Conference PaperPDF Available

Taking Action to Unlock Business Resources Into Communities using SSM



This session presents three system conceptual models that have been brought to action as a result of an SSM study with the Voluntary Action Fund (a Scottish grant-maker). VAF aim is to unlock and bring about more business resources into communities in Scotland. As part of the ‘finding out’ stage it became clear that VAF perceived the problem to be situated in a lack of connectivity and alignment between and within sectors to address the challenges being faced by communities, represented by CSOs. Resource mobilisation is a common issue across these organisations and has been identified by Midgeley and Ochoa-Arias (1999) as an area that community OR practitioners (CBOR) could support yet little research can be found. Although, in the business sustainability literature calls have been made for businesses to reconnect business goals with societal goals, going beyond CSR efforts (Porter and Kramer, 2011; Scagnelli and Cisi, 2014) and in creating joint value between business and CSOs (See Weaver et al., 2016). The ‘VAF Connect’ and Scotland’s ‘Responsible Business Forum’ (SRBF) models are outlined, identified by nine “Rich Picture” workshops with VAF Trustees and Staff, and CSOs; a survey of funded organisations and expert interviews to confirm the validity of findings. An evaluation of the SRBF, implemented in February 2016, is offered in terms of addressing the problem situations and the identified success criteria. Further systemic changes are suggested to ensure its sustainability, scalability and effective governance. A number of challenges and lessons learnt are suggested in terms of applying systems-based approaches to CBOR problems, particularly the issue of ‘resource mobilisation’. Also, to operationalise the concept of ‘shared space’ as an emerging paradigm for matching and aligning business and societal priorities, forging relationships and developing innovative business models for joint value creation.
*Miles W Weaver i, Kenny Crossani,
Hock B Tani and Steven E Paxtonii
*corresponding author
iEdinburgh Napier University Business School, Edinburgh, Scotland$
iiVoluntary Action Fund, Inverkeithing, Scotland
Stream: Third Sector O.R.: Modelling for a better world,
Tuesday 06 September 2016, 13:30-14:00, OR58, University of Portsmouth
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
Robert Burns - To a Louse (1786)
Release business resources into the community in the context of COR
VAF: the organisation, its goal and directions
Soft systems methodology (SSM) applied in VAF
The gift: To see VAF and its goal as others see it (lessons learnt for
Propose the Connect Model after refinement
Presentation Aim:
To  
and release more resources into communities
Traced back to the 1970s
“investigating issues affecting disadvantaged stakeholders in
communities” (Johnson & Smilowitz, 2012)
Improve society (Parry and Mingers, 1991)
Change in the community by resolving social problems (Midgley and Ochoa-Arias,
Emerging body of knowledge that uses systems-based approaches to
address community issues and challenges (Midgley and Ochoa-Arias,
2004; Johnson, 2012)
Lane (2010) suggests that O.R. has
considerable advantages when dealing
with and "
O.R. has a role to play in contributing to
our ""of these challenges
and to (Parkin and
Weaver, 2015)
One path to addressing Grand Challenges?
Trends and calls to 
going beyond CSR as a firm’s only
moral obligation (e.g. Porter and
Kramer, 2011; Bansal &
DesJardine, 2014; Scagnelli and
Cisi, 2014).
Need for business to 
 and develop
"(Lacy et al., 2012) that
address societal priorities.
,Role for COR?
Evaluation services
In the context of Midgely and Ochoa-Arias
(1999) call to COR practitioners, we seek to
1. How best to unlock and release the
resources held by the for-profit sector
(as part of responsible business
practice) into communities?
2. How can these communities themselves,
represented by third sector organisations
help to evaluate the impact of this
resource allocation?
Resource allocation
‘The Case for Letting
Business Solve Social
Problems’ Porter (2013)
Porter & Kramer (2011)
‘Shared Value’ concept
In a Scottish context, the third sector attracts -./+in funding from various
sources, using SCVO statistics 34% (£1,686m) comes in from the public sector
(includes local, devolved and national governments) when only 012 34
Porter (2013) Ted Talk
“O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others
see us” Robert Burns, Poem "To a Louse" - verse 8 Scottish National
Poet (1759 - 1796)
“I think if we can get
business seeing
itself dierently,
and if we can get
others seeing
dierently, we can
change the world”
(Porter, 2013)
That people and
communities are thriving,
active, self-organising,
resourceful, and connected.
To release existing and
potential resources within
communities by investing
money, increasing capacity
and building relationships.
! ""
Lack of connectivity and alignment between and within
sectors to address the challenges being faced by
communities, represented by third sector organisations
“There are many Grand Challenges facing Scotland
today”. What are your views and perspectives on how
joined up are the Government[s], the Private, Public &
Third Sectors in addressing these challenges?
