Strengthening internal culture, organizational development and staff capacity building, 2010-2011


From 2010 to 2011, one of Anima’s Senior Partners — Annahid Dashtgard — worked as internal consultant at Toronto’s social innovation hub, The Centre for Social Innovation. Her primary role as Director of Community Animation: to strategize around internal culture building for over 300 social mission organizations, with a secondary focus on organizational development during a time when CSI was expanding into two new spaces in downtown Toronto.

Over the course of the year, Annahid played a role in building staff-capacity, creating new programming opportunities including the CSI Desk Exchange program and focusing on key organizational development initiatives such as strategic planning, management coaching, internal feedback structures and organizational structure and decision-making.

The organizational culture building strategy for the year focused on cultivating six key elements:

  1. A Uniting Narrative: Creating a unifying story that everyone in the organization could ‘see’ themselves in, was an important motivating force, helping the organization navigate through challenging moments.
  2. Feedback Loops: Setting up regular opportunities for feedback and reflection at all levels of the organization was essential for growth and increasing organizational resiliency.
  3. Culture DisseminatorsCulture Disseminators: For any culture to shift, there needs to be an internal tipping point created by a micro-element of the culture — ie. A small committed group of people who role-model behaviours so that they become the norm.
  4. Consistent Connection: People in any culture need consistent opportunities— both structured and informal– to connect in different and creative ways.
  5. Leaders Leading Change: People in, or perceived to be in, a senior leadership role, need to model the cultural behaviours and norms desired of others. Others take their cues, not from what is said or written but from what they notice and feel from organizational leaders, mostly on a subconscious level.
  6. Inspiring Design: Continuing to cultivate a physically open and light-filled environment keeps people alert, stimulated and more open to connection of different kinds.

“As we opened a second location and doubled our staff and members, we needed someone who could really capture and reflect our essence and find a way to help us scale our culture and animation at CSI. Annahid from Anima Leadership brought a rigorous and thoughtful process to the complex system of culture building. It was really something to see the intentional way that systems change happens in ever changing organizations.”

~ Tonya Surman, Executive Director, Centre for Social Innovation