Consulting for social change: what should you know?

It is common to assume that consulting is only reserved for private organizations or governments. But this is far from true: consulting for social change is a tool that allows civil society organizations to better and quickly advance the impact we want to achieve in our work. Its main advantage is that it enables us to approach experts who support us in various areas and, depending on our needs, help us to find the best possible solutions.

We will talk about relevant aspects to consider when looking for consulting for social change. Keep reading and find out what you should consider when deciding if you need this type of support.

Do I need to seek consulting for social change?

The first step is to identify our needs and ask ourselves why we need this external help: Is it a subject we do not know about? Do we need support to reflect among us and to reach agreements?

From this point, we assess the different options available. These questions are critical to selecting the right consulting services because the consulting firm we contact would need to know our challenges. Some of the advantages of working with a specialized consulting firm are:

They have experience and expertise in subjects that are not our strengths 

We would get support from professional experts in diverse, relevant fields for our organization through consulting for social change. These experts provide experience and specialized knowledge in various areas linked to our work, such as:

·   Strategic accompaniment;

·   Project management;

·   Fundraising;

·   Evaluation;

·   Strategic communication; or

·   Specific topics from our advocacy agendas

When we capitalize on this experience, our organization can make informed and strategic decisions to achieve our goals more effectively.

They are experts in facilitating discussions that could be difficult

One of the main challenges within consulting for social change lies when reaching an agreement. This is because dealing with people involves being tactful when negotiating and looking for common ground. We all have expectations, goals, interests, and ideas that may clash with those of others. A consulting firm might help us to find those agreements and align our expectations and goals. In addition, they help to create a more fluid internal communication.

External consultants are well-connected to international public and private stakeholders  

Consulting for social change can help us reach out to stakeholders who know the context and the discussions in our communities of practice. These connections might open doors to:

·   New or larger funding opportunities;

·   Strategic associations with other organizations and government entities;or

·   Participate in joint projects and programs that strengthen the work of our organization.

Help to improve our strategies and optimize our resources

Consulting for social change might help our organization develop a clear and feasible strategy based on the impact of the changes we want to achieve. In addition, we can identify room for improvement and a suitable strategy for our specific case. This helps us to optimize decision-making and aligns the organization towards the same goal.

Continuous improvement

Another benefit of consulting for change is that once our strategies are implemented, we can design Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MEL) mechanisms. We can adapt and improve our operations through results analysis and constant feedback to achieve a significant impact on the community we wish to serve.

Keep in mind

It is essential to keep in mind that the support from consulting for social change must adjust to our needs and our institutional cultures. Therefore, we need to be very careful when selecting an external consultancy firm so that their work is helpful.

We must bear in mind the following:

  1. The experts we hire must understand our work and the challenges we face in our field. Otherwise, the process outcome might not be useful; 
  2. The consultant must be able to adapt their methodologies to our needs and level of knowledge. There is no no use in teaching us a very complex tool that we will not  be able to adopt;
  3. Hiring a consulting firm is like selecting a good therapist: we need to feel comfortable with them or they; we will work together for a few months, they will request some information and will make us reflect on some situations that might not be easy: we need to trust them.

Be careful and question everything necessary

Before selecting a consulting firm, it is valid to ask all the questions we think are necessary. We should even request work references and talk to those references to find out about their experience. They are interested in building a trusting relationship with us and, therefore, will help us understand their work and what we should expect from them.

In order to make the impact we want it is crucial to pause and rethink the way we are following—where we are going and how clear the path is. Reaching out to work with a consulting firm is a great opportunity to reshape the mark we want to leave.


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