- Posted by Fiona Thomas
- On 23 March 2022
- 0 Comments
Fiona Thomas reflects on using a SOAR to clear the fog and encourage generativity for her role in a community project.
I was stuck. Having volunteered to spend four hours a week to establish a befriending project with my local church I had reached a stage where there seemed to be far more to do than I had the individual capacity to do.The end of May 2021 was approaching when the project was due to go public, and I felt as if I were surrounded by half-finished activities, all of them equally important to the project. Ironically, while undertaking a project focusing on overcoming loneliness and isolation I was feeling lonely and isolated. Experience told me that the first step was to clear the fog in my own mind. I gained essential momentum for connection through an online meeting organised by the national body supporting similar projects, and managed to set aside the whole of that day to focus on this one project. And I went for a walk up my nearest urban hill so that I could see into the distance – I trusted that getting a physically long distance view would help me gain perspective on what I needed to do. As I set off for my walk the answer came to me – I needed to do a SOAR. That’s what I did on my return from the short, brisk walk.
I found four large post-it notes in the cupboard and wrote one word on each:
Strengths Opportunities Aspirations Results/Resources
Putting the post-its on a blank wall I then took medium-sized post-its and wrote on them the answers to:
What are the strengths which this project has?
What are the opportunities open to the project through its immediate setting?
What are my aspirations for what the project will be doing when it’s up and running? (Except that I was doing this quickly from memory and I wrote “assets” rather than “aspirations” on the large post-it).
What resources do we have and need? What will the results look like if we get it right?
I stuck the answers on the wall, and looked at what I’d got. I began to see themes emerging, moved the medium post-its around, and used some small post-its to identify actions to be taken. When that was finished I was able to write down 6 actions I could take. It was at that point I realised I’d confused Assets and Aspirations. Interestingly, many of what I’d identified as results were really my aspirations, so I moved post-its around and checked that the 6 actions were still the key ones. They were. The fog had lifted, and I felt energised with a clear head and a feasible list of activities to embark upon.
- This was a personal use of SOAR to get me over a hump in the road. If I did the same exercise with a group of people in the project we might well come up with different answers, which would have been collective outcomes.
- The questions I gave myself were broad-brush. A longer list of more nuanced questions could well be called for in a different setting.
- Both the physical actions of walking and sticking post-its to a wall helped me in rising above the befuddled state of mind and troubled emotions I had started with.
- The short time (an hour) spent on the exercise was enough to come up with a feasible list of actionable tasks.
- Initially using the word “assets” instead of “aspirations” helped me to look at the picture differently and to distinguish between a measurable result and my own aspirations.
The project went public not much later than originally intended, I wrote a successful bid to a funding organisation, and I have now handed over the work to a paid part-time Coordinator who I helped to recruit. Doing the SOAR was a generative moment.
A note on SOAR
SOAR was created by Jacquie Stavros and Gina Ginrichs in 2009. See The Thin Book of SOAR. Creating strategy that inspires innovation and engagement 2nd edition (2019).