The case for a strategy refresh

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Organisational Foundations

YSPN was founded in 2012, by a core group of professional Sikhs who were just past the graduate and early stages of their careers, in prestigious roles and industries.

This founder group reflected similar upbringings and formative experiences that united them beyond simply religious affiliation. They were each the children of first-generation migrants who had moved to Australia in the 1990s. Products of a combined Sikh-Australian religious, cultural and educational upbringing, which valued academic achievement and excellence.

Having translated this upbringing into prestigious careers the group began to receive numerous queries from younger Sikhs asking about the academic and career choices that led to them to being in their positions. This frequent contact from younger Sikhs led to the hypothesis that there was an implicit gap in the community’s organisation, leaving a vacuum of information, and direction for the younger generations, that ought to be plugged with the formation of a volunteer not-for-profit organisation.

After the formation of YSPN, this background and context came to be summarised in the genesis conditions as follows:

  1. That we have a legacy worth preserving
  2. That we have more that unites than separates us
  3. That we are the first mass-generation of professional Sikh migrants
  4. That we bear the collective burden of that responsibility, and we bear it now.

to validate the hypothesis that a gap existed and that an organisation like YSPN could solve the problems that it had led to.

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Changes from within YSPN

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After three years of operation, the YSPN team had grown rapidly across the east coast of Australia, forming two additional chapters in Melbourne and Brisbane.

The rapid growth of the organisation, with the formation of these chapters meant that there was a large new cohort of people who were not yet exposed to the mission of the organisation, and had not had an opportunity to contribute to its formulation.

In order to address this challenge of coherence and purpose, YSPN held its first Executive Offsite, known as the Summit  in 2015, to solve these problems. At the 2015 Summit, the Team was posed with the question of what the strategy for YSPN ought to be, and it was from here the original strategy, shown below was formulated.

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As we have pursued the above strategy, the organisation has developed has experienced changes across the following dimensions.

Events Experience & Capability

As a core priority since inception over seven years ago, with a track record of over 90 events held till date, YSPN has developed a strong capability in conceiving, designing and delivering events. Through this experience, the original goodwill that was present in all chapter launches has slowly declined over time, resulting in lower average attendance across events. This maturation of the events format and service has resulted in a critical reflection of the purpose of hosting events, and whether they will continue to serve this purpose, and in what form.

Technology

Since the original Summit In 2015, YSPN has undergone a digital transformation which has resulted in increased collaboration across our five chapters, and a stronger capability in conceiving, planning, co-ordinating and delivering complicated, cross-border events and initiatives such as the Elevate Conference, and grant applications. Furthermore, through this deepened digital capability, we have transformed our mentoring program which began as a group program requiring over 100 hours of effort by an on the ground team, into a systemised and scalable program that can be delivered to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Brand and Relationships

Since the brand identity refresh in 2016, there has been a deepening of YSPN brand platform across specific audiences, and through proactive engagement through politics (political roadshows, 1:1 meetings with politicians and ministers, MulticulturalNSW, the OMI etc), the AIYD, and community groups such as the Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD), The Crescent Institute, the Sydney Alliance.

Our deepened marketing capabilities have also resulted in reaching increasingly higher number of people across our digital channels, our Facebook page has nearly 5,000 likes, as well as a reach over 250,000 unique users in a year.

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This has resulted in invitations and access to networks, forums and events which allow for higher level connections, that in turn result in partnerships, access to resources and energy that has been used in developing the YSPN Service offerings and getting broader exposure.

Mentoring Case Study

Combining our brand, technology and partnerships to deliver value to our audience

Mentoring was identified as a very important strategic objective for YSPN as a means of upskilling our community. Its importance was a function of the youth of the community, being a first-generation migrant community, and the consequent gap in cultural and professional skills, as a result of coming from a different cultural context.

Identifying this, the initial YSPN Strategic plan highlighted mentoring as part of the elevating member capabilities pillar of our strategy. In 2015 the inaugural YSPN Mentoring Program was launched in pursuit of these strategic objectives.

