Supporting systems change in the apparel industry
Measuring the impact of core support grants to Forum for the Future
26 April 2021
Forum for the Future (FFF) addresses critical global challenges by catalysing key systems change in partnership with business, governments and civil society. Its work in the apparel sector aligned closely with C&A Foundation’s fashion strategy.
The two core support grants were aimed at strengthening FFF by supporting a number of organisational development activities across human resources, systems and procedures, fundraising strategy, and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL).
Partner: Forum for the Future
Investment: Total: USD 1.040 million (C&A Foundation) 1st core support grant: USD 534,487; 2nd core support grant: USD 506,000
Duration: Total: three years 1st core support grant: Nov 2016 – Dec 2017; 2nd core support grant: Jan 2017 – Mar 2019
Geographic region: Global
The overall impact has been positive. While there is scope for improvement, especially in the grant design and interaction between the parts (organisational development or general operating support), the results show that FFF has evolved into an organisation that has a clearer strategy, a stronger financial position, improved internal systems and is now better placed to achieve its mission.
Providing core support has been effective in boosting FFF’s capabilities.
When the first core support grant was approved, FFF faced numerous organisational challenges, including inadequate project and financial management systems. These challenges were impacting FFF’s capacity to deploy the right resources and efforts towards its mission.
The Brexit referendum outcome in 2016 created further uncertainty for the organisation. Core support was absolutely necessary at that juncture in order to help the organisation adapt for the future.
The level of funding provided has proven adequate, leading to substantial results for FFF in terms of its strategic development, business model and internal systems. It has also contributed to FFF’s ability to leverage substantial amounts from other donors.
Still, some elements of the grant design highlighted incongruences in C&A Foundation’s approach to core support grants.
The logframe was unduly restrictive in this context. There was poor alignment between the parts on whether it was an organisational development grant, with targeted activities, or a general operating support grant offering unrestricted funding. For this reason, many adjustments needed to be made along the way to adapt the grant to emerging organisational issues.
The duration and funding amounts were sufficient to effect significant change, as evidenced by the full organisational turnaround. However, it would have allowed for longer term planning and prioritisation if these had been given as one grant, rather than split into two.
All of the planned work areas were addressed and most of them saw positive results against targets. Additionally, by the end of the second grant period, FFF was a more global organisation
More emphasis was put on improving professional standards in relation to project and financial management, and proper attention was given to knowledge management linked to capacity building among staff.
Some key roles were hired, allowing the Senior Management Team to focus on overall strategic issues. In terms of efficiency, a considerable amount of internal work was achieved over the grant period. It is important to bear in mind that FFF could not focus entirely on these organisational tasks, and had to continue its external work – with the need to generate income being particularly important in view of its precarious financial position. As such, the targets set were ambitious, but mostly realistic as evidenced by what FFF has managed to achieve with the core support grants.
Monitoring activities improved substantially across the term of the grants.
The reports state clearly the progress made in terms of organisational development, and whenever needed, adaptations were made. There was some room for improvement in linking external outcomes back to the internal institutional strengthening work carried out under the core grants.
The ultimate goals of Laudes Foundation’s core support grants are to support partners in boosting their impact and achieving their mission, whether the grant is for organisational development or general operating support.
The core support grants strengthened FFF in a number of key respects. The challenge now lies in assessing FFF’s contribution to systems change and linking its organisational performance to its capacity to bring about systemic transformation.
What did we learn?
Core support grants can have a transformational effect if deployed with the right organisation at the right time
Core grant partnerships need to work in a different way – less focus on detail, and more on the big picture – and be based on openness and trust between donor and recipient.
There is a need to set clear guidelines for monitoring and evaluation of core support grants with appropriate means to link internal development goals to the overall enhanced organisational impact.
For Partners & Others
Continued investment in organisational development often creates more resilient and impactful organisations.
It is imperative that partners constantly review their capacity and structure against organisational needs.
For core support grants, it is important to demonstrate more clearly the link between internal improvements and how they boost external work.
Income diversification, such as that represented by multi-annual grants and from different regions, is a powerful strategy to mitigate risks (such as financial sustainability).