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NEWS > Charity Sector News > Trust, Innovation, Resilience - what do these 3 have in common?

Trust, Innovation, Resilience - what do these 3 have in common?

Well, as is usually the case, there is a short answer and a long answer.

The short answer is that these are the 3 themes around which CII’s new series of Positive Impact Panels are framed.  This exciting new series of events are designed to empower collaboration, knowledge exchange and thought leadership through peer to peer insight.   

The longer - and more important - answer is WHY

In a nutshell, by cultivating the right trust environment for innovation, the sector can nurture its own resilience.  Together these 3 elements interact, enabling empowerment, collaboration & growth.  And thus the stars collide to create the perfect explosion, with profound implications for the social impact we achieve.

Does this resonate with you?  Keep reading…

The ultimate goal for the nonprofit sector is a positive cycle of trust, creating an environment for innovation, which will nurture its own resilience.  This cycle has the potential to become self-reinforcing & self- perpetuating. 

But often (not always!), our reality in the sector reflects a negative cycle rooted in distrust, breeding risk aversion which undermines long term impact. Herein lies the imperative for change.


The +Impact Panel series kicks off with Trust, the fundamental foundation on which the conditions to maximise social impact can flourish.  How can the sector rally against embedded risk aversion? Against distrust rooted in decades of media scrutiny, regulatory challenges and (dare I say) Victorian perceptions?  

And can we please stop conflating trust with transparency?  Can we seek ways to build authentic engagement and collaboration rather than spiralling into ongoing cycles of overwhelming reporting to an ever-growing array of stakeholders?

Fundamental to driving trust (or distrust) is the healthy exploration of the role of technology, particularly AI.  How can we balance risk aversion with opportunity, capabilities with ethics, the ‘we could’ vs the ‘we should’?  How much control do we have over whether technology deepens our engagement within the sector, or further undermines trust?  And can we permit ourselves to balance accountability with perhaps daring to relinquish a little control?


Technology can be a key facilitator to empower staff & stakeholders through automation and personalisation - from processes to public engagement to service delivery.  But innovation is not confined to technology.  The cocktail of trust and innovation bears the exciting potential to empower fresh thinking and strategic direction.  And lays crucial ground for a fertile culture.

In an innovative culture, new and productive partnerships can be created - from holistic income generating strategies that transcend internal silos to innovative relationships with corporate and government stakeholders.  New operating models and impact chains can replace blockages and friction with collaboration and engagement. 

Sold!  But are we ready to fundamentally challenge the traditional view of a nonprofit or department’s role as a guardian, intermediary, or facilitator? Can we open ourselves up to this type of transformation, from board level to grassroots?


While providing a rich bed for innovation, the other key foundation that trust provides is security.  This empowers employees to shift focus to longer term plans, no longer stymied by year to year budget limitations.   With deep and progressive cultural shifts, organisations can engender a tolerance of failure, further a habitat of continuous learning, and allow for investment & scaling of successful pilots over time.   Boards and executive teams that value continuous experimentation and learning will empower their employees to take healthy calculated risks to ultimately open the doors to stronger outcomes and reach.  This is the environment to dictate the resilience, not only of your organisation, but of its people.

The beauty of this environment is its positive halo effect on staff retention, an acute pain point in the sector which struggles to nurture a sustainable and resilient workforce.  The root of this issue goes far beyond enumeration, with culture at its core, and an evolution in work design an imperative.   Resilience is about empowering organisations and employees to recover quickly from setbacks, anticipate the challenges ahead, and be prepared for them.

In Summary…

Sometimes you have to challenge a structure to rebuild it sustainably, to meet ever increasing demands for agility and flexibility. The pandemic was the mother of invention, giving permission for agility, experimentation, digitisation & acceleration of change.  Rather than retreating to comfort, the sector can learn from the silver linings of this period, and apply them to add value & mobilise social impact at scale.  

To do so means thinking creatively and openly with a growth mindset.  Are you ready?

Sign up to CII’s +Impact Panel series to find out!  The +Impact event series will be held at the Helix and proudly supported by Mercer: Trust, 28th June / Innovation, 20th September. 

Written by:
Jane Trenaman, Nonprofit Leadership & Fundraising Consultant 

Jane is a nonprofit consultant with two decades of cross-sectoral experience specialising in strategy, fundraising, supporter experience and data strategy. She provides training, workshop facilitation, mentoring and coaching services across the nonprofit sector, from graduate to senior leadership.  And her drive is her passion to maximise social impact of nonprofits sector wide. 

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