GLOBAL STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT (2014-16)
United Bible Societies is a global ‘fellowship’ of around 150 different not-for-profits working in 200 countries worldwide. With several of its members over 200 years old, it is a large and extremely complex network of priorities and cultures.
In 2014 I took on a long-term piece of work to facilitate the development of global strategy for engagement with under-30s. I’ll admit I was hesitant. The global Bible sector is an ethical minefield and neo-colonial forces are rampant. However, UBS has very little hierarchy so everything has to be achieved through consensus-building and influence. It’s far from perfect, but I could see the opportunity to make a positive contribution. I had recently completed a major piece of work on global trends and the future of the Bible which made the case for a more participatory approach to interpretation. This work gave me the chance to develop that research further.
The work took two years to complete and I presented a summary to around 300 CEOs and Board Chairs at the World Assembly in Philadelphia in 2016.
As someone who specialises in complexity this was an exciting and extremely challenging project. Not only is UBS culturally diverse, but it is also the world’s only genuinely ‘inter-confessional’ Christian network. That means radical Roman Catholic Marxists alongside White American Evangelicals, East-African Coptics alongside East-Asian Pentecostals. My work required constant translation between different worldviews – and different opinions on the value of ‘strategy’ in the first place!
I met many extraordinary people on this project. A highlight memory is from June 2015. Having faciliated the development of a strategic framework with a working group involving representatives from every global region I then had just a few days to get a wide range of stakeholder feedback at a global gathering in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia. The dispersed, networked nature of UBS meant that several key people were still only tacitly aware of my project – and most had extremely busy schedules. I had to win their trust, get serious, constructive feedback and process potential changes with scores of different people over an extremely tight time-frame. But I pulled it off!
This work definitely played to my strengths in that it demanded the ability to make sense of huge amounts of disparate information while collaborating meaningfully with a very wide range of different people. I remain very grateful for the experience and the chance to work with so many extroadinary people.
“Matt’s leadership in developing cross-cultural strategy was invaluable to our organisation. He was able to not only identify and synthesise global meta-trends among youth audiences, but he was able to process them with our cross-cultural stakeholders and facilitate collaborative identification of key strategic priorities in light of that. Further, he was able to mobilise this collaboration across distance, with limited opportunity for in-person gathering.
He has a rare mix of relational and strategic skills with uncommonly insightful ability to analyse and draw connections between disparate information. Because of this, he was able to help us achieve meaningful progress, with genuine stakeholder buy-in, in the complex but highly significant area of next-generation engagement.”