My Sister’s Place: A journey through Scale Accelerator

My Sister's Place sat down with us to discuss their experience on the Scale Accelerator programme.

My Sister’s Place is an independent specialist organisation for women aged 16 or over who have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic violence. They joined Scale Accelerator in 2020 to further their mission to enable their support services to reach more people.

We had the pleasure of talking to Michelle O’Rourke, Chief Officer of My Sisters’ Place, and Ejaye Moran, Therapeutic Services Manager and Clinical Lead, to find out more about what going through the Scale Accelerator programme entailed, and how they found the experience as a whole.

What was your challenge before joining Scale Accelerator?

(Michelle): We initially started by delivering training, which we rolled out nationally and was really successful. But as we were doing this we thought – where is this leading to? Is there a ‘next stage’? As people were asking for more than just training, we agreed that there was.

We wanted to get from where we are now to where we want to be in a reasonable timescale.

We didn’t have the capacity to get there by ourselves – it would have taken five years, but with Spring Impact’s help, it ended up taking twelve months.

Why did you decide Scale Accelerator was the right opportunity to go for?

(Ejaye): We were at a point where scaling felt like a very natural next step, but weren’t sure how to do it – Scale Accelerator was a natural fit for us. You provided knowledge and experience on how to develop and scale up, skills and tools that we didn’t have internally in the organisation. We felt you were experienced in working with a variety of services and we had opportunity to learn from others to identify and build skills within the organisation.

You found out you had been accepted – how did you feel? What happened next?

(Michelle): Quite excited about it, going down to the first session. The work we did in that first session validated to me that this is the right place to be. We did a full day workshop and were introduced to our consultants, Meg and Steve, met others on our cohort, and heard from past cohort members – hearing their experience and how they found it.

Scale Accelerator was a natural fit for us. You provided knowledge and experience on how to develop and scale up, skills and tools that we didn’t have internally in the organisation.

— Ejaye Moran, Therapeutic Services Manager and Clinical Lead at My Sister's Place

What does the programme involve? Can you describe what you did in terms of format and time commitment?

(Michelle and Ejaye): It started with some strategic planning. Our consultants came for a strategy day, where we were allowed to bring in who we wanted from our organisation. We discussed what we wanted to achieve through scaling and how it fits with our organisational ambitions.

With the consultants’ help, we were able to think about the certain ways we did things and how we would change our processes. They helped challenge these processes and form the design for how we would scale which we couldn’t have done independently as there was no one to challenge that.

It all felt collaborative and supportive. The consultants were really understanding of the pressures we were under, allowing us to maximise time in a constructive way. This allowed us to work well and achieve everything we needed to during Covid-19. Adaptability and understanding are really some of the big advantages of Scale Accelerator.

The time commitment is significant, but our consultants adapted to our needs and worked at a pace that worked for us. Our experience was spread across twelve months in total as a result of the pandemic, with workshops being two, three hours long. Workshops were every six to eight weeks with a more intense period over the summer.

What sort of questions did you work through with the consultants?

(Ejaye): Early on, we focused on our mission, target audiences, our values and refining where we wanted to scale, giving us a clear picture of what we wanted to do. This allowed us to really focus on an area that was important to us in line with that mission and values and to concentrate on those efforts in the violence against women and girls sector, and developing ideas around how we would progress those.

(Michelle): It was a lot of exploring what we wanted to achieve to decide what we were looking at for scale. We discussed things which were vital in our intervention, but also what parts were more flexible. We covered what sectors we want to work with and what restrictions there might be.

What has happened since you finished the more intensive process?

(Ejaye and Michelle): We have completed our design phase and have our financial model. Our next stage is looking at systemising, piloting, and implementing this model for scaling. We are back in touch with our consultants to set this up. We are still delivering our training and connecting with organisations who could potentially pilot our model.

What are the top three things you got out of the programme?

(Michelle): We have achieved a framework for how to develop and build our intervention . This will help us leap up to where we wanted to get to.

(Michelle): We learned the skills-base, which we’ve now implemented in-house for those of us that were involved. Spring Impact also enabled us to think about ways to develop services in the future. We now have processes, a systematic way of thinking about how to make changes, and we now ask ourselves questions we wouldn’t have asked before.

(Ejaye and Michelle): We connected with IRISi (a previous Spring Impact alumni), and became their first social franchise in Middlesbrough. This was really helpful as we were able to see and understand a completed scaling process, see the relevance, and understand elements that supported our own development.  This wasn’t something we expected would happen as a result of Scale Accelerator, but it is something we had wanted to bring to Middlesbrough for some time.

What is next for My Sister’s Place following the programme?

(Michelle): Counselling and therapeutic provision for domestic abuse services are even more important now, following the pandemic. We are looking forward to working with organisations nationally to ensure that such provisions are seen as equally as important as advocacy services.

Has being part of the programme changed the way you think about scaling as an organisation?

(Michelle): We used to think of scale as something we could share, then do, then it may stop or start again. Now we think of it in a much more structured way and is something we have a long-term plan for.

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