As the case studies in the previous section demonstrate, planning, designing and implementing a multi-tenant service centre are complex and challenging processes. A key issue was that the timeframe for the establishment of the MTSC pilots was much longer than anticipated. Delays in implementing the project created frustration, uncertainty, and loss of energy, commitment and confidence among many consortia members. The following risks, challenges and barriers to success were identified in the literature review and in the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project.
5.1.1 Managing relationships and other human factors
The MTSC concept may be unfamiliar to other local service providers, staff and stakeholders, and the outcomes may be uncertain and threatening to the staff and management committees of some participating organisations. There is a risk of scepticism, misunderstandings, anxiety and loss of trust that can affect relationships and the level of community and staff support given to the project. It can be challenging to foster understanding and ownership of the concept and to encourage others to focus on the ‘big picture’ of cultural change towards collaboration and cooperation.
Personality clashes, conflicts and differences can emerge between the various people and agencies involved, particularly when they have different outcomes in mind or lack the collaborative and leadership skills to adopt the type of democratic, participatory and powersharing approach that is required.
Relationships with staff can also become strained when less experienced staff need to undertake the work of managers who are required to attend regular meetings and other time consuming tasks during the MTSC development process.
5.1.2 Reaching agreement on vision and the collaboration and governance models
Reaching agreement on the collective vision and purpose of the MTSC can also be challenging. A key challenge is balancing the different needs, priorities and obligations of individual agencies against the needs of the collective vision. A lack of clear definition of the vision and a strong commitment from all agencies about where the project is heading can lead to frustrations and depletion of energy.
As the case studies suggest, the process involved in developing the co-location and governance models can take considerable time and effort. Adequate time for research and assessment is required before the final model is decided. Flexibility is also needed in considering all the possible options with the collaboration model adopted. In the case of the Mackay Women’s Centre, it may have worked better to have initially adopted a co-location model rather than the more complex and difficult amalgamation and co-location model.
5.1.3 Securing adequate funding, support and resources
Sufficient funding from various sources is required to establish MTSCs. Establishment and building costs can often be much higher than expected. When the process becomes drawn out, the cost of buildings and refurbishment can escalate considerably, especially if there has been a rapid and significant increase in commercial real estate prices in the area. While a purpose built building may better met the needs of some consortia, this may not be feasible if budgets are too low. Adequate funding and resources are also required to obtain the support of a project coordinator or other types of expert assistance and advice. This includes the support of professional facilitators, consultants with expertise in change management and risk assessment, and experts in taxation law and accounting procedures. While it is possible to develop a MTSC without the support of a dedicated local project coordinator, many participants in the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project said that having a dedicated project manager or coordinator would have saved considerable time and energy, especially for volunteer management committees.
5.1.4 Sustaining commitment and energy
As the case studies demonstrate, the process of establishing a MTSC can take a lengthy period of time, possibly two years or more. The process always takes more time, energy and costs than expected. Volunteer management committee members often lack the time, energy and financial resources to adequately deal with all the planning, design and implementation issues. Management committees and part time workers also face constraints in attending meetings, reviewing information and making decisions within limited time frames.
A key challenge is therefore maintaining motivation and commitment when the planning and establishment process becomes drawn out. Delays in the process can lead to frustration and friction between those involved and can have an impact on the energy and moral of staff and consortia members. Continuity and momentum can be lost and the commitment of the NGOs involved can be challenged.
5.1.5 Managing change and loss of leadership
The agencies involved in the development process are working through a significant change process which brings a range of challenges. The planning and development process needs to take this into account. Change can involve a grieving process, especially for staff and volunteers who are often highly committed to the organisation and its vision and mission. The agencies’ loss of identity and autonomy can also present many challenges.
The Collaboration Learning Project in the United States found that ‘loss of key leadership was perhaps the greatest obstacle to participants ... In almost every instance, when one key staff person left, the collaborative terminated’ (Wasseman, 2005, p.6). In contrast, the loss of certain leaders the Caboolture and Mackay pilots had a positive effect and infused new energy and focus into the committees. However, change in committee membership requires the induction of new members which can slow down the process.
5.1.6 Managing the building selection, development and design process
Finding suitable properties for purchase or lease can be problematic, depending on factors such as the local real estate market and the economic growth in the region. This proved to be a key issue in the MTSC Pilots Project. Negotiations on the sale of buildings can also become protracted, as they did in the MTSC project.
Expertise in building project management and design is also required but may not always be available to consortia members. At the Toowoomba MTSC, professionals in building project management had to take over when the lead agency’s CEO found it difficult to participate in meetings because he lacked sufficient knowledge and experience in this area.
5.1.7 Managing communication and information sharing
A lack of good communication and information flow across consortia and between key stakeholders and funding bodies can create many problems. When communication and information sharing is unclear it can lead to misunderstandings, fears and insecurity which can affect the morale and commitment of those involved, especially the staff, volunteers and clients who have a more limited involvement in the development process.
Consortia members in each of the MTSC pilot sites reported that staff in some agencies felt anxious or concerned about the changes and how they would affect them. This was sometimes due to a lack of understanding about the process and the changes that would result, lack of effective communication by managers and committees, ‘misinformation’, staff not feeling included in the process, or the committee having to be ‘secretive’ about the building that was being purchased.
A further issue is that some volunteers and committee members may lack access to email and the internet, therefore making communication more challenging.
5.1.8 Negative effects on normal service delivery
A common theme in both the literature and in the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project is that the planning and development process required a large amount of energy and time, including participation in regular meetings and activities such as visioning, training and planning workshops. This can have some effects on normal service delivery, depending on how closely involved the committee members are in service delivery.
In the Pilots Project the process took a large amount of time away from normal service delivery within the Toowoomba organisations due to the ‘extra workload for committee members’. The lead agency was particularly affected due to the CEO having to delegate work to staff who lacked the skills to do this effectively. Some Caboolture participants commented that ‘all the meetings scheduled took us away from service delivery and the support of our volunteers’. However, there was less of a direct effect on service delivery in the Mackay organisations since the committee involved in developing the centre were all volunteers and not directly involved in service delivery.
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