Project Type: Strategy
Region: Scotland
A review of their organisation structure means that Families Outside can now operate more effectively and clearly on their vital work supporting children affected by imprisonment.

More children in Scotland each year experience a parent’s imprisonment than a parent’s divorce. Families affected by imprisonment face a process of grief and readjustment throughout the course of arrest, trial, imprisonment and release, and often have difficulty getting the information and support they need to make them feel in control. 

Founded in 1991, Families Outside is the only national charity in Scotland that works solely to support the families of those affected by imprisonment, working to mitigate its effects and consequently aiming to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The charity achieves this through support and information for families and for the people who work with them.

After a period of rapid growth and following a referral from the Robertson Trust, the charity’s Chief Executive, Professor Nancy Loucks, approached The Cranfield Trust for support in reviewing the organisation’s overall structure to ensure the most effective delivery of its services now and into the future.  At an initial meeting, the Trust’s Scotland Project Manager, Jane Whitworth, talked through Nancy’s key requirements and helped her to formulate a working brief. She then put Nancy in touch with volunteer consultant Gerda Bartsch.

Working closely with Families Outside, Gerda helped the team develop a structure that is nimble and flexible enough to make the most of development opportunities whilst retaining a focus on core service delivery. With Families Outside tackling both a great deal of both internal growth and external change, Gerda used her excellent facilitation skills to examine the challenges and help the organisation to work together to manage change and plan for the future.

As Nancy explains:

“Gerda identified a need for us to strip our work right down to the basics - not a barrier so much as a realisation that we needed to do more to achieve our aims than we had originally anticipated. The staff recognised the mentoring and external facilitation as something that would benefit all of us, which helped them see that organisational change is a team process rather than something done 'to' them.”

The approach and style of the volunteer proved to be an excellent match for the organisation, and Gerda formed an excellent working relationship with all involved and as Nancy remarked at the end of the project:

“Gerda was a complete Godsend. She picked up on our structure and issues very quickly, she got on well with all of us and provided the 'fresh eyes' and neutral perspective we desperately needed to guide our organisation through a difficult period of transition. She quickly became part of the team, truly taking the time to understand what we needed and how best to go about it. Even after the end of our work together, the positive relationship with our mentor continues to this day.”

The Trustees were also appreciative of this opportunity to consider the organisation’s future development at this more strategic and conceptual level, which went well beyond the standard business of the board and provided input to the Chief Executive’s ongoing development activities.

Gerda was very impressed by all at Families Outside, praising “their commitment, passion and enthusiasm. They provide a very difficult but much needed service. I look forward to watching Families Outside move from strength to strength under Nancy’s leadership.”

Commenting on the chance to work on the project, she continued:

“It has been a hugely enjoyable experience for me and I am grateful to The Cranfield Trust for drawing on me for this and giving me this fantastic opportunity. I have learnt a lot and it has been hugely rewarding.”

The Cranfield Trust’s support is expected to have long lasting benefits for Families Outside, as Nancy explains:

“Through our mentors support we have created an organisational structure that focuses more clearly on our key purpose, dividing and supporting the work more rationally. We hope that this will put our staff in a better place to continue to provide the quality of service that the families we support deserve to have.”

Please do have a look at more of our case studies and see how we can help your organisation.