Succession Planning: A Community Development Approach
Community groups rely on unusual reserves of passion and commitment and this makes them particularly vulnerable to the sudden departure of key people. Every organisation needs to think about this issue in advance and have plans, procedures and understandings in place to manage this.
For community groups, the importance of encouraging younger people to be involved is critical to the sustainability of the organisation. Succession planning is about looking at where your group is now, where it needs to go and what you can do to get there. It is about putting a system in place to ensure that when someone leaves you are not left with a black hole of knowledge and expertise – and that there is someone in the wings ready to step into the that role.
We visited four community groups that are taking active steps to ensure they are involving new and younger people in their groups, training up those who are interested, and reaching out to skilled members of the community to strengthen and protect the longevity of their management committees. We met with each group to ask how they approached succession planning and heard about the challenges they faced, the methods they used, and the benefits they found in ensuring younger people are part of the process.
First, we visited Roe Valley Residents Association, a thriving community organisation in Limavady that recognises the value of skilling up local people. We talked to several members of the staff and the management committee who all told us they valued the opportunities that being a part of the group provided them to learn new skills and then use those skills to give back and improve the organisation, enabling it to provide valuable services to the area. The supportive and welcoming nature of this group as well as the amazing range of activities on offer would make anyone want to get involved!
Next, we called in to Enagh Youth Forum in Derry. As a truly youth led group, EYF is all about building up young leaders in the community. We were really impressed with the young people, all aged 18-25, who are part of the management committee. As a youth-based group, members are constantly aging out of the group making succession planning an everyday consideration. We heard how they actively recruit, train, and prepare the younger members to join the management committee when they turn 18.
At Moneydig Rural Network, we learned how a small group of people in a very rural area recognised the need for community building to combat isolation. What started as a group of mums looking for things to do with their children has expanded into an area wide network of people providing activities and services to all ages. The management committee works very much as a team, drawing on the specialist skills of various members. They told us there was actually no trouble attracting committee members and they were amazed at the numbers that turned out at their first public meeting. We also met some of the next generation, who are already getting involved and running their own events – Moneydig looks to be in very good hands!
Finally, we visited Carnegat Community Association in Newry, a group that really appreciates the importance of succession planning because they had to restart their committee from scratch. They now actively rotate the management roles and have a “vice” of every position so that everyone has a chance to learn and develop all the skills needed. They value the contribution of their committee members and are sure to show their appreciation through trips and fun activities as well as the more serious training opportunities.
The benefits of succession planning are clear. Not only will it provide continuity for your group at times of member turnover and a clear plan for member progression and replacement, but it also provides recognition and reward for long serving members as they mentor new members and share their knowledge. Most importantly, it encourages groups to identify critical roles and skills and seek out or train up members to meet those needs.
Ultimately, succession planning should help you achieve your group’s objectives over the next five, ten, or more years by ensuring you have the right people with the right skills at the right time.