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Deaconess: A strategy for a social welfare and healthcare foundation

The Deaconess Foundation is a non-profit organization that has worked to promote human dignity for more than 150 years. Together with its employees and stakeholders, we co-created a future-proof strategy that puts people first and meets the challenges the social and healthcare sector faces in a rapidly changing society.

The challenge

The Deaconess Foundation has grown rapidly, and its operating environment has undergone major change: societal problems are more complex, resources are scarcer and there is a shortage of staff. Overall, there’s a real need to increase the attractiveness of the entire care sector. Under these circumstances, the foundation wanted to make sure their organization is effective and able to create the kind of impact society needs – now and in the future. They needed a facilitative partner to create an effective group strategy that considered the broad range of services from social and welfare services to non-profit work the organization provides.

Outcomes and impact

  • A 360-degree view and insight from key stakeholders: the right direction into the future.

  • Collaborative strategy creation process: a resilient strategy that every employee takes ownership of.

  • Future-oriented and technological approach: identifying the most important external drivers and solutions impacting the foundation.

  • A strategy that unites and inspires the entire organization: a vital building block for creating a strong brand.

What we did

Together with the Deaconess Foundation’s employees and stakeholders, we co-created a future-proof strategy that puts people first, explores the possibilities of new technologies and meets the challenges of the healthcare sector in a rapidly changing society. Understanding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and turning them into new opportunities was at the core of the process.

We started by building a 360-degree view of the current status by gathering insight from key stakeholders via interviews and polls: employees, clients, delegates, municipalities, funders, NGO communities, as well as the organization’s board of directors and management. This provided our team with a holistic understanding of the unique strengths, pressure points and needs of the different groups and helped them commit to the renewal. The results were presented to the leadership in workshops. The visions, ideas, and expectations were in line across the whole organization.

We have come up with an inspiring and forward-looking strategy that is easy for every employee, client, and partner to get involved in. With our new strategy, we want to invite everyone to participate in working for human dignity.
Olli Holmström
CEO, the Deaconess Foundation

Next, we applied a gap analysis to look at future trends emerging in Finnish society and employed potential future scenarios to identify common macro-level drivers that will shape key themes in expanding the strategy. The scenarios were then analyzed in workshops held for each business area.

We identified four main strategic focus areas as well as the common glue that holds the organization together and the factors that make it unique – today and tomorrow. Finally, we compiled group-level strategic guidelines for why and how to achieve these goals.

Why it matters

By focusing on the right priorities, the Deaconess Foundation can have an even larger impact on society. These include becoming a united Deaconess Foundation, a brave societal influencer, a strong social operator and an attractive workplace of the future. Most importantly, the new strategy inspired and united the entire organization to work towards shared goals.

The adaptive, collaborative and co-creative strategy process also enables the foundation to respond quickly and effectively to emerging needs. Bringing the future and a technological approach to the process helped the organization identify and prepare for the most important external drivers likely to have an impact on their work.

About The Deaconess Foundation

The Deaconess Foundation is an institution and social enterprise that has operated for more than 150 years. Together with the disability services operator, Rinnekoti, and subsidiaries Diakonissalaitoksen Hoiva Ltd and Caritas Services Ltd, we provide effective social welfare and healthcare services that improve our clients’ day-to-day lives. The organization employs 2,700 people nationwide and the combined turnover was €179 million in 2020. The foundation also owns the Diakonia College of Finland and the Diaconia University of Applied Sciences.

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