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From Concept to Culture: Using Evidence in Your Organisation

Thinking beyond Covid-19 how do we embed a culture of evidence in organisations to help them thrive in the future? CHEW Trustee and Director of Salisbury Kuczkowska Consulting, David Salisbury shares his thoughts .

Writing a blog that talks about the future without a focus on COVID-19 feels a bit odd right now. The entire third sector is faced with considerable uncertainty. But I still believe that organisations who are sophisticated in their use of evidence and balance it well in their decision making will handle this crisis as best they can and thrive beyond it. I’m so committed to this idea that I’m not just writing one blog, I’m going to write a series. If you want to read something about gathering and reporting on evidence in times of COVID then this series isn’t what you are after, but you can look here, or here, or here, or here instead.

Over the years I’ve spoken with many colleagues working across the sector who are trying to build a culture of using evidence within their organisation. This is a challenge that I’ve done my bit in working towards too. I’m hoping that throughout this series I’ll be able to provide some practical ways forward that colleagues across the sector find useful.

In this first post though, I want to step back a bit and think about what a culture actually is. There are quite a few different ways in which people have attempted to describe what makes a culture. So many in fact that it can be overwhelming – so I went back to a textbook which brought things together fairly coherently and set out five facets that make up culture:

  • Symbols – these can be physical like job titles, logos and apparel (t-shirts anyone) but can also be symbolic like cake-fuelled gatherings to say thank-you or well-done, e-cards or even actual awards (Third Sector Awards, Macmillan Professionals Awards etc.)

  • Language – is perhaps an extension of symbols. However, it is the central point for our communication and is a key foundation stone of any culture

  • Norms – which set our standards and expectations for behaviour and ‘how things go’

  • Values – a set of principles which guide our behaviours and mind-set

  • Artifacts – the tangible stuff, the products that are important in bringing the culture to life or serve some level of significance

Building a culture of evidence (or a sub-culture within a broader dominant culture more likely) requires paying attention to each of these areas. Over my series of blogs I’m going to talk about most of these*. I’ll aim to take a concept and move it along into something that I think can be a bit more concrete and be helpful to folks working in evidence roles in the third sector.

Language is a foundation stone – it frames how we explain and live our culture, how we think about concepts and actions. Without a common language regarding evidence we cannot expect to build a culture of using evidence. So that is where I will make a start, in my next post I’ll have a go at defining evidence, the value it brings and perhaps a bit about where to stop with it too.

* I don’t have much to say about symbols I’m afraid – please do chip in in the comments if you do!

This blog series has been reproduced with permission from Dave Salisbury's personal blog . You can follow Dave for further updates here

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