My charity innovation reading list.

My charity innovation reading list

I’m feeling all pepped up with pride at the moment. I’ve been mentoring Josie Martin & Esther Nicholl at Cancer Research UK who are finding new ways to keep volunteers engaged in campaigns to persuade politicians to support better policies around cancer. In just 3 months they’ve interviewed these volunteers, run tonnes of quick tests. They’ve found new ways to encourage volunteers to take actions and found that many more ambassadors are taking actions than they thought.

Josie & Esther are buzzing and asked how they could keep learning so I suggested reading some books. Books sound a bit old school but their stories spark the ideas we need to think differently about how we work. Here are the books I find myself recommending time and again, organised around the three things they give you:

Sense and Respond - Jeff Gothelf & Josh Seiden

Before technology kicked down the door and changed everything, our organisations could predict trends year on year and plan accordingly. “How can we give our supporters and users what they wanted last year…plus a little more?” Nowadays expectations and technology are changing so quickly we instead need to set ourselves up to sense our users’ constantly changing needs and respond to them. Sense and Respond is all about how to structure your teams, make decisions and manage people so they’re focused on outcomes, not outputs. I had so many eureka moments reading this book; I wrote page after page of notes. Read it. Then give it to your manager. Then their manager.

New Power — Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms

How many of us have been tasked with ‘creating a digital movement’? This book shows how new power movements like Extinction Rebellion use transparency, crowdsourcing and trust to give those within it the power to create change in their own way. It has tools and techniques you can apply in your work. It also shows that the most impactful movements need the freedom to move on their own. This requires our organisations to serve our users, not the other way round. Challenging and brilliant.

Watch the TED talk for the headlines and read the book for tonnes of examples and tools.

Once you’re clear on the change you want to create, here’s how to refocus your organisation at a strategic level

The Startup way — Eric Ries

I read and re-read this book when I was working out how to create the ecosystem for fundraising innovation at Cancer Research UK. It helped me identify what was getting in the way of teams being more entrepreneurial. Eric Ries shares the mindset and methods to apply innovative ways of working to your organisation’s strategy. I think it’s best as an audio book.

How to work differently day to day to create the change you want.

Sprint — Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz

In this book 3 brilliant Google brains share their process for taking a big organisational problem, build then test a solution in just 5 days. This is called a Design Sprint and it’s a great way to trial working differently to achieve what you’ve read about above.

This is an easy to follow guide so you can facilitate your own Design Sprint. Even if you don’t plan to run the whole thing— this book brings to life the steps you and your teams can take to work differently. I regularly pull out individual exercises to run with teams. (It’s worth getting the physical book for all the visual diagrams.)

Scrum — Jeff Sutherland

Overlook Jeff Sutherland’s ego and frequent military examples because to learn how to organise your team’s daily work to quickly deliver the most valuable things. He brings to life what agile working looks like, shares the key principles in simple language and shares tonnes of stories of how it’s changed the world.

The Lean Startup — Eric Ries

This is the book that totally changed the way I (and the rest of the world) approach innovation. It inspired me to challenge how I’d seen new ideas delivered before in the charity sector and instead create things using quick cycles of learning. I’d build something to test and use the learning to build a better thing — constantly adapting and adjusting to fit the feedback I was getting.

The challenge with all of these books is that they’re not aimed at charities specifically. That’s where I help as a coach, mentor and advise you to apply these principles to your world to deliver innovation fast. Drop me a line and let’s grab a cuppa.

I help organisations that do good innovate faster, cheaper and more successfully by applying digital thinking.