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Strategic Advising

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Strategic Advising

Our Strategic Advising practice advises leaders and organizations on their most pressing strategic and operational issues. Our work ranges from supporting entrepreneurs through business plan development, to partnering with established organizations on growth and performance improvement, to assessing new opportunities for impact as the field evolves.

Bellwether's team includes former teachers, school operators, policymakers, government officials, and nonprofit leaders. Three-quarters of our staff have worked in the classroom. Because of this direct operating experience, we understand work “on the ground” in schools, districts, and education organizations. 

Members of our team also come from top-tier management consulting firms such as Bain & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, and Deloitte. The tools and training developed in those firms inform our work, as do the experience and perspective gained in the field as teachers, funders, nonprofit leaders, and board members. Having worked with consultants as clients ourselves, we recognize the challenges associated with hiring outside professionals to meet the unique needs of organizations in this field. For that reason, we have developed a highly collaborative process that ensures relevant work and gives clients real ownership of the results. Our experience as executives in the world of education reform minimizes our learning curve and maximizes our understanding of the issues our clients must confront.

Our advising capabilities directly address many commonly faced challenges and opportunities in the education sector. These include:

Strategy and growth

  • Strategic planning and goal setting: We work with organizations to determine how to increase their impact. Our planning includes clarifying their theory of action and impact goals, identifying opportunities to improve the impact of current activities, planning for new initiatives, and helping growing organizations determine where, how, and how much to scale. We leave clients with detailed, actionable plans that enjoy strong support and buy-in from their leadership teams and boards.
  • New opportunity evaluation and start-up business planning: We work with entrepreneurs to turn ideas into effective organizations. We help these leaders clarify initial concepts, determine a theory of action and impact goals, define specific product and service offerings, determine their business model and philanthropic need, and craft an actionable implementation roadmap.
  • Market assessment: We help organizations understand how trends in the field of education impact current and potential future markets. We support organizations in assessing entry into new markets and advise on building out specific, effective approaches to driving impact in current and new markets.
  • Grant writing: For high stakes, strategic grant opportunities, we support clients in developing a competitive application, including concept generation, stakeholder engagement strategies, program and budget development, implementation planning, and grant writing. Our record of success in grant competitions demonstrates that we are best-in-class at understanding grant requirements and guiding clients in the design of a successful application.

Human capital, organizational design, and decision support

  • Organizational design: Any organization’s plan is only as strong as the people who will implement it and the organizational structure that supports them. We work with clients to evaluate their starting point on structure, culture, roles and responsibilities, decision-making processes, and communications, and then develop solutions to strengthen assets and shore up weaknesses.
  • Talent planning and performance management: We support organizations in projecting their talent needs, creating plans to fill those needs, building systems to measure the effectiveness of their teams, and designing programs to develop the capacity of teams and individuals. This work can be easily linked to and complemented by Bellwether’s Talent Advising services, which include a proprietary talent-ready diagnostic and an explicit focus on diversity.
  • Communities of practice and facilitation: We host and support high-impact gatherings designed to enable leaders and leadership teams to learn from experts on critical topics and from one another. We also provide facilitation for leadership teams and boards who need structured conversation and an outside perspective on critical strategic topics.

Operational effectiveness

  • Implementation support: Launching complex new projects requires strong planning and project management and attention to communications and change management. We support organizations in the planning and launch of complex initiatives, providing project management expertise and extra capacity to ensure that critical new initiatives are positioned for long-term success.
  • Financial analysis: In today’s challenging budget environment, organizations of all types must stretch each dollar. We provide financial and analytical support to organizations related to new initiatives, increasing efficiency, cost reduction opportunities, and economies of scale.

View full list of who we work with