NCOSS (2007, p.14) outlines many of the potential benefits of co-location and shared financial administration for small NGOs. They include cost savings, greater efficiencies, and enabling staff to focus more on service delivery through no longer performing functions such as book-keeping. It can also be easier for NGOs to offer each other peer support, and the model facilitates better communication and collaboration. In addition, clients may find it easier to access multiple services, co-location facilitates inter-agency referrals, and reduces the isolation of small NGOs. Many of these benefits were also identified in other literature and in the evaluation of the MTSC Pilots Project.
The following summarises the key themes in the responses of group discussion participants and interviewees to the question:
What benefits are you expecting to achieve from the integration of your services and the collaborative arrangements you’ve entered into?
Better accommodation and space:
- The Caboolture centre was expected to provide ‘much better accommodation and use of space’ and ‘more space options’.
Participants in each site expected to see improved savings and ‘economies of scale’ in relation to areas such as:
- administration – having one reception, one book keeper and so on
- use of vehicles
- stationary – buying this in bulk
- sharing equipment
- joint funding proposals
- sharing the expertise of IT staff
- utilities, including telephone and IT providers, and cleaners
- savings in rent, rates and insurance policies.
One of the Caboolture services aimed to put their savings in rent into more consulting services.
Access to more funding and capacity to take on larger projects:
- The Toowoomba group thought they would be able to ‘take on bigger collaboration projects that meet community needs’.
- The Caboolture group thought they could ‘look for funding collaboratively’.
Organisational and governance improvements:
- The Mackay group thought the new service would ‘reduce the impact on volunteers’.
- They also said that ‘going from having four committees to one committee’ would ‘result in more energy to spread around’ (i.e. for participation in other local committees etc.).
‘Seamless’ referral process:
- The establishment of the Toowoomba centre would enable a ‘seamless referral process’ and the capacity to ‘manage referrals from the beginning to the end’.
- The Mackay centre will reduce the incidence of ‘losing women in referring to other facilities/service providers’ which are not located close to the referring service.
- A Caboolture interviewee indicated that the MTSC would assist in meeting the aim of developing a ‘collaborative seamless approach’ to service delivery in which the referral process can be done ‘at ease’. She thought it was ‘critical to be able to work with clients from the initial contact through to the final referral process or service delivery that’s required’. The centre would also enable the agencies to ‘better advocate for their clients’.
Improved service delivery and access to services:
- The Mackay centre would provide ‘a one stop shop for women’ and a place for ‘young women to transition from youth services to women’s services’. The group also thought that ‘people can be more easily be accommodated in a holistic service’. Another participant suggested that ‘stigma could be reduced if all the organisations were located in a one stop shop for women’.
- The Toowoomba centre was expected to provide ‘enhanced service delivery and support for clients’.
- The Caboolture centre will be closer to the community as ‘it’s in a central location and more accessible to other services and transport’.
Increased skills and capacity building:
- The Caboolture initiative will provide the opportunity to ‘upgrade the skills’ of staff and volunteers. This would include developing ‘shared learnings about IT systems and tools such as computers and intercom systems’.
- Both the Toowoomba and Mackay groups thought the initiative would provide ‘professional development’ of those involved.
New or shared knowledge, understanding and learning:
- The Toowoomba group thought the centre would enable ‘sharing information’ with others and developing a ‘clearer understanding of the other organisations’.
- The Mackay centre will ‘bring a skill pool together’.
Broader perspectives and attitudes:
- The Pilot Project was seen by one interviewee as part of ‘systemic change towards addressing issues such as injustice and lack of equity and making communities work’.
- The Toowoomba group thought that sharing information could lead to ‘seeing the bigger picture’.
- The Mackay group thought the new service could ‘generate new responses to and a broader perspective on the concept of health and wellbeing’ (for example they could provide assistance to women establishing new initiatives or enterprises).
Building strong relationships and linkages and improved support:
- The Caboolture group envisaged that ‘strong relationships between agencies’ would develop and that they would regularly have ‘good conversations’.
- Benefits listed by the Toowoomba group included: ‘linking with other organisations’ and ‘building relationships and support’.
Stronger advocacy and negotiation:
- The Caboolture group thought they would develop ‘a strong advocacy base with government’.
- They also thought they would have an ‘increased capacity to negotiate’.
Improved community profile:
- The Pilot Project has profiled the Caboolture community more and some participants envisaged that they may ‘eventually get a spot in the local newspaper about community and social development’.
- The Toowoomba group thought they would be able to develop ‘joint marketing campaigns to clients about the services provided’.
5.3.1 Benefits already evident
The benefits already evident in some of the pilot sites included:
- Facilitation of a ‘seamless referral process’.
- Sharing equipment and IT expertise.
- Development of joint funding proposals.
- Professional development of those involved at a management level.
- The Mackay committee is ‘far better equipped to move the project forward’.
- Building of relationships and support.
- Increased understanding of the suite of services in the organisations involved.
- Better understanding of change management processes.
- The Mackay group have ‘learned to accommodate different points of view’ and have ‘recognised that they need people who can see the big picture, as well as more pragmatic, practical people’.
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