OMS CEO Grazina Berry shares how the charity's new strategy is taking shape and how our new vision will motivate us.

How we built our new strategy

Being a CEO, you’re expected to hold lots of answers, have an organisational vision, direction and tangible steps to achieve it all neatly and clearly mapped out quite fast upon joining a new organisation, be able to bring people with you, with grace and ease, no matter how challenging the circumstances, and much more. OK, here is some myth busting – none of this easy or indeed realistic in the first 100 days. It takes time and lots of work to come up with elegant solutions, plenty of learning and importantly – lots and lots of listening to what the community you serve and the people you work with have to say, as well as acceptance, especially in today’s world, of the reality that is prone to change almost the instance you believe you’ve got close to ‘business as usual’.

Our community is at the core of the OMS new strategy that we will share next month. It’s taken us, the OMS team, and me – the CEO, 6 months to develop a clear plan that is set to remain in a state of evolution over the foreseeable.

We’ve enjoyed working with members of our community to understand who they are and what they expect from us. They’ve challenged our thinking, beliefs and organisational habits that we got used to over the 8 years of the charity’s existence. They shared their joy at the OMS program and its ability to effect positive lifestyle change, but they also pointed out that for some – leading a full and enjoyable life with MS will take time, they will experience frustrating setbacks, for some, especially people with progressive forms of the illness – realistic hope of living well may seem far away. At the organisational level, it’s been sobering to realise how far our health system(s) are in reality, from truly welcoming holistic and positive lifestyle focused approaches, such as OMS, as part of disease treatment, and integrating them fully, alongside medicinal approaches. Working together, to influence policy and begin to effect change at scale, will be essential.

To help us build a new strategy, we wanted to speak with as diverse a group of people with MS as possible, and I don’t just mean diversity in the more traditional sense. For OMS, it is people with different types of MS, from different geographies and walks of life, a mix of gender, and different levels of engagement with the OMS championed self-management approach. Alongside, we also spoke with clinicians, partner organisations and funders. We welcomed lots of people to our 4 Zoom Theory of Change workshops in the autumn, facilitated expertly and kindly, and with a sprinkling of fabulous Irish sense of humour, by the amazing Dympna McCoy.

We will be open to change as we begin to implement our strategy and this is no sign of weakness or inability to ‘stick to our guns’, it’s openness to adapting what we do and how we do things, in response to the environment we’re in, the feedback from our community and partners we work with.

Our new vision

Our vision is a world in which every person with MS is empowered to take control of their health, is making informed lifestyle choices and is living their fullest life possible.

Our 4 strategic goals to achieve our vision are, to:

1. Inform - we ensure people affected by MS are fully informed about evidence-based ways to help self-manage multiple sclerosis.
2. Support - we help people living with MS to feel supported through OMS Circles (our growing global volunteer community network). OMS Circles are accessible and responsive to the diverse needs of people affected by MS. 
3. Empower - we advocate for and with people living with MS and demonstrate how self-management and lifestyle choices are a vital part of living a full life. We influence policymakers and campaign to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of MS self-management.
4. Collaborate - we support and contribute to the growing body of evidence around lifestyle choices and self-management of MS to help influence and create change amongst healthcare professionals and policymakers. We work in partnership with individuals, communities, healthcare professionals and other charities to create genuine and sustainable benefits for people living with MS.

I look forward to sharing more in February, meanwhile, please reach out if you have a burning question or would like to discuss our plans some more.

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