start Team and our Membership.  This role will work with external partners to design the systems architecture, support an online collaboration platform for the Network and help implement the selected project management applications for Fund and DEPP, besides pushing ahead on virtual working across international time zones and our use of CRM capability.

In addition we need some short-term resources to support the delivery of our big conference week in May (aka Mega week) and have advertised a four month posting to our Membership.  We will also seek to bring a temporary Head of Communications on board to bridge the gap until this post is filled permanently.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes.   We will continue to draw Members’ attention to opportunities to work with us in delivering this exciting agenda.

Back to the engine room………….


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