Change communication that works


The strategic partnership that Doxa Deo Schools entered into with Maragon Private Schools necessitated change management. Through pro-actively communication, the Maravest Group achieved an 88.6% buy-in from audiences. DevCom’s success in managing the grapevine was evidenced by 41.5% of the audience reporting that the grapevine messages matched the offi cial informati on. None of the teachers, pupils and parents left the school, proof that the biggest business risk was managed successfully.

Attention to detail and respect for the views of all the stakeholders involved – even those who were still learning to read and write – helped our client to retain control of a potentially disruptive change process.

Doxa Deo is a multinational South Africanbased church group that wishes to positively influence society through, among others, Christ-centred education. To this end, the church opened eight schools between 1998 and 2013.

The Doxa Deo growth vision was premised on acquiring or building new schools. But to do so, it needed a partner to invest the necessary capital.

teacher, student or pupil left the school during the transition
of the audience felt that the change process was handled effectively
of audience had positive reactions to the partnership

By May 2013, two private equity companies had emerged as possible partners and Doxa Deo realised that it needed expert assistance to navigate the huge change process that was imminent. Based on the work that DevCom had been doing with the church over the previous three years, we were the natural choice for this assignment. This existing partnership meant that we already had a good understanding of the organisation, its audiences (both internally and externally) and the health of its communication processes.

DevCom’s brief was threefold:

  1. Channel information that could and should influence the partnership decision from the internal audiences to the decision makers;
  1. Be involved in strategic scenario planning; and
  2. Plan and lead the implementation of a proactive change communication campaign from start to end.

The main goal was to secure the partnership with the Doxa Deo community intact. Our change communication process involved the following stakeholders: Principals, Teachers and support staff.
Parents. As most of the parents were also church members, it was important that the messages in the church were carefully coordinated with the messages in the schools. Pupils. We had to capture the hearts, heads and hands of the children who were the soul of the schools. Message were tailored to the different age groups (ranging from preprimary to high school) to engage them in the process. Church leadership. The church leaders who had started the schools had to be guided through a process that would match their financial, philosophical and relationship requirements to those of the equity partner. Church members. The faithful had emotionally and financially supported Doxa Deo’s dream for education; without their buy-in the new partnership would not succeed.

Our first step was to establish a core team that included DevCom, the strategic head of the church, the director of the largest school and communication champions in each environment. This team met at least every second week to discuss communication strategy, progress and messages. This ensured that all the messengers were wellrehearsed and on the same page when tough questions came.

Throughout the process, we followed the same sequence of communication:

  1. The core team discussed the plan and developed the communication tools.
  2. The tools were then distributed to the leaders at the schools and churches.
  3. The principals would communicate with the teachers and the teachers with the children (after parents had been informed, most often in face-to- face meetings).

During or after every communication cycle we gathered questions from the audiences and responded to each and every one honestly in the next round of communication.

We also created a number of cartoon maps to explain complex messages. Initially developed with the pupils in mind, the maps proved valuable for all our audiences.

When the partnership was formally announced in November 2013, the church and school audiences embraced the new partners wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

One of the Doxa Deo cartoon maps. When you communicate honestly, transparently and continuously, you win the marathon of change. Don’t get fixated on the medium – a simple black and white picture drawn by hand, is often all you need to support authentic dialogue.


Our post-campaign evaluation showed that 55% of the audience was positive about the partnership. More than 88% of the audience felt that the change process had been handled effectively, appreciated the communication and participated in and valued the dialogue process.

It was also most gratifying to learn that not a single teacher, parent or pupil had left a Doxa Deo school during this uncertain time.

In an environment where the grapevine used to trump pro-active communication, a transparent and robust change communication process had delivered an immense return on investment.

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