CEO Louise Parkes reflects on how strategy came to the fore in response to Covid-19

Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (GOSH Charity) is the UK’s largest hospital fundraising charity and the largest dedicated funder of paediatric research in the UK. As Chief Executive, Louise Parkes has responsibility for both strategic leadership and operational management of the organisation. Here she talks to Partner, Joanna Thornton, on how GOSH’s key enablers for strategy came to the fore in response to Covid-19.

What were your immediate priorities in tackling Covid-19?

We had three clear priorities as the scale of the crisis became clear: 

  1. To support the hospital 
  2. To ensure the wellbeing of our staff 
  3. To mitigate income loss where possible, while simultaneously developing plans for income recovery strategies. 

We moved quickly to put plans in place to respond to these priorities. While it has been an incredibly challenging time, our staff have risen to the challenge admirably.

How will the crisis change the organisation?

The three key enablers for our strategy are culture, digital and innovation. These have all come to the fore as we have responded to Covid-19. It quickly became clear that the pandemic would act as an accelerator to the transformational elements of our strategy, something which others in my network have also commented on. The digital agenda is key for GOSH. We have seen tremendous change to the way people work and communicate internally, as well as needing to adapt to being unable to undertake face to face fundraising over this time. The Covid-19 crisis has happened at the same time as the Black Lives Matter movement has been high on the agenda. There has been a real appetite from staff for us to be more proactive internally and externally and we are taking this important work forward at pace. 

Despite the positives in terms of accelerating innovation, our cultural evolution and making full use of our digital capabilities, this has been a tough time. GOSH Charity will see its income fall by a third this year and the future is hard to predict as we know that changes in macro economics, i.e. recession or house price falls have an impact on discretionary income and fundraising revenues. We have a new Director of Fundraising joining soon and a new capital build on the horizon, both of which are exciting new developments as we seek to respond to the challenges. 

What will your leadership priorities be post crisis?

We are out of the business continuity planning phase and into the next phase of ‘Covid ops planning’. It is clear that all organisations need to refocus their approach to business as usual, refocusing on the strategy and the financials, as we come to terms with the reality is that society will need to live and work with the ongoing pandemic for a long time ahead. Specific leadership priorities at GOSH Charity will be to embed our new leadership team following our recent period of organisational change and to drive income. We will also work very closely with the hospital as it seeks to define its own ‘new normal’ and we plan for how we can best support the hospital, its staff and patients. As we plan ahead to a phased return to the office, I am mindful of how hard our dedicated staff team has worked throughout lockdown.  Safeguarding wellbeing, and ensuring morale remains high, is really important.

What have you learned about yourself and your leadership team during the pandemic?

I am unbelievably proud of how the leadership team and the organisation as a whole has pulled together during this incredibly challenging period. I’ve learned that  people often work brilliantly in a crisis but then it is important to regularly take time to pause, reflect and come together as the organisation moves forward into the next phase of response to Covid-19.

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