The International Step by Step Association (ISSA) is the world’s leading education development network for those working with early years children. Its network is throughout Europe, but it has links with sister agencies in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
ISSA has an impressive track record in the development of better services for children and those who care for them globally. But with key funders withdrawing they needed to change their business model to become more sustainable. This case study describes how they made that pivot and how =mc consulting worked with them across a number of issues to deliver a sustainable future.
ISSA delivers a range of services, from advocacy to training, through its significant member network. However this ability to deliver has historically been based on significant flexible support from a small number of a progressive foundations including the Bernard van Leer and Open Society Foundations.
The far-sighted chief executive Liana Ghent was determined to explore alternative ways of securing income, diversifying philanthropic sources and chargeable offerings in order to ensure long term sustainability. This mixed financial portfolio would also ensure the ability of ISSA to choose projects and programmes which it felt were important without the need for specific restricted grants.
Such a transformation could not be achieved simply, and so ISSA was determined to undertake a significant programme of change to its strategy, its business model, its value proposition, and its funding streams. It needed an agency who could support all of this through a single team.
ISSA’s headquarters team is a small, experienced group of professionals and =mc consulting were able to work closely with this team on the projects described above over several years.
There were three linked projects:
Project One was to develop a new strategic plan and business model which explored how to diversify income and services. With the team we explored a number of options including training, consulting, and even how to make the annual conference on early years issues a source of income generation.
Project Two was to explore a new business model , with a number of new value propositions. Once these were developed we had to test these against various markets initially with research and latterly by rolling out test offerings to see what take up would be. These offerings included fundraising training , webinars on child development, and even training for corporations in diversity and inclusion.
Project Three was to identify a wider range of foundations and corporations who might support ISSA’s work directly. =mc helped develop a powerful case for support, some model propositions, and a prospect list. The persuasive chief executive then set about systematically approaching these agencies with significant success.
ISSA Is still on a long-term journey to transform its business model, but has already improved its income sources in a number of key areas. It has had initial success in attracting support forma range of new foundations and institutions.
It has also improved its earned income, the best source of unrestricted finance, and so vital to their future and freedom. They also have the partnerships with their sister agencies across the globe which they are hoping to leverage into support from other international foundations.
The training work now provides a significant and sustainable source of funds. And the team are developing consultancy and membership options.
=mc consulting has worked with a number of agencies on strategy and business model projects, many of which involve changing the income basis of the agency. You might want to explore our work with British Red Cross, Solidaridad, Health Action International, NHS South East, and Actors Centre.