Transforming communities through cross-sector partnerships

“People want to feel like they are valued in their community, to be socially and economically included. How can we as a community services industry work together in new ways to achieve inclusion for all?”

CSIA CEO Belinda Drew was part of the Community Hubs and Partnerships (CHaP) breakfast forum: Transforming communities through cross-sector partnerships held in Brisbane in March.

It was a thought-provoking session with Our Place CEO June McLoughlin sharing the story of Doveton College and how they used a place-based model to support children in school. A great panel discussion followed with a focus on this model and questions from the audience.

Becoming a place-based organisation

Some in the community services industry are starting to move away from traditional models and focussing more on the journey of the individual. And part of this is looking at how the industry can work together, in partnership, to deliver services for people need. Organisations are creating places like Doveton College by finding more sustainable approaches to engaging with the community, and with other key organisations, and addressing the issues they have been struggling to overcome.

“At Doveton College we use a place-based approach to support the health, development and learning for all children and their families utilising the universal platform of a school. It is the first formal public private partnership in Australia” – Our Place CEO June McLoughlin.

Through her informative, open and engaging presentation, June spoke at length about their approach and provided the following list, which of course led to their success:

  • Open, welcoming single entrance – large foyer, single reception, consulting rooms, café and internet for community use.
  • Provision of universal range of supports and secondary wrap-around and adult programs.
  • Vision, outcomes and service model co-designed with community and agency and sector partners.
  • Collaborative governance with mechanisms for resolving system-level barriers.
  • Decisions made are informed by data and evidence.
  • Ensuring high quality, evidence-based services.
  • Flexibility, innovation and long-term commitment are necessary for success.

Forum learnings and insights

Following June and the panel, CSIA CEO, Belinda Drew, took to the stage to recap the forum.

Belinda began by discussing how important it is that the community services industry makes a commitment to trying new things.

“The Our Place Doveton project is an example of experimenting in a way that involves a strategic analysis of the elements of models that work and how we can use them in a new way to provide better services to communities.”

During the forum, Belinda drew out four key conceptual elements for the industry to take away from the event for future service planning and delivery, which she shared with the room:

  • Service design: it’s important to commit to the evaluation of models and data that points to why things work. June spoke a lot about using data and evidence to move towards better solutions, which we as an industry should be doing. The exploration of the connection between interventions is integral to service design and can create better outcomes for service users. This will require community services to make a paradigm change, and commitment, to a new set of disciplines and technical possibilities.
  • Collaboration: it’s time to focus on inter-discipline discussions to achieve better outcomes. It’s important to pursue cross-sectoral relationships and involving them in the process to help us move out of any silos. The challenge she put to the room – how many times a day to you ask the question in your collaboration efforts “what’s going to make this collaboration healthy?” and also “What do I need to do, or give up, to make sure this collaboration works?”
  • Investment reform: it’s going to take effort from the industry to refocus our financial ways of operating to support these new service models. We need to work together across borders to restructure the investment architecture of community services industry, from outputs to outcomes.
  • Place: At the heart of the presentation about Doveton is place and the many forms it takes – geographically, physically, culturally, we could go on.  Why is place important? Because it focusses us on people and they are at the heart of everything we do. People live in place, engage in place in formal and informal ways. And it’s the introduction of the informal relationships, like many of us in the room have every day, that enabled Doveton to be achieving their successful outcomes.