Perhaps you’ve hit the ‘strategy refresh’ moment in your corporate cycle or you’re simply looking to reset and reorientate in light of COVID-19 and other social and environmental challenges. Whatever your individual drivers, taking a shared value approach to strategic planning enables leaders to deploy organisational capital in ways that:
- Maximise existing assets and expertise.
- Meet known business challenges and opportunities.
- Respond to their users’ needs.
What is shared value?
Shared value is a business strategy that focuses the unique strengths of an organisation in achieving economic, social, and/or environmental benefits. Shared value recognises that a company’s financial sustainability and social progress are interdependent.
The brainchild of Harvard Professors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, it is increasingly being used across all sectors to bring organisational purpose to life and to help identify areas of strategic focus for investment.
Applying shared value to strategic planning.
How shared value is applied as a basis for strategic planning will look different depending on the sector and industry that an organisation operates in. For corporations, it can involve service or product innovation, complex multi-sector partnerships, redefining productivity in the supply chain, and opening untapped markets.
In recent months, Ellis Jones has worked with executive leadership teams at Hunter Primary Care, a primary health service in the Hunter region of NSW, and Arts Capital, a not-for-profit that operates the Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres in Canberra.
Using market research and a facilitated co-design process, our team enabled both organisations to identify areas of strategic focus and build solid business cases for new initiatives based on a deeper understanding of the overall ecosystem in which they operate.
Primary health care
Hunter Primary Care’s mission is ‘Good health and wellbeing for all’. In order to bring this to life sustainably in the 2021-2025 strategic delivery period, the board and executive sought to:
- Better understand the needs of their clients.
- Define their unique value proposition.
- Unearth strategic initiatives for investment that capitalised on their expertise and met the emerging needs of their priority clients in a way that was attractive to funders and partners.
We worked with Hunter Primary Care to conduct multi-channel market research, collecting insights from a range of stakeholders on: health trends; current and future funding streams; service gaps and strengths; and employee and client experience. The research informed a shared value ‘mapping’ exercise across the following intersecting domains:
Using human-centred design, visioning, shared value and other methods and a series of executive workshops, business cases were developed and subsequently presented to the board for refinement.
The business cases respond to key emerging trends, including the treatment of co-morbidities, the growth in digital health solutions, and the need for culturally safe health services for First Nations communities. A decision-making framework was developed that enabled leaders to balance degrees of strategic alignment with the capacity to deliver the expected benefits. Backed by a new, improved strategic plan, Hunter Primary Care is now focused on developing its business cases into pilot service delivery models.
Arts and cultural precincts
Arts and cultural precincts are host to a mix of local economic activity as well as social services and connections; and, they often comprise natural spaces within an urban context. Shared value is therefore a very useful framing for strategic planning and decision-making.
Just a short walk from one another, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres are vibrant hubs of activity as diverse as education, performance, social discourse, hospitality and commerce. From ticketed dance and music shows to galleries and maker studios, all are supported with an annual artistic program and unique physical spaces in heritage buildings.
With the centenaries of both buildings approaching, government funding committed, and the unforeseen pause that COVID-19 provided, Arts Capital resolved to establish a strong, strategic footing for navigating an exciting and challenging future, and to open stakeholder dialogue wide open in considering what the future could hold.
Ellis Jones used a hybrid of methods comprising:
- Quantitative and qualitative research to understand community, tenant, visitor and stakeholder perceptions, needs, and cultural behaviour.
- Benchmarking and stakeholder engagement to establish trends/forces in arts/cultural policy and urban planning.
- Applying insights, user archetypes and an organisational competency audit to co-design a vision and place identity; and, to inform shared value modelling for the organisation and design initiatives that target risks and opportunities.
- Business case development and coaching, leading to a strategic plan (in development as we speak).
- Applying insights, strategic framing and identity outcomes to visual branding, brand narrative and positioning within the Canberra arts and cultural landscape (in development as we speak).
- Physical and digital experience ideation.
For Arts Capital, shared value provides a framework for assessing the potential for any strategic direction, initiative or partnership to achieve its purpose and vision, sustainably, over time.
Arts and cultural organisations fight hard for the funding they get and the impact they achieve. Making the right decision can be transformative for an organisation. But achieving great things can take time and money, so leaders need to focus the resources of an organisation on opportunities and challenges it is most likely to overcome.
Tips for using shared value in strategic planning.
- Obsess over the user. The more research you do about the pains, gains and drivers for your user/client, the better your organisation will be positioned to respond with human-centred solutions.
- Start with your strengths. Recognise and deploy your existing assets and expertise. This includes the quality of your organisation’s external relationships as well as its physical assets and its human resource.
- Partner. Shared value initiatives are rarely conducted alone – map the partnerships you need to foster, audit the strengths of existing relationships, identify where you’ll need to invest in new or enhanced relationships, and identify mitigation tactics for the risks associated with partner reliance.
- Measure. Ensure you have identified clear indicators (both lagging and leading) that will enable you to assess success at every step in the initiative development process.