The changing landscape
As this government enters its fourth year in power, there is a much clearer picture emerging as to its focus and intention with regard to social welfare and services. Every NGO, community group and trust which either receives or intends to apply for government funding should be vigilant in becoming informed as to what the future could look like regarding the 'how, what, why and who' of government funding.
A recent communication is headed up - “Transforming Community-based Social Services: high expectations, high trust, high accountability and consequence based approach.” The words probably align with the mission statements of many of our faith-based organisations. Certainly, underpinning the words will be an intention to try to get a better return on investment so the tax dollar makes a measurable difference in the lives of children, families and the wider community.
I have no argument with this as I observe the huge cost of resources and time which goes into some families whose lives seem trapped in a downward spiral of poor choices impacting so negatively upon their children now and into the future. Breaking such cycles of behaviour is complex and very challenging. Naturally government is concerned.
However, I am not convinced that the government is well placed to be making well-informed decisions as to what is right and wrong with the current provision of social services and what should change. It is very difficult for government officials to be sufficiently up with the play as to 'what works' and 'what doesn't work'. Some things just can't be measured effectively. It is only when we are involved at grass roots level long term that we really understand the complexities, contexts, issues and challenges.
I am interested to see what government itself intends to change, to put its own house in order so it is able to lead in modelling transformational change, innovation, effectiveness and capabilities that result in sustainable positive changes in families and communities.
In the near future we will see a greater emphasis on managing change in what is seen by government as currently 'a highly diffused provider sector not connected to populations of greatest priority'. Some of the actions that could be introduced are:
- A rebuild of the funding system;
- Improving how government funds;
- Accelerating the move to results and consequences, and results measures for all providers;
- Having performance benchmarks for providers and scorecards for communities.
In addition, government will be aiming to ‘invest to save', by requiring and rewarding provider performance. It will be looking for innovation and reduction of duplication. A Transition Fund, Innovation Fund and Capability Fund will be established to incentivise service providers.
And after this has been established what will the 'new normal' of the 'transformed community-based social services' look like? There will be strongly focussed networks of provision where people get the services they need - no gaps or duplication; community input; flexible funding allocated to highest priorities and areas of greatest need; performance making a difference, driven by a results focus and transparency - better effectiveness, greater efficiency and innovation, so they say.
So, the changing landscape has been described. What would I do if I was dependent upon government funding? I would be looking closely at where and how my organisation is making a difference now. I'd look at the quality of our partnerships, collaborative approaches and ability to deliver wrap-around services. I'd be moving intentionally towards developing a family and community hub with a colocation of complementary integrated services and shared technology.
I'd look to see if my organisation is located in the best place in the community, meeting the highest needs. I'd be bringing key people together to examine our capability for innovative practice. I'd be looking at our funding base and asking if we'd become too dependent on government funding.
I'd also be asking the organisation to reflect, do some developmental evaluation and look again at our vision and involvement in God's mission in the world. And I'd be wanting to pray together – a lot.
National Team leader
Baptist Community Ministries