This week, I (literally) blew the dust off a dissertation I wrote 25 (yes, twenty five) years ago for my MSc in Voluntary Sector Organisation at the LSE.
It was called ‘This is who we are. This is what we do.’ and it studied the processes and effects of creating mission statements in two charities.
Back in 1998, the mission statement was the in thing in the charity world.
It’s largely been replaced these days by the more specific and (I think) more helpful tripartite focus on mission (purpose), vision (aspiration) and values (governing behaviours).
So, anyway, I concluded that:
- the process of creating a statement can be central to a charity’s ability to manage its own development
- the choice of words in it can unite but also divide staff and supporters
- following an understanding of the needs that the charity is addressing, the statement can provide a vital link between organisational philosophy and collective action. To illustrate it in my dissertation, I drew this chart – quite a few years before I learned about making the ‘case for support’.
And as I re-read my dissertation, I was struck by the strangeness of some of my more superficial decisions: Why did I choose that terrible font? Why did I thank Arsène Wenger last in my acknowledgements?
But it was also apparent that, without knowing it at the time, this study marked the start of what has clearly become a career-long interest in the importance of charities’ missions.
You didn’t think ‘Mission Control’ was about rockets, did you?
This blog was first writtten in 2013 and updated in 2023