It’s not easy for charities and agencies working together. New relationships, pressure to deliver, lower budgets, new languages… so when it really clicks it's worth celebrating.

The Catalyst Discovery programme: 103 charities, simultaneously guided by 11 agencies through the early stages of a digital project. 

It sounds quite experimental. It was. We’ve never taken so many charities through such an intense process. Nor have we done it so quickly (four weeks). There were positives and negatives. Today we’re sharing the positives. Expect warm, fuzzy feelings... 

Agencies were teaching and learning

It wasn't the first time any of these agencies had worked with charities. But it was the first time they had worked with so many at once. 

And the first time they had been tasked with teaching them how to approach a Discovery process. 

And their first time working alongside other agencies as a group, with peer learning opportunities.

Because of this we asked inFocus, Catalyst’s learning partner, to find out how it was for them. They discovered four interesting things about their experience. 

1. Agencies were inspired by charities

Working simultaneously with such a variety of charities, across so many different causes, was different for agencies. It impacted them emotionally.  

“(It was a) restoration of faith in humanity to see the dedication the charities had to their beneficiaries and the issues they were trying to alleviate. Beautiful and rewarding to work with them.” 

Agencies told us that it brought renewed meaning and purpose to their work. 

“There's these organisations who are doing amazing things and are so motivated and working so hard and really want to do things differently and better for people”

“Gave us a sense of purpose in this moment in time - important to know that we were helping”

2. Agencies really enjoyed it

When people enjoy their work it leads to better outcomes. The programme created a high fun factor. Agencies were valued for their expertise, asked to make the programme dynamic and engaging, then given scope to be creative. 

“It was a joy to go through it - although I felt exhausted at the end of each day, I was so happy!!”
“My first intense experience of going back into teaching, it felt really nice to be teaching again.”

They were also encouraged to collaborate with each other, facilitated by an agencies’ Slack channel. This peer learning opportunity was new to many. 

“We enjoyed the opportunity to connect better with everyone and develop new collaborations” 
“It was so cool to see so many different remixes of content, framings and methods based on everyone’s massive experience”

3. It was rewarding for agencies

Charities engaged. They responded well to the approach and understood the methodology. We know this not only because agencies told us, but because people like Ben and Zara told us the same.

“(Seeing the) appetite to learn, the energy. There's a real sense of having straightaway added value and impact in their space”
“It was so rewarding, doing 1-1 with them. Seeing them value it for their programmes”

There was also a deep satisfaction in seeing charities change their approach because of what they learnt from doing user research. We call these ‘Aha! moments’. Ben and Zara both had strong Aha! moments.

“Seeing the charities get value from this. For me, the biggest gift was seeing them change their minds”

4. Agencies benefited from teaching

Teaching and mentoring. This is what charities need from agencies. Agencies told us that not only did they enjoy it but they also benefited from the process.

“Teaching people how to do it improves your own understanding”
“Teaching this is actually a good way of improving the content itself”

It gave them the resources to involve more team members. And the time to improve their own early-stage project tools and templates.

“Nice to work on a project with so many colleagues at the same time, normally we work in pairs. The budget enabled this.”
“Time/permission to wrangle our discovery materials better - transformative!”

One agency is now developing a Discovery email course off the back of the programme. Another is developing their teaching methods further so they can get to a more definitive place for what they can offer to teach charities. 

Agencies care

It’s clear from the research that these agencies really cared about moving their charities forward on their digital journey and were moved by their experience. Here’s a roll call of those who were involved:

Hats off to them.

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