Working with animals to help your team deliver lasting change


Teach First

‘The innovation animals were a fun way to open up conversations about innovation and help people understand what it means at Teach First. They also helped people to recognise that innovation is about strategic problem solving – not just having ideas – and that innovation requires diverse thinking from within and outside the organisation’ Tenika Ah-Wan, Head of Fundraising Innovation and Improvement, Teach First

Since 2002 Teach First has been making an impact on children from low income backgrounds by building a movement of leaders committed to ending educational inequality. The charity works with thousands of schools, businesses, universities and third sector organisations to deliver programmes that improve educational outcomes for young people across the country.

Fifteen years on, Teach First know they need to raise even more money to continue to develop and deliver their programmes.

To achieve this step change, Tenika Ah-Wan is heading up a new Fundraising Innovation and Improvement team to focus on creating both a culture and a framework for fundraising innovation as part of the organisation’s fundraising strategy. The team’s role is to work in collaboration across the whole organisation to identify opportunities for revenue generation by solving problems and ensuring good ideas flourish so that Teach First can make a greater impact for children, both today and in the future.

One of Tenika’s first tasks was to integrate the new fundraising innovation team and ensure that there was a clear understanding across the organisation of what fundraising innovation meant as well as the innovation team’s role in relation to the wider organisation.

Lucidity innovation animals captured Tenika’s imagination and the quick quiz that reveals which innovation animal you are and your preferences when it comes to creativity and innovation spread like wildfire around the fundraising teams.

In March Tenika led a session to introduce innovation animals to the fundraising teams at Teach First.

She grouped people according to what innovation animal they were, so all the same animals were together. She set them the task of completing the 9 dots puzzle.

Draw four straight lines which will cut through all nine dots (without lifting your pencil from the page).

The groups that consisted of the same animal type struggled to solve the puzzle because they were all thinking in the same way.

Tenika then mixed the groups so that different animals were together and set them the same task. This time they solved the puzzle because there was difference and diversity in their thinking.

Many people think innovation is something that ‘creative’ people do or it’s a buzzword that means something different to everyone. The innovation animal exercise opened up a conversation that increased the understanding for the Teach First approach to fundraising innovation. It created a shared understanding that at Teach First fundraising innovation is not just new ideas, it’s not the next big thing – it’s more about a systematic approach of working together and a strategic way of solving problems. There was an acknowledgement and agreement that each person being different is important to be successful in innovation and that Teach First teams needed to collaborate, something that is core to the organisation’s values.

After the team day the innovation animals continued to help people to work together and enabled them to start conversations with people they wouldn’t usually talk to as they seek out different opinions from other animals. Squirrels seeking eagles and bison seeking turtles meant that working relationships further developed across teams and departments and improved both team dynamic and wider department engagement in fundraising innovation.

Tenika is building on the initial conversations facilitated by the animals to continue to develop behaviours for innovation to make a culture of fundraising innovation simply ‘something we do here’. For example, innovation team meetings have a regular agenda item of ‘Best mistake/failure I had this week’ helping to make learning from failure normal rather something to be hidden away.

‘If we fail to prove the concept of a new innovation we save the organisation a lot of time and money, its part of our role to make that thinking part of our innovation culture’ Tenika Ah-Wan, Head of Fundraising Innovation and Improvement, Teach First

There is also a regular ‘How about that’ agenda item to encourage people to think more broadly and share ideas and inspiration from partners of the Teach First global network – Teach for All – as well as other organisations and sectors on the basis ‘if it worked there it might work here’.

Teach First have already made a big difference to the lives of so many children and with a structure and strategy for fundraising innovation they have the potential to make an even bigger difference both now and in the future.

Visit if you’d like to find out what innovation animal you are.

If you’d like more information or any help to use innovation animals with your team or organisation, or like the solution to the 9 dots puzzle then get in touch

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