A #+"!adopted
Value of +!"to address
COR/grand challenges
Interest in A8within human activity systems
(HAS). Particularly, when considering <.
Social capital integral to defining the +"
Desire to ;<Band bring on board key
stakeholders in problem situation defining & action
SSM as a tool to invest in social capital itself?
  B@9!
VAF trustees 2 10 $ $
VAF managers 1 6 $
VAF staff 2 11 $
Third Sector VAF funded organisations 2 $ 12 $
Third Sector non-funded organisations 3 $ 19 $
Other Grant-makers and umbrella bodies 1 $ 5 $
Local Government 2 $ $ 17
Scottish Government and their agencies 2 $ $ 10
Public Sector bodies 2 $ $ 13
Total number of workshops/participants 17 27 36 40
$ $
5Survey responses
(funded organisations)
$ 26 $
Regular dialogue with
key stakeholder
8 $ $
Critical friend interviews 2 4 2
 0
Initial discussion around VAFs &
general understanding of responsible business practice;
.$!with VAF people identified
D!*+, all considered relevant;
Questions agreed to debate more widely
The A8",a general emblematic model
applicable to all 6 themes/problem situations and
classified in terms of the 5 relevant systems;
 !
Comparison tables drawn up for A&
8 debated & most significant changes defined
A+78 launched in Feb 2016;
Move to cycle 2
 >
0>&"" F&""
RS2.1, RS2.3, RS2.10-11, RS3.1-5 & 3.8 formed to refine the RBF model;
""for RS2.7 – 2.9, R2.3 – RS2.6; relevant to understanding
678A98discussed with critical friends (other grant-makers);
 of the newly identified relevant systems in terms of the ‘connect’
model; Classification "+" with critical friends
 
Re-visited cycle 1, debate and changes made in light of new learning;
Changes deemed commercially sensitive (excluded from this talk), the !
 from acquired learning
Move to cycle 4 – !+(outside of scope of this talk) to refine the
‘connect’ & RBF models further as well as others deemed relevant
One participant on the problem
“It’s a broken jig saw – I feel very
little is joined up”
“sectors have different priorities …
not on same wave length”
[Arm’s folded]
SSM cycle 1: Questions identified from RP
workshops to facilitate debate
PS1.1 What are the appropriate  and $!!"!?
PS1.2 What mechanisms are required to 
so that the third sector can align its programmes?
PS1.3 What  are strong, weak and/or are missing given the
various perspectives of stakeholders and understanding of 
PS1.4 What !exist to influence decision-making
[with $!!"!$] in setting the priorities?
PS1.5 What is the nature in which the !" is ! and is
PS1.6 Who (or what) holds +&!and
forging the relationships between sectors?
&""0 
PS1.1 PS1.2 PS1.3 PS1.4 PS1.5 PS1.6
A system to invest in social capital with new and
current stakeholders
$ $ $ $
A environment-scanning system to identify and
align private sector responsible business priorities
to VAFs social policy passions
 $
A system to develop a proposal articulating VAFs
offer to business to invest in community
programmes, which align to societal goals through
effective matching of third sector organisations with
$ $
A system that identifies alternative sources of
people, assets and money that can be allocated to
communities in Scotland within an evolving public
$ $ $ $
A system for reporting and evaluating outcomes
that can be used by business clients to
demonstrate responsible business practice and
Third Sector clients to demonstrate greater
leverage of resources released into communities
& $ $ $ $
!‘connect’ "
RBF Root definition: A system, organised by the Responsible Business Forum Steering Group, that seeks to forge connections
between and within sectors, to promote responsible business practice and its impact on communities, supported by the Scottish
Government Business Pledge and steering group member organisations who will support the implementation of community
CSR/Sustainability responses
+$‘Responsible Business Forum’
" "!H0
No steering group exists that
&!$ for cultivating
responsible business
B!"&as each actor
sets their own priorities in their own
The Business Pledge attempts to
share a vision between government
and the sectors, although this is
deeply A!"8"8
and language/
emphasise is +#"
+$‘Responsible Business Forum’
" "!H>
Sign-ups to the Business Pledge are
dominated by large organisations;
opportunity also exists to <
(majority of Scottish businesses)
Lack of mechanisms to share "
 and !&$!