The inaugural program was built as an extension to the events capability, relying on central co-ordination, personal follow-ups, and an on the ground team that was responsible for hosting events to promote the program. This structure, appropriate for the capability at the time, required approximately 120hours of work to complete, and an on the ground presence.

Following the digital transformation of the organisation over 2017-2018 and the introduction of new platforms into the YSPN technology stack, including Mailchimp, Buffer and the Microsoft Cloud, Office and Enterprise Suite, the team focused on reducing the overhead involved in the mentoring program cutting approximately 100 hours of effort out of the program and simplifying it significantly.

In 2018-2019, with the partnership with Practera, the mentoring team undertook the challenge of re-conceptualising the mentoring program once again. The program was transformed into a completely digital group mentoring program built on the GROW model and Practera platform. The team introduced features including automated messaging, follow-ups, mentor monitoring tools and regular group mentoring calls.

The results from this program have been fantastic with over 100% growth YoY with the program, along with a self-reported increase in competence and approval of the mentoring program.

 

A snapshot of our key achievements

  • Nominated for 5 awards
    • 2x Finalists for the Community Services Excellence award at the India Australia Business and Community Awards (IABCA)
    • 1x Finalist for the Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence (WSABE)
    • Karan Anand and Gursimrat Bawa have both been finalists at the IABCA awards
  • Awarded Community Services Achievement Award by GOPIO Sydney
  • Established 5 permanent chapters (and 2 popup chapters)
  • Mentored over 100 young Sikhs
  • Held 92 events with 4,134 attendees
  • ~$30,000 raised in donations through crowdfunding
  • 585,152 people reached over the past 2 years
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Changes in our external environment

In the seminal report prepared by YSPN for Elevate 2019, an analysis of the last three census’ revealed that Sikhs are the fastest growing ethnic minority in Australia. Between 2006 and 2016, our community experienced 404% growth, with a population now of 125,000 people. The report also surfaced that Sikhs contribute $8.1bn to the Australian community. Through analysis of the demographic and economic factors, it was identified that there remains dormant economic potential within the community through factors such as underemployment, and a disproportionately high representation in structurally declining industries.

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This expansion in the community has meant a shift in demographics of the community and requires critical and existential reflection.

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CV Checks Case Study

Taking action from our thought leadership and leaning on our experience in hosting Events and using partnerships to deliver more value to our audience

In early 2019 a YSPN team was formed to conduct analysis on the Australian census to learn more about the Sikh community in Australia. This was motivated as an underpinning, and seminal contribution to the theme for the inaugural Elevate conference.

The research however had profound implications for our organisation in terms of how

The research identified the following important findings: that Sikhs were the fastest growing religious minority in Australia, comprised primarily of student migration; that there is a lingering underemployment problem of these students based on skills mismatch and other factors; that these migrants also work in structurally challenged industries (ie. Those expected to decline through technological, market and cultural forces).

The result of these findings was to catalyse the YSPN team into action to address this challenge. The challenge was addressed through a new initiative called CV Checks. Leaning on our ability to rapidly design and deliver events, a roster of YSPN Executives was engaged to work with Gurdwaras that we had relationships with, and served as a meeting place for migrants. This team, piloted an event at Parklea Gurdwara in March 2019 by hosting a stall during the weekend, promoted on social media to positive results.

Following validation from this pilot, the team has gone on to host CV check stalls every month since. Positive results from the stalls have included migrants going on to receive job applications after having their CV reviewed, and many progressing through stages of the recruitment process beyond the application.

Changes in Technology and Culture

During the time that YSPN has been delivering on the inaugural strategy, a vast wave of change has also swept across the world.

Given the success of Sikhs in places like Canada and the United Kingdom, the identity of the Sikh faith has become substantially more prominent, with leaders like Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP (the third largest political party in Canada), proudly discussing and promoting their cultural and religious values and heritage.

The technological landscape has also changed substantially with technologies like Social Media, and the associated algorithmic and marketing technologies as well as business processes and techniques surrounding this digital media have evolved to become more sophisticated and widespread. This has had a transformative impact on business, politics, culture and society, with the emergence of digital-first microbusinesses, grassroots political targeting leading to heterodox candidates winning, influencers, and lifestyles and cultures built around the exploitation of social media products, distribution algorithms and the psychology of ‘FOMO’.

