Once upon a time …

Arriving in a village, a weary traveller begins making soup from stones and water in the village square. Curious, local people ask what he is cooking, and hearing him extol how delicious it will be if just a few missing ingredients are added, they contribute to the pot. And soon, all are enjoying a tasty feast!

This ancient fable is the inspiration behind Stone Soup Consulting, a unique collaborative of specialist facilitators and consultants, who deliver tailored organisational development for MAVA partners, and who are dedicated to helping organisations boost their social value, innovation and impact.

“At Stone Soup, we’re the traveller, and our clients are the villagers. Whether they’re foundations, companies, NGOs or public institutions, we work as partners, co-creating strategies to unleash organisational potential and drive social impact and systemic change.”

With a background in human rights, and having previously led Amnesty International in Portugal, and worked in Europe, Latin America and Africa, Stone Soup co-founder Cláudia Pedra brings a rich set of skills and experiences to the mix, equally at ease engaging in global advocacy and speaking to Presidents or supporting trafficking victims in the field.

I was born in Angola before my family emigrated to the US. I went to eleven different schools because my father moved around a lot. Always being the new kid on the block gave me a certain perspective. It really grew my empathy and adaptability. It’s what took me into human rights – I started volunteering with Amnesty at 14. I couldn’t bear discrimination and wanted to help create a better world.

When in Cape Verde

One of MAVA’s partners with whom Cláudia has worked intensively, is Cape Verde NGO, Biosfera. Founded in 2006 by a handful of passionate naturalists, Biosfera quickly became a leading voice in marine conservation but its growth also brought challenges.

“Biosfera needed help with governance, admin and financial procedures – but these are never things that you can simply copy and paste from elsewhere. Our starting point is always understanding local culture and how an organisation works. From there, you can create procedures that make sense in a particular context. And the Cape Verde context is unique – a mix of optimism, rigour, and sensitivity, all wrapped up in a colonial past!”

Procedures may sound like a dull topic but can be a matter of life and death. For example, Stone Soup helped Biosfera co-design a new emergency protocol which reduced the time it takes people on the archipelago’s most isolated islands to reach a hospital from eleven hours to just one!

Through a participatory process conducted with staff, board members and numerous other stakeholders, and designed to ensure ownership – including using ‘futurology’ to enable participants to take a long-term strategic view about their place in the world – Cláudia and Stone Soup also helped Biosfera develop a five-year conservation plan.

Everything we do is participative. We deconstruct hierarchy, listen to people at every level, and take time to build trust. And as practitioners ourselves, we bring diversity and an insider’s knowledge of the challenges many organisations face – you can’t help if you don’t understand what’s it like to be in their shoes.

Never-ending story

In their commitment to enabling people and organisations to deliver social impact, and to be the best they can be, Stone Soup have much in common with MAVA.

“As a B Corp, we will only work with clients who share our values and principles. Organisational development is a way to promote systemic change. If you really invest in people and organisations, as MAVA do, positive change will come, and society will benefit.”

Nevertheless, there has to be give and take. And sometimes things don’t work out.

“An organisation needs to be invested in improvement. We can accompany them on their journey but they must be co-responsible for change. That’s why we periodically offer what we call an ‘honesty report’ – it’s an impact report that’s honest about where things haven’t worked as well as where they have, and shows where we need to improve.”

What is certain is that organisational development is never finished. There will always be new challenges, each of which offers an opportunity for growth.

How is Claudia supporting MAVA's vision?

Find out more about how Claudia and Stone Soup are supporting organisational development with MAVA partners.

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