Introducing GoodWorks, North Highland’s Pro-Bono Consulting Model

Late last year, a couple of people across North Highland’s London office got together for a workshop to think about the kind of firm we could see ourselves at in the future. It was externally facilitated, and as a consultant it’s a rare treat to be on the other side of the facilitator-participant relationship. All sorts of wacky ideas came out of the workshop, but the common theme that really resonated with me was that as a company we should be tackling social problems using our core consulting skills. Lots of professional service firms give volunteering days, but all too often this results in consultants and accountants painting schools or building fences. That sort of volunteering has its place, but it’s not really using people for what they’re good at. Off the back of that workshop and with great support from our senior leadership team, we’ve kicked off our pro-bono consulting offering, “GoodWorks”. We’ve found a way to use the traditional peaks and troughs of client demand for the benefit of small charities. Aside from the benefit for the charity (we’ll talk more about the great projects we’re helping them with later), the benefits for our people and our firm are huge. We’re giving our junior people hands-on involvement, big responsibility, and a chance to apply their new consulting skills to a really great cause, as well as keeping them challenged and developing when they’re not on a client role. It’s win-win for everyone.

Once we established the GoodWorks model, we spent some time finding a suitable charity to help, one that would be small enough to have a real impact on, and would benefit from our consulting heads. Luckily, our charity of the year, Regenerate, has an amazing but fledgeling social enterprise called The Feel Good Bakery (TFGB). At the beginning of the year, we sat down with TFGB to build a pipeline of projects that we can help with, and then shaped them into small chunks that can be easily picked up by people who aren’t billable at client site. Rather than hearing what we’ve been doing from me, take a look below to hear straight from colleagues at North Highland, who have been working directly with TFGB on projects ranging from strategy to process.

“It has been great fun being able to get involved with The Feel Good Bakery, understanding what they want to achieve and some of the challenges they face. I have been working closely with Andy (The founder of Regenerate) and Sophie (The Feel Good Bakery Co-ordinator) to refresh their business plan and build a sales pack with their current proposition, outlining the benefits of customers partnering with them. This will strengthen over time as they extend their product range and gain more interest from customers. Meeting with them at their youth centre in Putney, where the Bakery is based, was always so inspiring as the work they do really is helping. Their key focus right now should be targeting small and medium size businesses, building a healthy portfolio locally (Putney, Barnes, Richmond, Wimbledon, etc.) as well as using some existing contacts in larger firms for some potential bigger occasional orders” (Stef Francois, Senior Consultant)

While Stef was busy helping TFGB refresh their business plan, Kate was helping to research different payment options to make it simpler for their customers to order their products:

“I’ve been researching some different payment system options for The Feel Good Bakery. I’ve also been looking into options for them to set up an online store to professionalise their website. This should help them maximise their selling potential, improve the look and usability of their website for customers and get paid up front for their orders thus reducing potential cancellations. I’ve prepared a summary to take back to the Regenerate team so they can start to consider their options and take the Feel Good Bakery to the next level!” (Kate Manson, Analyst)

A big challenge for TFGB is finding a steady base of customers who are easily accessible and have the desire to set up regular orders. Laura spent some time helping TFGB to identify their perfect customer:

“I was lucky enough to work on a GoodWorks project with The Feel Good Bakery for two weeks. I was tasked with beginning work on a Comms plan. The guys at the charity have so many great ideas for marketing campaigns and strategies and the challenge was to understand how we could give them some structure. After combining their many lists of contacts into one database, we were able to begin assigning each potential contact an “ease of getting in” score. I built a matrix that plotted each contact against three variables: ease of getting in; distance from The Feel Good Bakery; and the potential size of their weekly orders. We went down to the bakery towards the end of my first week to share our progress. I got to meet the team and see where the sandwich making actually happens! I have had a great time working on the GoodWorks project and am excited to see what happens to the Comms plan as it is worked on by future bench dwellers!” (Laura Hancox, Analyst)

So far, our people have loved the experience and development opportunities gained through GoodWorks projects, and the support we’ve provided TFGB has been described as “game changing” by Regenerate’s founder, Andy. We’ve got big plans for support we’re going to provide over the coming months, from people development to process improvement. Watch this space!

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