How to become an organisation with greater systemic impact

You are probably working in this field because you want to change the use of energy in society, not only in your projects. Your organisation may want to establish its role as a key player that is known for making a long-term, systemic impact on energy use patterns – in addition to running successful individual projects. 

Practical examples 

Based on the analysis of 25 intermediary organisations working to reduce energy demand (e.g., energy agencies, local climate action networks, advice bureaus, energy service companies and NGOs), we identified key issues to keep in mind when aiming at becoming a strategic player in systemic change.
The interrrelated issues discussed in the table below are necessary but not sufficient factors to allow intermediary organisations to work on both a local and project level and to build up strategic influence. They consist of consecutive 'steps' that build on each other (1->7).
How to get about realising the steps is not described here. Information about 'how to' can be found in the Tool: End-of-project reflection questions.

1. Developing a broad and long-term funding base

This helps:
  • to reduce the risk of funding being withdrawn
  • to offer the potential for financial independence
  • so your priorities are not dictated by chasing funding
  • to create stability for further issues – see below.
2. Increasing employee security, commitment and competence development

This can be achieved through securing funding and creates:
  • security of core employee positions
  • stability to develop staff training and skills programmes
  • resources so that staff and employees can be incentivised, feel  rewarded and not subject to the whims of short-term funding
  • organisational commitment to the careers of employees.
3. Creating stable structures and effective learning cultures to respond to changing pressures
This is particularly important in organisations with a small core and a broad network of partners because those organisations require stability of resources and organisational commitment. It allows for
  • provision of the basis for a shared organisational culture and clarity of organisational positions.
  • you to ‘plug in’ to the networks of partners to enhance capacity but to be able to do so from a shared organisational view.
This dynamic situation means that you need to develop an effective learning culture to adapt to changing pressures and new issues. Project-based thinking and funding are unlikely to lead to the development of a learning culture; you also need to devote attention to systemic, strategic and long-term thinking.
4. Continual development of your knowledge base   
The requirements for adaptability and learning mean that you need to:
  • constantly work at developing and re-developing your knowledge base
  • effectively integrate a wide variety of technical, policy and local forms of knowledge
5. Communication to create a local presence and good local networks and relationships
Negotiating and effectively integrating different knowledges requires the alignment of different social interests and the creation of communications forums to be able to do so. This requires that you:
  • develop a local presence and good local networks through proximity and face-to-face communications.
  • develop effective relationships and resources with national policymakers.
6. Building credibility and trust
This requires that you think carefully about how you represent what you do to your stakeholders and partners:
  • appropriately representing your impartiality, neutrality and reputation as experts
  • communicating credibility and building trust with a variety of partners, who in other aspects of their work and business may have competing priorities
  • gaining symbolic visibility in the local and national media e.g. through demonstration and showcasing, positioning of your organisation as distinctive, as ‘first mover’ and ‘the people to turn to’.
7. Gaining influence through the above and by developing ways to measure influence
The previous six issues help to embed your organisation within the local context and facilitating the development of the resources, relationships, forms of knowledge and communications and, thus, visibility, to be able to effect a credible influence. But you also need to:
  • develop a shared organisational view of how to assess your success and influence - beyond the often narrow metrics of external funders.

 Further resources

Further resources on effective energy intermediation