What makes us an industry?
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘industry’ as:
- Diligence in an employment or pursuit; especially: steady or habitual effort
- Systematic labour especially for some useful purpose or the creation of something of value.
They have a few other takes on the meaning of ‘industry’ but these two are those that applied to the situation in which community services currently find ourselves.
In a tone that dares anyone to defy her on it, CSIA CEO Belinda Drew says: “We’re not the charity sector or the not-for-profit sector, we’re the Community Services Industry and we should be proud of that fact.”
“We're already business-like as an industry, we're just refining what we do. We need to understand how other industries have come together to advance their causes, and make sure Community Services is recognised for its critical role in the economy as well as our society,” says Drew.
So what does Drew mean when she says that we’re already business-like but we’re now refining what we do?
Consider the following:
- We are a collective of organisations that are grouped together by our purpose for existing: community service
- We each have our own individual business models
- We are subject to the same consumer laws as any other industry
- We are subject to the same workplace laws as any other industry
- We are equally – and in some cases more so – regulated as any other industry
- We offer goods and/or services and we do so in exchange for money (yes, that often comes from government or philanthropy, but it’s an exchange nonetheless)
- We have systems and procedures in place to consistently deliver those goods and/or services
- From the larger collective that defines us, we can be further divided into smaller collectives i.e. the Community Services Industry includes the Disability Services Sector, the Child Protection Sector, the Domestic Violence Service Sector, and so forth.
Beyond these basic observations, consider the business-like manner in which we already operate, our governance and organisational structures and the world of contracts in which we exist.
Of course we are different from other industries because we are mission-focussed, and we don't just make widgets, but we’re an industry all the same.
And aside from anything else, we are stronger as an industry that has the will and capacity to drive and determine its own future.