Helping a Bristol-based charity refine their strategy during a time of challenge

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Barton Hill Settlement


SECTOR - Charity, social enterprise

SIZE - c.20 staff & >100 local volunteers

LOCATION - Barton Hill, Bristol

SERVICES - business mentoring




Since 1911 Barton Hill Settlement, a registered charity, has provided a wide range of services and community development to Barton Hill and surrounding areas of East Bristol from its community resource centre. Services include community work, volunteer schemes, work with families, adult learning, lunch clubs and drug and alcohol support as well as community halls, meeting rooms and offices to rent. It is managed by a Board of Trustees of mainly local people, and works to build a strong, confident, safe and cohesive local community.


During this time of economic austerity and changing public sector attitudes to the procurement and delivery of services, socially-focused organisations like Barton Hill Settlement are facing huge challenges. They are beset not only by increased competition through commissioning of their core services, but also reductions in grants at a time when demand for their services in the community they support has never been greater.


We worked together for 12-months, going through a thorough assessment of the organisation using the business model canvas to structure our work. This ensured that were able to both dive into the key issues facing Barton Hill Settlement in detail, but also keep an eye on how each issue fitted into the overall business model. 

Together we developed a new 'light-touch' style of business plan which would be used as a communication tool across many stakeholder groups:

  • to keep the Charity's Board appraised of progress and plans in a way that would make it easier for new Board members (who change annually) to quickly grasp the key elements of the BHS business model and therefore better support the management team

  • to enable employees and volunteers at the Charity to better understand the pressures and dynamics facing the Charity, helping them to relate to the strategy being followed by management, and the decisions they take

  • to keep the management team focused on the key activities necessary to deliver the Charity's social mission in a financially sustainable manner

Of course business plans are one thing, but action is what counts. We jointly developed a framework that built from the business model to identify and track key actions in each area of the organisation. This will be a key management tool, allowing individual actions to be related to the overall business model and strategy.


Barton Hill Settlement were, in many ways, a model client. The management team were deeply knowledgable and passionate about the work of the organisation, whilst also both honest about its limitations and challenges, and open to new ideas and concepts. They fully embraced the new tools and concepts we introduced to their work, and constantly challenged me about their application. The collaborative way we worked together made sure they had full value from the engagement.

We have found working with Matt has given us a new perspective on the issues the organisation faces. As well as the benefits of approaching business planning in a new way, we have found the type of interactions we had with Matt have been stimulating, affirming, increasing our confidence and resilience.
— Joanna Holmes, Chief Executive, Barton HIll Settlement


  • although designed for start-ups, the business model canvas is a useful tool for larger organisations, not only providing a common language and reference for discussions of strategy and priorities, but also for challenging assumptions and behaviours
  • in this ever-changing business environment, leaders need to be prepared to constantly challenge and question long-held assumptions about their organisations in order to maintain and improve performance
  • social enterprises, however funded, need a strong understanding of the commercial dynamics of their organisation to help prioritise use of finite, and valuable, resources and time

If you would like to find out more about how I can help you please contact me