Four local community centres came together to be more competitive in tendering for regional funding.

Their successes, challenges and disappointments are indicative of the challenges of collaborative practice.

For years four neighbourhood and community centres have enjoyed close working relationships to address local issues on the Sunshine Coast. Government funding was being made available to provide community services in the Sunshine Coast region, but as locality based organisations, the community centres were missing out. About six years ago they decided to formalise their relationships into a model of collaboration to provide services across the region and hopefully attract the regional funding that had alluded them. But the Sunshine Coast Community Cooperative has not yet been the success its founders hoped it would be.

The Co-op’s four member organisations are Caloundra Community Centre, Hinterland Community Development Association, Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre and Nambour Community Centre. The Hinterland Community Development Association is a little different to the others in that it is not a neighbourhood centre per se, but rather a community development organisation that supports a group of neighbourhood centres in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland that do not receive government funding. The Co-op is governed by a board comprised of a board member and the manager from each member organisation.

The member organisations were careful to take the time to research and explore options and possibilities of what the collaborative model would look like. They received $15,000 in funding to develop the model under the Building Links Queensland Government program. This employed a consultant over 12 months to develop the model, from which the Sunshine Coast Community Cooperative was born.

Successes and benefits

“We were looking at how we might strengthen our position in the community…and retain our model of work…retain our locality focus,” Caloundra Community Centre manager Carolyn Nolan said. The cooperative model allowed the member organisations to remain locally based but have a vehicle in order to work across the Sunshine Coast. Nambour Community Centre coordinator Mark Wischnat explains: “The Co-op is a regional organisation, a non-trading co-op that the four member organisations have started so we can play around in the regional space legitimately. The Co-op is a hat we can put on when we want to work regionally.”

This has allowed the members to provide a raft of workshops and community events over a large region under the Sunshine Coast Community Cooperative banner. To date most members would say their greatest success is the Sunshine Coast Multicultural Excellence Awards which recognise the contributions made by the region’s residents with a migrant background. Developed in partnership with students from the University of the Sunshine Coast, the awards are a celebration of diversity. They are widely reported each year in the local press and have clearly gained traction in a region where one in 17 residents was born overseas.

Other Co-op activities have focused on building the capacities and strengths of community groups in the region. Local government funding of $5,500 was received to provide a community development program in Beerwah, one of the localities with an unfunded neighbourhood centre.  “It’s addressed a lot of gaps and things that were not happening in Beerwah – information and referral and provide a neighbourhood centre where people can go,” said Carolyn. This project allowed the Co-op to demonstrate its flexibility. Staff from the Hinterland Community Development Association of Caloundra and Caloundra Community Centre delivered the program as they had the established relationships and capacity to extend hours in the Beerwah community.

Other activities highlight the Co-op’s ability to attract partners to share their expertise. A range of social enterprise workshops were delivered in partnership with Social Ventures Australia. ‘Sexy and Local’ was a program of media workshops facilitated by two local public relations professionals to assist community groups to better target their messages to draw media coverage for their activities. The Community Crawl took staff and volunteers from each of the four member organisations on a road trip to see and experience the work of their Co-op partners. The activity promoted cross pollination of ideas and skills and was a big hit with volunteers in particular.

One of the enduring benefits of the Co-op is what it gives to the managers of each member organisation and their staff. They speak about the strength of the relationships which the Co-op facilitates and the support they receive from each other. They also speak about the Co-op creating a space to foster innovation.

Hinterland Community Development Association community development worker Holly Aston: “The benefits are the relationships, the peer support …how we all keep abreast of what’s happening…with the department, with the government…trends on the Coast. It keeps us up with the big picture because we are so focused on the local.”

Carolyn: “It’s brought about this whole level of support for each other, it’s brought about sharing of resources and sharing of expertise and knowledge that we wouldn’t have.”

Mark: “The Co-op gives us a space to aspirationally throw up ideas and dream about things. You need that for your own motivation in your job. That’s an invaluable thing to have. A lot of energy comes from that.”

Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre manager Michael Henning: “For me personally and professionally it’s been a tremendous exercise to have that level of collaboration…That level of robustness (of discussion) that brings in some really good thinking. (It) allows us to be lateral (in thinking) and innovative in some respects in the way that we want to approach stuff.”

Cost benefit

One of the ideas from the outset was to use the Co-op as a banner under which the member organisations could share costs and resources. Sometimes this was simple and straight forward, such as the purchase of a data projector that could be shared across the community centres, but other expenses were far more difficult to rationalise.

The Co-op looked at purchasing computer programs that could be shared, but found each of the organisations had different computing needs that could not be addressed through joint purchasing. They also looked at bulk purchasing stationery but discovered they could not improve upon the cheap prices they were already receiving. Bulk purchase of insurance was also explored but the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre, unlike the other member organisations, runs a childcare centre and so has much higher insurance premiums than the others. “Bulk insurance for the four organisations, how does that work? In actual fact it doesn’t. (Because) we have different insurance needs,” said Michael.

