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Posted by Sarah Brown on 28 Sept '23

How can you thrive in adverse conditions?

Two of my favourite things came together in the past week: creative strategy and gardening.

Creative strategy

I was working with a client on a strategy for a new business using our theory of change tool. We had a great session, and I also realised that I could develop a new tool, a Theory of Change Calculator(c), which would provide a means of linking costs and outputs to identify how to maximise the impact of the resources available - particularly important at the moment with rising costs and uncertain income.

Garden design

At the same time, I have been playing with our new garden, thinking about getting winter and spring colours, how to work with pots, and how it will all work with the space available once we have a garden room, shade, sun, water, etc.

It made me realise that a garden is a good analogy for an organisation. It works if there is a plan and you know what you want to achieve. There are always constraints like budget, location, time, the practicalities. You can't have everything even in the biggest garden. There are things you can't control, like the weather.

Cultivate your organisation

Whether running a business, social enterprise or charity, think like a gardener. As a gardener, I focus on the result I want to achieve: what success looks like, for example, flowers, vegetables or a beautiful environment. I plan to make my new garden look stunning in Spring. I am thinking about the ingredients that I can control what I need to prepare, but I can't do anything about the limited space I have

All gardeners know they need various ingredients like water, soil, sunshine, plants, seeds, pots, tools, and their imagination and knowledge to make them work. And currently, gardeners face the challenge of climate change, like those running organisations face economic challenges.

Like plants or gardens, organisations need more than one input for success. An organisation needs tangibles like money, people, technology, and the magic you give the strategy, the values, the knowledge. Like gardening, you can't focus on just one input, and you need to know what success looks like and the critical inputs required to achieve it, like money.

If we think about money in an organisation like water in a garden, you will have a different need if you want a water feature, and a pond needs more than a millstone with water running over it. In a dry area, you select plants that don't need much water; if money is a problem, how can you reduce your spending while still getting what you want and progressing towards success? Could you use technology or a different method?


Once you know what you want, there are many ways to get beauty or pleasure from a garden. Similarly, with your organisation, use our new tool, the Theory of Change Calculator(c), to identify how you can get the most impact from what you have and plan how to make the most of what you have going forward.

It's the time to think seriously about Collaboration

How to reflect your values in how you sell

How to produce a business plan that can really create success for you