Reply To: Gingerbread Groups – a huge success or a bit of a disappointment?

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#31200 Report



I admit I haven’t read everyone’s post on here properly but in my mind….

If you displayed a bit of courtesy and read the original post – about the shortage of local groups – maybe you wouldn’t have come up with the suggestion that people should find a local group 😉

Anonymous, you’re 100% correct about the charity commission’s stand on safeguarding. welshdad originally raised GB’s safeguarding and my reply was that, in the context of the forum, there is no guarantee and can be no guarantee that this forum is safe! It’s not just about live conversations in public, it’s also about a platform where people can speak with each other by PM.  This is not a safe environment, no forum can be, so giving the public the perception that this is safe …is wrong. welshdad’s chat feature was as safe as the forum itself, not more or less so. Whatsapp is a bigger threat, IMO, and GB is quite comfortable with Whatsapp! No safeguarding concerns there then?

I disagree with you about the newspaper headline. Newspapers will come up will all kinds of sensational stuff. If an organisation is trying to protect against every possible negative twist a newspaper might put to stories, they might as well just close down.  They should just leave these matters to their PR people. When the story hits the ink it’s their job to get it to say “despite the best efforts of Britain’s number one lone parent charity etc etc”. One of the worst charities in the UK is the NSPCC. But you wouldn’t think it from what you read in the news. That’s the power of PR.

Soccerdad and welshdad, thanks for sharing the back story about the Friday night thread and the chat room.

welshdad, I can see the logic in removing the chat ie your expectation that GB was going to introduce their own version. When that’ll happen, or even if it does happen, is a different matter. But, I understand that it’s easy to get drawn into the whole responsibility thing, especially given the cotton wool culture around here, so I can see how you slipped into feeling responsible.

You are spot on about having a working product and just getting on with the job. I deal with businesses, business owners. I’m used to people who act. A business wouldn’t survive long if it indulged in extended navel gazing, years of talk and more talk, hesitancy to do anything without commissioning a  report and then discussing that report to death before then still not actually acting but having a meeting to decide  how to act, and then following that by drawing up an action plan which is forwarded to stakeholders for consultation prior to formulating a road map blah, blah, blah.

Text book talking shop.

A business has to please its customers. It is judged by customers who have the option of going elsewhere. So businesses deliver (or die). Organisations that rely on external parties for their survival, not exclusively the satisfaction of their “customers”, operate to different rules. They operate to produce the kind of drivel that impresses those external parties / funders.

And that is the natural thing to do if the organisation is to survive! I’ll be the first to admit this. 🙂

But success in this environment is not like success in the, er, real world. It relies on what management convey in reports as to the achievements of the organisation. And nobody checks if those reports are a true reflection! For example, in their 2016-17 annual report GB claim 845K visitors to their website over the year. I’ll wager that the figure is corrupted by bots, repeats, what not, that the figure would be much lower if you use the industry standard metric of unique visitors. And unique visitors is normally quoted on a per day basis. 845K translates to 2.3K per day. I’ve owned hobby sites that got more uniques than that!

But in a report that doubles as a sales pitch, the copy has to talk up the achievements, it has to use the big number and try to impress. At least GB claimed “visitors” not “hits”! 🙂 There wasn’t a conscious attempt to deceive.

Back to groups. In that report mentioned above they claimed this: We’re proud that …we ended the year with 89 active support groups.

But how many groups did they have in the year before the 89 figure? It was 107! 89 is a drop, not an achievement! That’s not disclosed in  the headline. It’s carefully worded as a We’re proud that …we ended the year with 89 active support groups.

You don’t get honest reflection in these reports, you get gloss. You won’t get a line saying we are terribly disappointed that we’re failing badly with GB groups and the numbers keep declining from year to year. Only self-sustaining businesses have the incentive to be that brutally honest!

Organisations like GB have to impress funders, not punters. But at least GB staff recognise that, whatever the annual report says, GB groups is “challenging” 🙂

In 2015-16 GB had 107 groups, in 2017 they had 89, now it’s 47. I’m looking forward to speaking with GB to see if I can contribute in any small way to support their interest in turning the ship around (even if my only contribution is as a sounding board). If I get a chance later today I’ll post some thoughts below that GB staff can maybe ponder before the meeting, my thoughts on what concrete steps they can take to make groups a huge success, what I’ve used in the past to build self-sustaining groups.

No invoice will follow, I promise! 🙂