“Has the Co-op been cost effective for us? Absolutely not. If anything…the Co-op has drained resources, both in human resources and finances from the member organisations.”

Holly says the Co-op has “other benefits, but not financial.”

Disappointments

The Sunshine Coast Community Cooperative has applied for regional community services funding without success. On one occasion it joined up with a regional mental health organisation to provide a model of service delivery in which the Co-op would have brokered mental health workers based in each of the community centres. The member organisations reflect on that disappointment and wonder if the Co-op’s model let them down.

“If you say a consortium, funding bodies, government, seem to grasp that idea, they understand that. But when you’re actually saying ‘It’s a non-trading cooperative,’ I think they seem to struggle to get their head around that,” Mark said.

Another factor working against them is that although each of the community centres has decades of history, the Co-op is still relatively new.

“How long has the Co-op been around for? How many dollars has it managed in the last few years? The Co-op hasn’t got any of that,” said Mark. Mark wonders if they had established themselves as a consortium led by one of the member organisations, and therefore able to lean on the reputation of that organisation, the group might have had a better chance with funding submissions.

Michael agrees. “Government really like older, larger organisations because if you’ve got a track record of successful funding, successful infrastructure development, successful outcomes, government will fund it. We don’t have that track record and we don’t have the capacity to do that because we’ve never been provided an opportunity to do that. So it’s a kind of a chicken before the egg type of stuff that we constantly have to face.”

Viability

“In order for the Co-op to survive as an entity, it relies solely on the viability of the (member) organisations,” Michael said.

This understanding is shared by his colleagues“The strength (of the Co-op) is in the innovative thinking. (But) while we as neighbourhood centres have to continue to resource the Co-op, that’s it weakness,” said Carolyn. “When it stretches your resources, when you’ve got so much happening in your own organisation and you’re trying to find the time, the space to find resources to put into the Co-Op…it’s very, very hard.”

The viability of each member organisation is being tested at the moment as all have experienced funding withdrawals. The Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre is perhaps the hardest hit.

“When we formed the Co-op, financially we were all quite viable because we were receiving lots of money (from government),” said Michael. “Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre was the highest revenue raiser. Now we’re down the bottom because we lost a lot of funding in the process. We lost about $580,000 in funding last year. We’ve lost programs and staffing. We’ve just had to lose two more staff because we can’t survive. We are looking at merging with another organisation. If we do, that will have an interesting impact on the Co-op.”

Despite this, the members all still have faith in the Co-op and hope for its future. “I think it’s going to take one funded program….one (member) organisation would take on the administration and broker the services to the others,” Carolyn said. They are working on a new model of family support service delivery and hoping it will be successful when they apply for funding.

As Mark believes, the Co-op “hasn’t reached its full potential.”

Case study key themes

Proactive – The member organisations formed the Co-op when they could see they would continue to miss out on regional funding if they did not act.

Investment – The Co-op invested time to develop their collaborative model and despite being unable to attract consistent or ongoing funding, each member organisation continues to resource the group because they value it.

New partnerships – The Co-op has built new relationships that contribute resources to its work, such as the University of the Sunshine Coast and Social Ventures Australia.

Commitment – The commitment and persistence of the Co-op is evident and demonstrates a key ingredient in making collaborations work. Despite disappointments, each of the member organisations continue in their efforts to attract funding because they believe in the Co-op and its ability to provide meaningful services to their local communities. 

This case study appears in the Rethinking Resources: Case Studies of Financial Resilience from Queensland Community Services report.

