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SSAT: switching our vision for a purpose

We have revisited our mission, vision and values… or, as we have named them, our Purpose and Convictions. Mike Jones, Head of Brand, SSAT explains why, and gives some tips on how an organisation can best share and live by its core principles.

A few months ago, should you have asked a member of SSAT staff to describe what we do, I’m pretty sure the answers would all have been slightly different. There would have obviously been some general consensus – education, schools, young people – but I doubt there would have been a definitive answer. And that’s speaking to our staff who should be really clear about what we do… never mind leaders and teachers in SSAT member schools.

In autumn 2015, we introduced our new name – SSAT, the Schools, Students and Teachers network – with a refreshed visual identity, and we talked about schools collaborating with purpose. And then in 2016, we talked about giving fresh ideas to ambitious schools. But we didn’t really explain about why we do what we do, and how we do it. I suspect we all assumed that despite evolving messages, given SSAT’s long-standing history and position in the education sphere, that everyone knew who we were and what we stood for.

As we have been approaching this new academic year, we recognised that we need to be much clearer and transparent in the why and the how, and also revisit our vision and mission statements, so that people know exactly what SSAT do and who we are.

Following internal and external consultation and giving all staff across the organisation the opportunity to submit their suggestions and feedback, we have revised our mission, vision and values… or, as we have named them, our Purpose and Convictions.

Vision, mission and values: what are they and why do they matter?

Vision: an aspirational statement which defines the long-term goals of an organisation
Mission: describes what the organisation does and how it does it, its goals, and its objectives
Values: the behaviours, beliefs and culture that the organisation operates by, and which support the vision

Here are some things you can consider when developing or refreshing your organisation’s vision, mission and values:
• Where are we now?
• Where do you want to be?
• What do we need to do to get there?
• How can the impact and progress be measured?

Once the vision, mission and values have been agreed, they should be embedded across the organisation and externally. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
• Use them to inform strategic planning
• Be seen to live by the values in all professional interactions
• Include references to them in communications to stakeholders
• Regularly review¬¬ the values and behaviours to ensure they remain representative of the organisation’s culture.

What’s next for SSAT?

We are in the process of embedding our purpose and convictions using a variety of different methods including:
• adopting a consistent and unified tone of voice in our messaging
• making our purpose and convictions visible internally (office decor) and externally (online, and in publications)
• being adopted by all staff throughout the organisation
• introducing them into our staff recruitment, interview and induction processes.

It’s still early days and difficult to measure the impact so far, but I really hope that the next time someone at SSAT is asked to explain what the organisation does, the first thing that springs to mind is “SSAT is the Schools, Students and Teachers network and helps to improve outcomes for all young people”.

Further support on developing a coherent vision and strategy can be found in The SSAT Governance Toolkit published in September 2017 which has a dedicated chapter on developing a vision and values with reflective questions, exemplar case studies and step-by-step exercises to work through.

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