Ehara tāku toa te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini
Success is not achieved individually, but from the work of many people
The report Outcomes Plus: the added value of community organisations released on 28th May arose out of the experience of the social services sector since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The government has changed its guidelines for purchasing social services to work with through the Government Electronic Tendering System (GETS) system. A system that works well for buying paper clips and laptops for government use is now being used for purchasing home based support, social work and counselling for families.
Some government agencies also decided to actively reduce the number of providers they purchased services off, such as ACC reducing its home support provider contracts from 86 down to 6, while various District Health Boards have reduced their regional contractors from up to 14 local providers down to as few as 3.
Successful bidders for new contracts are often international or national for-profit businesses. This rise in national and international for-profits delivering services has impacts on community resources. Funds are moving from community based organisations using resources in communities to corporates delivering services and extracting profits.
NZCCSS is wanting to highlight the value of community based organisations and how they add value to the communities within which they work. We have had many reports of how organisations were unable to maintain the additional programmes of support and community based activities they used to deliver – a real loss to their communities.
Our research has a real focus on how this added value contributes positively on whānau, families and individuals and is part of the community sector’s continuous improvement. We want to focus on the positive added value delivered by community based social services organisations in addition to the outcomes purchased. We also want to celebrate how funded services are used by community based social services to provide a useable infrastructure for their communities
The Productivity Commission’s report on “More Effective Social Services” provided further motivation to complete this work. The Commission’s inquiry along with the Ministry of Social Development work on its Community Investment Strategy, and its Child Youth and Family modernisation process, together represent a time of major change of government thinking about what services it wants and how to purchase them.
These aren’t quick fixes, it’s a journey. Not many organisations would be willing to stick with a family and see them through to the desired outcomes, some five years down the track, but that’s what it takes and we do see those results.
Who did we talk to?
The data for this research comes from nine community social services organisations, that are involved in offering social services within communities from Balclutha to Auckland. Individual interviews and focus groups took place in Dunedin, Wellington, Porirua, Whanganui and Auckland with a total of 70 participants: nine managers, 37 staff, 10 volunteers, 11 clients, and three external stakeholders/community representatives.
We worked with large, medium and small organisations, including one marae-based and eight Christian social service agencies. There was remarkable alignment in the feedback received with interviews and focus groups recorded and transcribed to ensure the anonymity of the providers and participants is maintained before a thematic analysis was undertaken.
What did we find?
The analysis identified the richness that is contributed to our communities through both “organisational specific capital” and “community value”.
Organisational Specific Capital is a term borrowed from a 2013 NZ Treasury document (Contracting Social Services), an economic term defined by Treasury as “…‘best fit’ is linked to the community the organisation supplies, or the skills it has built up supplying similar services. In economic literature, this can be referred to as organisational specific capital.”
Community Value is a term we have used to describe the, “features of social organisations such as networks, norms and trust that facilitate co-ordination and cooperation for mutual benefit”. In many ways this community capital describes the “added value” provided by community social services.
Organisational Specific Capital
These are the elements of the organisational specific capital we identified:
- Organisational kaupapa and mission: The organisation’s values-base, philosophy, or ethos.
- Organisational accessibility: Attributes or services provided which promote access to the organisation, services, or personal development.
- Community-embedded nature: The organisation’s history, visibility and knowledge of the local area and community.
- Institutional and community knowledge: The organisation’s knowledge of local and national governmental processes, and of the local area and community.
- Networking and Collaboration: The organisation’s existing relationships with local business, community, local and national government and other community and voluntary agencies.
- Time management: The flexibility afforded by community and voluntary organisations to work in a flexible manner with regards to time.
- Innovation: The organisation’s ability to respond innovatively to needs identified within the community.
- Manaakitanga: Processes and qualities of community and voluntary organisations which promote respect, generosity, hospitality, kindness, empathy and support for others.
It’s that idea of knowing where you are and looking after each other, and connecting.
In conjunction with organisational specific capital there are the dimensions of wider community value that community based organisations contribute to:
- Social Cohesion and Inclusion: Well-connected neighbourhoods and communities where people are engaged positively and getting on with life and with each other.
- Community social services organisations use their organisational specific capital to bring together community members, and create inclusive environments which role model and begin to engender greater cohesion.
- Community development: Is about communities doing it for themselves, taking charge and implementing change within their neighbourhoods and wider communities and creating change from the community up.
- Empowerment of Communities: Community leadership, empowered whānau understanding and using their individual and collective strengths to identify their own way into more positive futures.
We have the local knowledge of being a longstanding organisation. We may know these people; we may have dealt with them before and built up that relationship, so we can often put something in place in the interim to hold them over until we can deal with it properly…
The Outcomes Plus work gives a picture of the current environment for social services that is not encouraging for community based agencies.
- Increased vulnerability: Changing government requirements and increasing accountability with no new money or even inflation increases. There is a constant pressure to try to raise funds.
- Professionalism: The increasing use of only credentialed staff, and the introduction of institution-like approaches which is resulting in the loss of volunteerism and home grown solutions.
- Accountability and Risk Aversion: Shifting risk from government to service providers and then auditing the life out of them, requiring procedures and policies but ignoring what really works. Stifling innovation and creativity in favour of avoiding risk.
- Standardisation of Services: Tightly prescribed services, ‘one size fits all’ approaches with little or no ability to deliver the services that are needed, instead requiring that organisations must deliver the standard product.
- Competition: Market-based approaches to competitive tendering in an environment without new funding leads to high levels of competition that are breaking down the natural collaborative and cooperative structures in the community.
The United Kingdom has already noted the decline in social value that was occurring as a result of community based organisations and social enterprises going to the wall following competitive market procurement by government agencies. As a result Social Value legislation was introduced in 2012 to force government agencies to consider the wider impact of their purchasing practices. That UK legislation describes it as:
“Social value” is a way of thinking about how scarce resources are allocated and used. It involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract and looking at what the collective benefit to a community is when a public body chooses to award a contract. Social value asks the question: ‘If £1 is spent on the delivery of services, can that same £1 be used, to also produce a wider benefit to the community?’.”
So this is what we are thinking of as the Outcomes Plus process. We are not advocating that contracted organisations should not deliver the required outcomes – what we are saying is that to get best value for the investment funders must look at what else the provider is delivering as well as the outcome. How is the provider supporting their communities to build Community Capital, to be resilient and supportive of their families and whānau?
Make Your Point
Make a submission on the draft of the Productivity Commission’s report on More Effective Social Services and the deadline is 24 June 2015 www.productivity.govt.nz