Download the report

Download this case study

Read more about Collaboration

decorative
The Community Services Industry Alliance's (CSIA) Talk IT Up event is a speed networking session for community services industry and Information Technology businesses focused on established and emerging technology solutions. At the event you will learn how your organisation may be able to leverage...
Find out if your organisation is destined to thrive, succeed and compete in the global marketplace. Better understand how digitally prepared your organisation is by taking the Queensland Government’s free, confidential online assessment and receive a Digital Scorecard . You will also: gain tips on...
decorative
We have launched a brand new course on the Community Door eTraining website which provides an introduction to the social service sector in Queensland for managers and organisations new to the sector. It is free for anyone to access. It features a profile of the sector in Queensland, insights into...
Queensland Government Media Release Two Cairns homeless service providers have received a combined $114,000 boost from the Palaszczuk Government’s Dignity First Fund to launch two innovative projects. Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said Anglicare North Queensland Ltd. (ANQ)...
Case studies show social purpose organisations are reaping the benefits of improved process efficiencies. According to Olivia Hilton, Executive Director, SVA Consulting, “A lot of social purpose organisations just do not have the luxury of spending time wondering if there are other ways to achieve...
Wesley Mission Queensland’s Campaign for Change is looking for the state’s best and brightest innovators. Campaign for Change is a chance for you to make your bright ideas a reality and to make a real difference in your local community. This year Wesley Mission Queensland, with the support of the...
Treasurer Curtis Pitt has outlined three shortlisted proponents seeking to deliver innovative services under the state government’s Social Benefit Bonds program . Mr Pitt said there had been strong interest in the pilot Social Benefit Bonds initiative that will involve investors, the social...
Four organisations in the disability sector share how and why they responded to sector changes by launching an innovation strategy. Three months into the full implementation of the biggest reform the disability sector in Australia has ever seen, Social Ventures Australia spoke to four disability...
An innovation that revolutionises the ease and speed of creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word, the Document Accessibility Toolbar (DAT) supports individuals and organisations to embrace accessibility as ‘business as usual’ at no cost. The DAT puts the power of accessible functionality...
Google believes technology can make a better world, faster. The Google Impact Challenge supports non-profit innovators using technology to tackle the world's biggest social challenges. Google will award $4.5 million across 10 Australian organisations to help bring their ideas to life. Four winning...

Pages

Are you looking for support in Queensland, or trying to find a service that meets your needs? Now you can search oneplace , the service directory hosted by the Queensland Family and Child Commission. oneplace is an easily accessible directory of community services to help Queensland families to get...
The Community Resource Handbooks were launched by Volunteering Queensland on 12 May 2015. They consolidate the knowledge gained through Volunteering Queensland's community leadership work with more than 2,000 community groups over the past fifteen years. The handbooks are aimed at small to medium...
In March 2014, QCOSS produced the Rethinking Resources: Case Studies of Financial Resilience from Community Services report, in which community organisations from Queensland share how they are working to increase their financial sustainability. The strategies they employ include social enterprise,...
This is a very simple and easy to use toolkit that is filled with templates and guides to support your organisation to develop innovative and collaborative ways of working together. From developing a value statement, stakeholder engagement, business planning, SWOT analysis and many more. The...
Author: 
Lewis Atkinson, Haines Centre for Strategic Management

The traditional model of social and community benefits delivered by government, community groups, charities and the not- for profit sector, with some corporate philanthropy around the edges, has been slowing dying for some years now. 

Financial sustainability and/or independence is a...

Author: 
Shelley Dunlop, QCOSS

You have by now no doubt heard of the incredible success of the new game, Pokémon Go. And even if you haven't, you have probably noticed a marked increase in people roaming around parks, shopping centres and other public areas, intent on their smartphones.

The new mobile app allows users...

Male Afghan refugee smiling
Author: 
Dean Holland, Take Better Photos

Photos change hearts. They say what words and numbers can’t. A single good photo can bring your funders and stakeholders to the best moments of your project, and change their viewpoint forever.

But good photography can be hard to find. So we’ve started a...

Author: 
Tiffany Tento, Queensland Council of Social Service

National Reconciliation Action Week (27 May to 3 June) is celebrated in Australia each year, in commemoration of two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey – the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

This year’s theme is ...

Author: 
The Social Benefit Bond Program, Queensland Treasury

The competitive tender process for the Queensland government's new Social Benefit Bonds program has recently been launched, and the Invitation for Expressions of Interest (EOI) documents are available via...

Author: 
Jim Haywood, Centacare Brisbane

At a time of significant disruption in the community services sector, many organisations are rightly focused on defining their inventory and consolidating their market position. The idea of collaboration or partnership in an increasingly competitive market seems nonsensical to many agencies....

Human Rights for Queensland
Author: 
Aimee McVeigh, A Human Rights Act for Queensland

If a government is required to consider human rights while making decisions, a transparent dialogue with the people is created – the people can see their government cares about their rights.

When MP Peter Wellington supported the Labor Party to form government in February, they agreed to...

Decorative image
Author: 
Richard Fahy, Lutheran Community Care

Information, knowledge and process management focusses on capturing meaningful and relevant data to assist evidencing multiple areas of an organisation. A few key areas may include:

  1. The organisation is on track and demonstrating it is achieving its strategic goals
  2. The
  3. ...
 Charles Clowes
Author: 
Charles Clowes, Australian Organisation For Quality

Within the organisational development toolkit the capability area of quality systems, innovation and improvement refers to staff and client contribution, innovation, quality culture and management, reporting, adaptability and improvement, legislation and risk management.

The...

Author: 
Dr Ruth Knight, Zark Consultancy

Like many other community organisations, you are probably being increasingly asked to demonstrate the outcomes of your programs and services. Outcomes measurement allows you to identify which of your programs and services are successful, and helps you to test assumptions and communicate...

Pages

See videos from StudioQ related to this topic

Share or Print