WWF UK Blog  

Making the most of exits


As part of our current (2014-2018) Strategy, WWF-UK has been exiting from about 16 projects, programmes and places around the world. This has allowed us to increase our focus and deliver more, while setting aside over £3 million to help build stronger offices in our four priority areas of the world (the Amazon, China, India and East Africa). In many cases, other donors have stepped into our shoes to support our erstwhile work thereby maintaining our impact.

Butterfly exiting it's chrysalis. Copyright: @naturepl.com / Ingo Arndt / WWF-CanonButterfly exiting it’s chrysalis. Copyright: @naturepl.com / Ingo Arndt / WWF-Canon

From the outset we recognised that we should exit in an ethical, just and responsible way.  In our view, responsible exit means providing  the best chance for sustaining the results of a project or programme’s impact; and, enabling our  partners to establish new relationships with donors and technical partners for funding and capacity to maintain or improve on what we have already achieved together. We also recognised the importance of supporting outgoing staff members and ensuring that they are better prepared for their next opportunity.

We set out with very little guidance on how to do deliver responsible exits, and have had to learn along the way. And learning have we done. High on our list of priorities was learning what it actually means to exit responsibly from projects, programmes and places, and in some cases “spin-off” new organisations to carry on their work independently. We are still learning, but are confident that we have been able to generate some key values that will guide us in the future, and embed best practice. These have been codified as our ‘Principles for Responsible Exits’.

Why principles?

The principles allow us to engage with key audiences and stakeholders, principally our partners as well as our trustees and the general public about how we do responsible exits, and what happens next when we leave places or exit from projects or programmes. The principles will also aid our strategic decision making when we next identify exits to carry out and engender accountability and trust among our trustees, senior managers, project managers, partners and supporters.

What are the principles?

There are six principles that cover the key points for consideration when planning exits, including the vital issues of the timetable for delivery, capacity and the long term sustainability of the work.

They are:

  • Ensure that planning for exits is part of the strategic planning processes
  • Ensure (where appropriate) the long term sustainability of the work
  • Design a realistic process and timetable for implementing an exit
  • Keep the momentum for positive change where we are exiting
  • Ensure that the necessary capacity and funding is available to deliver the exit and
  • Support the staff in the projects or programmes from which we are exiting.

Where next?

It’s true that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We need to put these principles into practice whenever we consider an exit process. The responsibility lies with everyone within the organisation to continue asking: “How are we doing against the principles?” and “Can we do this better?” If we are able to answer those questions clearly and learn the lessons, we will continue as a leader and advocate for responsible exits within our network and beyond.

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