! (recognised that the
‘Business in the Community’ organisation,
represents businesses)
"Hthat can be
pooled (i.e. partner databases)
0 7of
cross-sector leaders with
interest in investing in the
2. Devise a mechanism for
setting a !"&
amongst steering group
3. Investigate ways to
understand the priorities of
different sectors and
 those with
community priorities
4. Investigate whether the !
@" is an appropriate
mechanism for sharing a vision
between sectors and ongoing role of
government (as one problem solver,
not the problem owner)
5. Consider the ways in which members
should be " to represent
constituent groups, their terms of
reference and length of appointment
6. Consider the  and
 needs for RBF events
7. Consider the ""
" of RBF events,
leveraging steering group
8. Adopt processes and practices
for collating "+ from
events and following up on
participant’s requests (e.g.
businesses and third sector
organisations requiring support)
“That the Responsible Business Forum was the first
event of its type … I’m pleased it went well” and
recognised that “progression needs to be built in from the
outset, I suppose, new voices, new thoughts … so that
it’s capable of evolving … one of the values for this work
would be if it provided us [Scottish Government] with the
capacity to keep growing”
(Scottish Government, Policy Manager)
<! *!!""
Alignment of funding resources available to organisational needs;
Lack of public funding sources;
Expectation to “do more for less”;
Short term funding cycles;
Time taken by third sector organisations to chase funding, make applications and sending them out;
Lack of independent funding sources;
How funding is distributed by grant makers
Mismatch of funding (financial capital) to organisational need;
Time pressure on planning cycles;
Competing business priorities;
Competing policy priorities (Grant-makers);
Competing policy priorities (Scottish Government)
 "
Long-term sustainability of skills and asset resources;
Availability of resources and routes to accessing them;
Mismatch/alignment of skill resources (human capital) to address challenges as a voluntary organisation;
Mismatch/alignment of asset resources (physical capital) to address sector challenges
"$!!+ 
Relationships within your sector;
Relationships between the sectors;
Breaking down of stereotypes that hinder collaborative working between sectors and organisations;
Equality of relationships and power (real or perceived) between the sectors;
Relationship between funder and recipient;
Ownership of policy priorities
Need to improve the quality of funding applications to ensure successful funding bids addressing specified
Grant-makers and funders understanding of the breath and diversity the third sector in Scotland;
Government official’s perception of the third sector;
Grant makers and funders understanding of the environment in which they operate;
Quality of communication between recipients of funds
Sometimes what you get offered is maybe not
what you need, you don’t need a day with 100
volunteers coming up to do a community garden,
actually what you need is real capacity building,
in a way that might be to support, IT support, not
necessarily covering head office costs but core
sustainability funding and I think, corporates are
starting to get that”
(Third Sector workshop participant)
8 relevant systems
1. Investing in social capital is the foundation to forming
A8between business, third sector, government and
citizens. This includes spaces to  
!""" and to "and
In ‘open spaces’
In ‘shared spaces’
2. These ‘spaces’ need to be A&"8as no
one body, organisation nor sector ‘own’ the
challenges being faced by communities.
3. Government’s role is to be an &"
=+ in the creation of these ‘open
spaces’ and express the !"&and
values in policy and business development
4. ‘Shared spaces’ are created in a wider
framework of ‘open spaces’ and are
facilitated by a " who suggests
! and +", or can be
1  can be " and $+$
in a ‘shared space’ that seeks to build
joint value, recognising that H+
+(some of which are under-utilised,
redundant etc.,)
D +"; recognising the reality
that the majority of businesses in Scotland/UK are
< and sole traders and likewise for voluntary
organisations and charities 
7. Third sector A8can be better channeled to
suitable matched business, once a relationship has
been formed –
the '++$)– a constant ask in the
absence of sustainable change - a
transactional relationship)
8. A " can support responsible
businesses to understand the challenges
being faced in communities, how value can
be #" through "
"J, !
 and &"!+
!!and &
+!&" (as a self-denoting
&between business, TSOs and VAF)
9. Both ‘open’ and ‘shared’ spaces require
&for the network
(recognising that no-one sector or
organisation A$8the problem), to
represent the '$!)and to ensure
Boundary and governance arrangements
Shared aspirations and values between participants
Continuously debate diversity of sectors participating in open system
Reciprocity in the relationships and borrowing ideas from the ‘common good’
Shared dialogical space between the market, state & third sector
Shift from “them and us” to “what can we do for each other”?
Communities and themselves are best placed to describe and address challenges
Role of a conduit to unlock and prepare a ‘shared space’
Capacity to develop power & political agency
Prepare the ground before the “ask”
Shared understanding, use best practice, build social capital
Bring together coalitions of interested parties (e.g. SMEs)
To refine the ‘connect’ model with 
To fully +!!7as an open system
to develop a !"&around
addressing challenges  face
@67+ - small number
of A!"8with relevant actors
Develop a for
unlocking a ‘space’ and in releasing resources
into the community
Wider scope: Re-visit the concept of #
in the context of the call to align
business & societal goals

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