Leading change and innovation in organisations is not one person’s job. It should be an opportunity everyone can be a part of. Getting this filtered through the various complexities in organisations today is the challenge that makes both inclusivity and innovation seem like a far dream for organisations to achieve.
At Rape Crisis we had many discussions about what a rebrand would look like. How would it include voices in the organisation to maintain authenticity and when is the “right” time to pursue the journey of rebranding a 43 year old organisation. Because ultimately that’s what this process is: a journey. To bring members of an organisation along this journey is what my team and I has been trying to do over the last 6 months at Rape Crisis.
I started off with creating a facilitation team that led this process with an open mind, heart and most of all the patience to bear with me as we consciously try to practise inclusion across the organisation. The team consisted of Janet Austin (PMEL Specialist), Rifqah Barnes (Training & Development Coordinator), Sino Mdunjeni (Digital Officer), Jameelah Ismail (Fundraising Officer), Neliswa Tshazi (Court Support Coordinator) and Waafiq Hendricks (Graphic Designer). An important part of this process was to have the designer present from start to finish. This level of participation allows the designer to have a much deeper connection and understanding of the context and scope of the project ahead. It allows for them to share ideas and suggestions in the moment, rather than following a static brief and going back and forth with revisions.
Why do it this way?
Hiring a marketing or external design agency to take on your rebrand seems like the best option or best practice however considering the type of organisation, its members, its beneficiaries and the social purpose behind what we are doing were all factors that drove me to thinking about how do we turn this process inward and make this a ‘Collective Organisational Rebrand’.
In Tim Brown’s book “Change by Design” he distinguishes between multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams. “A creative organization is constantly on the lookout for people with the capacity and—just as important—the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. In the end, this ability is what distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one. In a multidisciplinary team each individual becomes an advocate for his or her own technical specialty and the project becomes a protracted negotiation among them, likely resulting in a gray compromise. In an interdisciplinary team there is collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.” Tim Brown, Change by Design.
The value of co-creation is that we get to learn from each other.
I cannot express the importance of finding methodologies that breed inclusivity. We can talk about inclusivity but if we can’t practise it then it’s a different story. Making room for voice, agency and diversity are not simply things we add to our vision and mission statement – they have to be embodied in our work, in our projects, in our processes and in the day-to-day life of an organisation. This is a challenging task, but one I can say we are currently experiencing.
When is it time for a rebrand? And who says it’s time for it?
Like with most things in our organisation, it all starts with conversations, corridor and kitchen chats when seeds are planted and ideas are shared – that’s when the thinking process starts. There is no “right” time or “right” person to initiate a rebrand and especially in the context of social justice organisations and the nonprofit sector where there are no rules to follow when it comes to Communications and Marketing. We learn by trying and we grow by trusting our intuition.
Four years ago when I started at Rape Crisis I felt a rebrand was necessary, my reasons back then are different to now. The brand itself never seemed interesting to me, however the people did. Four years down the line I have learnt something that can only happen once you immerse yourself into the environment you wish to change and that is that change is not a linear process, it happens in small ways and so as the years have gone by this idea of expansion and growth sits strongly with me and everyone else who forms part of Rape Crisis. We identify with growth and expansion when we see and feel things change around us and when the demands of the external world have to be met. So what do we do? We respond, but we respond in our own time and in our own way.
This is the power we have, the power not only as practitioners and thought leaders but as a feminist organisation that drives processes within and encourages that journey as one that everyone is part of. Ideally the responsibility of driving a branding process sits within the Communications team. But to collectively build and own it we have to collectively agree on when it is time – which is when it then becomes everyone’s responsibility. To accomplish this we sent out a survey to all staff and volunteers asking about their feelings about whether it was in fact time, and the majority response was a YES!
How does change affect participation?
Specifically in this context, change is hard. Members of an organisation will have attachment to certain things about the current brand such as the logo, colours, symbols and familiarity with the existing brand. A resistance to change is a good sign, its sign to go back to the drawing board and re-create. Being mindful of how people accept change, work with new ideas and feel about a new process are all part of the process. If this hinders participation then we must think of ways to manage and address a resistance to change. For this we did an empathy map exercise on how everyone was feeling about change. This gave me a good enough sense of the reading in the room and helped the facilitation team to push forward and create the rest of the sessions in a mindful way.
This attachment is very important, it shows that staff values the identity of the organisation and therefore cares about what it grows into. When it comes to participation, there is only so much one can put into place for participants to actually participate. One good sign is when you have a high attendance, that means there is interest and curiosity. CURIOSITY is the factor that will drive people to creativity.
As an organisation that deals with such complex social issues we are constantly faced with external change and the question is whether or not we respond and adapt. Often these types of decisions or conversations are driven by external factors including donors, stakeholders and communities, and it is on Rape Crisis to shift. The beauty about that shift is that it sits inside the organisation, the tools to make this happen already exist. In Warren Nilsson and Tanna Paddocks article on social innovation from the inside out they mention that, “Socially innovative organizations draw on member experiences to generate the raw material of social change. They do so not just in special retreats or workshops, but in the routine meetings and conversations that make up most of organizational life.” This describes a particular part of the collective rebrand and how we share and experience organisational change.
As it stands we have gone through a 6 month period of 3 co-created rebrand sessions. During this time we have gathered data, collectively designed mood boards, learnt about colour psychology, symbols, logos, concept development and the voice of a brand. And what we plan to do next is use all the input gathered to conceptualise and create a design brief that will look to incorporate the new input for the brand. This is an unfolding process and we look forward to the next phase as we build and iterate collectively.
(Zeenat Hendricks is currently completing her Masters in Inclusive Innovation at the UCT Graduate School of Business and is conducting her fieldwork study at Rape Crisis as the insider researcher. Her research work explores how communications acts as a tool for social innovation in organisations and drives inclusivity and participation)