Small change equals big change

How would you support the social purpose that you care about if you had one hundred and forty bucks in your hand?

I wasn’t quite sure what I’d hear when I cast this challenge to the inspiring group of workshop participants in our social change workshop yesterday.

But I was delighted with the responses:

They told me they could:

* Clothe, feed and purchase essential items for homeless people OR
* Provide breakfast for numerous kids OR
* Support an individual who is facing mental health issues OR
* Run inspirational workshops OR
* Setup opportunities for ‘gig buddies’
And more…

What the audience didn’t realise is that they were actually vying for $140 cash.  And I was utterly delighted to put the money in the hands of Paul Skilleter, a tireless volunteer and advocate for the homeless.

Why did I bother giving away cash in this format?

Yes, it made me feel good.  Yes, it promotes our organisation.  Yes, it supports the values of our organisation.

But there are two bigger reasons at play here:

First, I believe in learning through experience.  This learning experience was designed to:

* Encourage our participants to dive into the mind of their clients and think from their perspective
* Have an open mind about where money could actually come from
* Remember that even a relatively small amount of money can create change when you come from the client perspective
* Rehearse the ability to influence an audience in a very fast paced pitching process
* Make your vote count (the audience chose the winner) and
* Understand that you don’t need to be a large organisation to give, in fact it’s for everyday people too.

This brings me to the second reason for giving away a bit of cash…

Quite frankly, things are pretty scary right now for community sector people who cherish status quo.  The only constant at the moment is change, and when you consider the slicing and dicing of funding, policy and the general service environment.  Whether you are in aged care, early childhood education and care services, disabilities or general community services you are experiencing change.

So how can you stay connected to the people you want to support when you are constantly worrying about your own sustainability (be it your organisation or your job)?

I believe you have two choices:

1. You can focus on getting angry, fighting, wrestling and screaming to the upper echelons of decision making (which is a very valid decision for some) OR

2. You can focus on existing in the set of circumstances you’ve been given.

Our focus is clearly on the latter.


Because the needs of clients don’t stop because governments are in turmoil, services don’t have money or staff burn out.  Because we only have a limited amount of time and resource and because the service need is now, not when the circus has sorted itself out.

Let’s make it quite clear that I don’t agree with what is going on in decision making, certainly at a Federal level at the moment.  However, the reality is with over 600,000 not for profits in Australia some (not yours) are:

* Completely irrelevant to the needs of their users and refuse to listen to the possibility of change
* Operating just because they always have
* Refusing to work with other services just because they don’t like the people who run or work in them
* Refusing to work with other services because they are afraid of losing power (this is particularly relevant in situations where back of house / administrative services could be shared)
* Insisting that grants are the only way to exist and not looking beyond this
* Refusing to embrace modern technology and the wealth of benefits that can be gained through crowds
* And the worse – some organisations are just messing with lives of people who are deemed ‘disadvantaged’.  Swanning into communities, ignoring locally derived decisions and delivering what they feel like

Do these services help?  Or are they actually cause more damage in community?  And who has the right to judge which service falls into these categories?

Are the indicators about client engagement?  Skill of staff and volunteers?  Results?  Revenue generation?  Longevity?

I believe it comes down to the end user – and the relevance the service has in actually facilitating change that matters to the individual.

That’s why in 2015 we’ve decided to focus on building the capacity, self-esteem and wellbeing of community sector leaders so that they can embrace:

* The real needs of their clients
* Creating partnerships which produce triple wins (Rosemary Shapiro-Liu)
* Maintaining personal wellbeing
* Building sustainable business models which do not rely on government funding alone
* Being open to and resilient in times of change

And we will do this by:

* Increasing our social procurement with a focus on buying local, buying from Aboriginal corporations and micro-business.
* Experimenting with micro-donations to targeted results
* Supporting learning experiences in the abovementioned areas
* Continuing to advocate for donating time and money to support social causes and
* Continue to deliver services which boost the wellbeing of community sector staff

And if that means giving away some ticket revenue then so be it.
What will you do to ensure the needs of clients are still being met in times of change?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *