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From the Desk of the CEO – August 2015

Having joined Dignitas as CEO this past January, I’ve had time to easy my way into the role and the operations. I have started thinking about our future as an organization and the strategy that will lead us to achieve our mission.

The timing of my arrival at Dignitas was fortuitous; we were just launching an Impact and Strategic Clarity exercise, funded through a generous grant from the McConnell Foundation. This exercise helps organizations assess their efforts in a structured and data-driven way.

It does so by pushing the leadership to develop clear answers to three fundamental questions:

– What impact do we aim to achieve?
– How will we achieve it?
– How will we know we are successful?

As a team – both staff and Board – we have spent several months exploring these questions and developing our ‘Theory of Change’ – an organizational roadmap that clearly defines the change we seek to create in the world and the building blocks needed achieve this long-term goal.

Our Theory of Change is focused on strengthening health care systems and is built on a series of change pathways that result in the desired outcomes. Each outcome is linked to one or several actions, revealing the complex web of activity required to bring about real and lasting social change.

Emerging from our discussions are several themes that will help shape our efforts in the years ahead: equity, accessibility, quality and partnership.

We fundamentally agree that research will remain at the core of our operational model and will continue to drive our work to transform health care systems. The team, however, also identified a growing need within the organization to create space and resources for innovation as we continue to explore new opportunities for growth and development. In the coming years, Dignitas will invest substantially in formal structures and mechanisms to nurture innovation within the organization.

Clarifying ‘how we work’ represents only one part of the exercise. Building a Theory of Change helps us define what we do – and what we don’t do. It aids us in clarifying what we want to ultimately achieve as an organization.

Equity in health care has been a cornerstone in our collective deliberations. We believe that all people everywhere should have access to good health care. As a result, we have identified three key change pathways to improving health care for marginalized and underserved populations. These pathways – which target people, practice and policy – will form the basis of our medical and research programs going forward. Our next step is to identify key outcomes and indicators for each pathway so that we can hold ourselves accountable and evaluate our success in achieving our goals.

We are currently in the process of pressure-testing our ideas with various stakeholders including staff, Board members, volunteers, partners and donors. Once finalized, our Theory of Change will form the foundation for our strategic planning beyond 2016. It will influence the types of projects we undertake, the investments we make in our programs and our team, the partnerships we foster and the opportunities we pursue.

We look forward to sharing our finalized Theory of Change with you in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to share your insights, please drop me a line.

Heather Johnston
President and CEO

Dignitas InternationalFrom the Desk of the CEO – August 2015