Both these interrelated structural trends have resulted in a changed society, and appetite among communities to more proudly express their identities through the channels and platforms afforded by technologies like social media.

Resources and capabilities we've built over time

The above changes and evolutions over the seven-year lifespan of YSPN, can be distilled into capabilities and resources that YSPN controls as follows:

  1. An on the ground team which develops a sense of community between itself and more broadly through events, and partnerships
  2. A decentralised structure of collaboration for product development and execution
  3. An ability to communicate and distribute our services through digital platforms and marketing
  4. An internal leadership pipeline and factory training talented, raw, youthful volunteers in a professional development program across a breadth of skills
  5. A Leadership team which is open to challenge, innovation and transformation and perpetually challenging the status quo
  6. A grounding in values and identity based on a rich cultural and religious heritage
  7. A leadership structure that motivates team members to stay involved for considerable periods and develop their full potential operational/management to strategic/executive skillsets

Governing hypothesis

The challenge for YSPN therefore, is how to address the changing composition of the Sikhs in Australia and New Zealand, which risks forming a dichotomous community of an underclass of recent, less-skilled migrants and a disengaged middle and upper-class elite through the capabilities developed over its seven years of operation.

The process of solving this challenge, is articulated in this next section.

Strategy development process

Following the identification of the above conditions warranting the evaluation and review of the incumbent strategy, we used a strategy design process which consisted of workshops, ideation, and consultation with a stakeholder group. The results of that process are documented in this strategy paper.

Workshops

The process began with a series of workshops conducted with all our geographic chapters across Australia and New-Zealand. The workshops were facilitated exercises in empathy and strategic envisioning led by Karan Anand and Ramneek Singh. Instead of asking participants for the typical five year projection, these workshops started with the premise that there are two types of not-for-profit organisations:

  1. Institutions: organisations that must exist because they serve a fundamental human need, and will therefore continue to exist for the foreseeable future
  2. Finite scope organisations: organisations who seek to remedy an injustice or other problem in the world, and once they have done so they are no-longer required to exist.

And that YSPN ought to consider itself in the second category of not-for-profits, in order to maintain its pace of growth and execution, and to prevent a state of complacency from creeping in. This is especially important given our founding conditions, notably, the privilege of our organisation as being stewards of the legacy of first-generation professional migrants.

As a result, the workshops sought to answer the following question:

What does the world look like in five year’s time, when YSPN is no longer needed to exist? And what must YSPN do in order to create that world?

The responses to these questions surfaced a vision for the future that was important to our audience, from which we extracted underlying themes. These themes were translated into ‘problem spaces’ as provocation questions, designed to stimulate creative thinking, which our Executive group explored using design principles as part of our 2019 Summit.

Ideation at Summit 2019

The Executive Team was asked the following four questions, which were key thematic areas that were identified through the workshops held across the organisation.

  1. How might we create the conditions for our community to develop into broad positions of Leadership?​
  2. How might we help migrants secure their economic foundations?​
  3. How might we better help other organisations in our community?​
  4. How might we better help our community connect with one another?

These questions were explored and the strategic pillars (detailed in the next section: The Strategy) were extracted and framed from a position of strength for both the community and organisation.

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Consultation

After the process of workshops, and ideation was completed, the ideas and responses were used to form a draft strategy document. This draft strategy was then circulated widely to canvas opinions and gather feedback in response to the direction and content of the strategy.

YSPN is thankful to the following people, groups and organisations for their valuable time and input into this process:

  • Our parent organisation, Sikh Youth Australia
  • Satjeet Kaur, Executive Director, The Sikh Coalition
  • Inder Singh, Group CFO, QBE Insurance Group; and Vivek Bhatia, CEO A/NZ, QBE Insurance Group
  • Pam Bains, Group CFO and Strategy Executive, Aurizon
  • Tarandeep Singh Ahuja, Partner, McKinsey
  • Savneet Singh, CEO, Par Technology Corporation
  • Malminderjit Singh, Former President, Young Sikh Association (Singapore)