1 July 2022

Organisational Development – Unpacking the Unconference 2022

Just before the start of the Philea Forum 2022, Philea hosted its first Organisational Development Support Unconference in Barcelona on 29 May, a self-organising event with no pre-determined agenda, that allowed participants to mould the direction of the discussions. After a quickfire Q&A with the Steering Group members of the Community of Practice, participants were invited to think of questions surrounding Organisational Development (OD) and these questions then formed the basis of the parallel discussions, which were centred around the following categories:

  • Organisational Development Needs and Tools – facilitated by Adriana Craciun, Oak Foundation
  • Organisational Development as a Power-shifting Practice – facilitated by Carole Frampton-de Tscharner, PeaceNexus Foundation
  • Peer Networks, Outcomes, and Board Engagement – facilitated by Andrew Holland, Stiftung Mercator Schweiz

The conversation on “Organisational Development Needs and Tools” started by sharing approaches on how to identify these needs in organisational development. There were various approaches ranging from a more structured approach with different questionnaires or mapping tools, to approaches that have more freedom with the organisations to identify their own priorities and needs; some being intermediate as well. The discussions looked at the gap between the funder and grantee and highlighted the need to make sure that organisations are mature and ready for organisational development but also that the leadership team is on board. A recurring question throughout this discussion was “If you have approaches that focus on individuals with organisations, how do you ensure that talent and knowledge space within organisations and migrate the respective individuals?”

On “Organisational Development as a Power-shifting Practice” a critical point was that the issue of power is never solved. The discussion centred on the potential negative or destructive impacts of OD. For example, when you can’t win over a donor, consultants or a large firm with their own definition of what a good practice is and how it should be versus your own definition. The importance of actually letting the partner define what the issue is in terms of language, and also how far they want to go, needs to be recognised. Governance and the importance of looking at appreciating different perspectives was another point of discussion and the interesting example of whistleblowing, as in reporting from the grantee who can actually go to the foundation with a whistle-blower complaint, was raised. This is an opening to a change process, because you then have a mandate. An example is Black Lives Matter: if you’re going to make a big statement about Black Lives Matter, “you should clean up your own house first”. In other words, how can you provide support without firstly “walking the talk.”

The discussion on “Peer Networks, Outcomes, and Board Engagement” revolved around how you promote learning within boards, and the necessary shifts in thinking, and saw various different ideas on this shared. A recurring point was about how do you support the board taking ownership of their shifts in itself, that change and getting more involved with the projects that are being funded? The discussion also looked at measuring outcomes and in particular, on long-term outcomes. In other words: how far do you expect to see the impact on the work that you’re doing? When/if do you stop supporting organisational development? And if it’s working, why do you have to stop?


Daniel Spiers
Programme Manager – Peer-Exchanges & Knowledge