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Top tips for integrated thinking and reporting – articulating institutional value

17 Feb 2020 | Phil McNaull and Simon Day Phil McNaull (pictured left), Strategic Finance Consultant, Former FD – The University of Edinburgh, and Simon Day (right), acting COO, University of Winchester, share their tips for successful integrated thinking and reporting.

More than 70 delegates attended Advance HE’s ‘Let's Talk Value Conference 2020’ this week which explored ways institutions can articulate value through integrated thinking and reporting – a strategic approach to communicating how an organisation uses all of its resources holistically to create value for stakeholders beyond a financial summary.

Among the workshops was one aimed at institutional finance and strategy leaders where Phil and Simon shared their ‘top-tips’ about how best to approach integrated thinking and reporting:

  1. Start early and make integrated thinking the priority – setting the institutional purpose. "Integrated thinking and reporting is not a year-end process..."
  2. Make sure the senior team is fully on board and engaged; they are the leaders who can ensure that an integrated thinking approach is adopted
  3. Bring in an independent person to support and encourage points 1 & 2 – look outside the sector for examples of narratives beyond the numbers and bottom line; look at how corporates are changing their narrative and putting ‘purpose before profit’
  4. Think about your language - involve your marketing and communications team from the outset as they have the brand awareness and technical communication skills to develop a compelling narrative and design around the report
  5. Develop a simple value proposition for your university; be as distinctive as you can but keep the message simple
  6. Keep the report balanced (honest comments about positive and negative issues) and authentic – build trust with your stakeholders and think long-term. Don’t let there be a gap between what you say and what you do
  7. Be distinctive – celebrate the particular strengths of your university.

Phil McNaull said, “I’m absolutely convinced that the integrated thinking and reporting process strengthens the university proposition, cohesiveness and its relationship with its stakeholders. The process not only builds confidence, trust and authenticity, it supports a more sustainable and robust organisation for the future.

“We’re starting to see a shift where Integrated Thinking and Reporting is gaining real traction in the sector and I would commend the process for all institutions.”

Last year, Advance HE published a report ‘Let’s talk value: How universities add value for students, staff and society, by Professor Carol A Adams, Professor of Accounting in the Business School, Durham University, to contribute to the debate about how universities create value, how they demonstrate the value they create and how they report on it. The report launch marked the culmination of the Advance HE project on ‘Integrated Thinking and Reporting’ which was funded by UK funding agencies in 2017-18.

Advance HE is seeking expressions of interest in forming a collaborative project with institutions to explore Value in its widest sense and using the lens of Integrated Thinking and Reporting further. Please contact Kim Ansell, Advance HE Senior Adviser, for further information.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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