the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Strategic Thinking

Mandy Rudd, GiGL CEO

How can I encapsulate twenty years of records centre development in London in a single article? I could chart our history through various consultations, through the process of deciding what a London environmental records centre would look like, or through statistics that show how our data holdings have grown and improved over time. I could even go through the increasing uptake of our services by our partners and clients.

External developments have doubtless had both positive and negative impacts on our work. However, in a time when terrifyingly rapid technological advances pull us to engage solely with our computers rather than with each other, I think the most important facet of our work is the GiGL ‘family’ and the broader networks of volunteers and external experts who have contributed to all aspects of our work over the last 20 years.

Since 1996, more than 20 people have been employed by GiGL and its predecessor, and many more have volunteered their time. Some were with us only briefly, employed on short-term contracts, or volunteering to gain experience of working with an environmental records centre whilst planning their next career move. Others have been with GiGL for years, fulfilling various roles as they go, something that is testament to their dedication to GiGL’s purpose.

Over 100 people have been involved in the groups that steered GiGL’s progress over the last 20 years, from the initial Biological Recording Project advisory group, to GiGL’s recording and open space data advisory groups, and the steering group that influenced our activities for over ten years. Today, we have a six-strong board of directors who are responsible for the business’ compliance with relevant legislation and regulation, as well as its community interest statement; and a large advisory panel who help ensure our services are robust and relevant to the many sectors and agendas with which we now engage. We also work with external advisors who provide technical, communications and business advice to the current team, and have recently begun working with the Open Data Institute to develop our business model to better suit the opportunities presented by the open data agenda.

Outside of London, we meet regularly with colleagues running environmental records centres in the south-east of England, and are involved in various working groups and the board of the Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC) and National Biodiversity Network Trust. Working closely with colleagues outside of London is essential to our development and profile as part of the UK-wide network of public, private and voluntary sector organisations that are collaborating to ensure data are shared appropriately and according to stakeholder requirements.

As a greater number of sectors make increasingly innovative uses of our services, GiGL has more stakeholders, existing and potential, than ever before. Still other organisations are seeking to influence the direction of our networks to meet their own agendas. There are many directions we could take, making it essential that we set out our strategic aims and put our own business commitments and stakeholders’ needs first.

To this end, our new strategic plan will set out our vision and aims for the next five years. It will cover what we do currently, how we do it and who we’re doing it for, as well as setting out some aspirations for our development. It is being written in collaboration with our business advisor, Rodger Seaman, with input from the board, advisory panel and a network of ‘critical friends’. Aims will include further development of the team, systems and audiences for our services, as well as ideas that support our community interest statement, including improvements to how we currently support London’s volunteer recording community and engage a broader section of Londoners in what we do.

By the end of the year, we hope to have a suite of plans written and implemented. Alongside our main strategy, the team has written a communications strategy in collaboration with Miranda Waugh at Ask Auk, we are finalising a London data flow strategy, and we also plan to write an open data strategy with input from the Open Data Institute later in the year. The board is tasked with writing a finance plan that will consider opportunities and threats to our business and ensure we continue to cover our current running costs and the more ambitious projects we would like to initiate. All of these documents’ objectives will be combined into an action plan, with a clear timeline that the team and board will use to guide their work going forwards.

Exciting and challenging times are ahead. With plans in place that steer our development and allow us to say ‘no’ to opportunities, however exciting, that are beyond our current scope, I’m confident that we’ll continue to rise to future challenges with aplomb. While I know I cannot begin to capture everything we have achieved over the past twenty years, I know for certain that the next five will build on past successes and accelerate us beyond anything we could have dreamed of in 1996.

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