A significant barrier to small NGOs involved in developing shared service arrangements is the lack of information about how to proceed, the expertise to carry through the change process, and a need for support and guidance (NCOSS, 2007, p.20). These guidelines aim to fill this gap by providing practical and useful information, resources, tools and clear steps
to establishing Multi-Tenant Service Centres (MTSCs). They are based on the following
research and evaluation activities:
- A review of various Australian case studies of the establishment and implementation of shared service and co-location projects involving NGOs.
- A review of literature on the process of developing partnerships between NGOs and establishing shared service centres, the challenges and issues involved, and the different collaboration models used.
- An analysis of information and feedback collected as part of the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project. This included feedback on a draft document entitled ‘Success factors, risks and strategies in planning and implementing multi-tenant service centres’ and an earlier version of these guidelines.
Planning your MTSC is a fluid process, requiring constant review and revision
These guidelines aim to provide an overview of the main phases and issues that need to be considered in planning and establishing your MTSC. The processes involved in establishing these sorts of facilities are not linear and are quite fluid, flexible, and constantly evolving. The timing of the various tasks will also depend on a range of factors. The planning process will require the constant review and revision of various plans, partnership agreements, and the vision and mission at various points. This process is similar to the continuous action research cycles of planning, acting, observing and reflecting.
Finding an easy to follow structure for the guidelines
So while describing the process of establishing a MTSC as a series of ‘steps’ may not reflect reality, they have been structured this way to provide a format that is clear and easy to follow. Participants in the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project suggested that this would be a useful way of structuring the guidelines and several provided positive feedback on the usefulness of an earlier version of these guidelines. Many also agreed with the suggestion from one participant that two sets of guidelines be developed: one set for NGOs involved in the establishment process and one set for the project manager or coordinator. This format has therefore been used. Each set of guidelines should be read in conjunction with the other. There are obviously many overlaps and similarities between the tasks and steps undertaken
by the NGOs and those undertaken by the project coordinator.
Engaging a project coordinator or manager
An important success factor in the MTSC Pilots Project and several related projects was the employment of an experienced project coordinator who helped to develop and support the consortium. This involved doing tasks such as managing the overall project and keeping it on track, preparing plans and other documents, seeking funding, and consulting and communicating with stakeholders and funders. While a full-time project manager or coordinator is the ideal for this type of project, there are many ways in which this role can be filled if funding is not available for such a role. This may include:
- Seconding a key staff member from the largest partner agency with the relevant expertise to undertake this role part-time.
- Engaging local consultants or professionals with specific expertise in areas such as facilitation, change management, risk assessment and facilities planning as required.
- Appointing a key committee member from the lead agency to fill this role one or two days per week, as needed.
- Seeking the advice and support of staff in relevant local or state government agencies with project management expertise who could attend or chair key planning meetings.
The level of support that your consortium needs will also depend on the level of skills, knowledge and experience of steering committee members and other leaders and champions involved in the planning and development process. Critical factors in the establishment process are strong leadership, and effective project coordination, process facilitation, communication, and relationship and change management skills.
Funding your MTSC and project coordinator
Establishing the MTSCs in the Pilots Project required a high level of support from the Department of Communities and significant funding and resources. However, it should not be assumed that State governments will always be the main funding body for such initiatives. Funding for a project coordinator is also likely to come from multiple sources. Philanthropic bodies, peak community sector agencies, local councils, Federal government programs, local government, local businesses and the corporate sector may provide alternative sources of funding, resources, sponsorship, and support.
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