Often as charities we take pride in how we are able to stretch limited financial resources to help the maximum amount of people. This is something that charitable organizations should be proud of, yet its a mindset that I believe should be changed.
What would it look like if we collectively changed our thinking and started to do less for those we serve? I believe we would see improved outcomes if we; stuck to our specialties, partnered with community, use technology appropriately and understand our true shareholders.
These are my thoughts on how to achieve those outcomes.
KNOW YOUR NICHE: Agencies, this is for you. Use your outcomes to identify what you are good at. THEN STOP, BECOME BETTER AT IT, THEN Become the best at it! Stop identifying other areas of need, especially when that need is being addressed in your community already. I've been to many a meeting where we discuss duplication of services, yet we continue to do so.
THE COMMUNITY CAN HELP MORE THAN YOU CAN: Case workers this is for you. Stop thinking that you're the only person in your clients life. Be honest, you're a mere blip in their collective history. Most of you do not even stay at the same agency for a period greater than 3 years. The individual, or family, you are working with doesn't become healthier because of you. They do it for themselves. Case managers you are teachers, not healers. Healing comes from strong social connections to with place. Whether its family, friends or neighbours, introducing your participant to a healthy community goes much further than working on goal setting. I have witnessed the power of strong communities through programs at my agency. The outcomes are there. When the community is strengthened by natural ties, we see an increase in employment, a decrease in crime, evictions and even late rent.
Technology For the Participant: We are living in the era of databases. Fantastic tools to help us analyze the trends, demographics, and outcomes of the folks that we serve. When used appropriately (not just because you have to input data) these databases are invaluable to an organization moving forward. But what technology are we using with our participants? What technologies are we using that actually help our participants in their day to day lives. How are we introducing these folks to that technology. An example of this would be the database that my company has built that will connect marginalized individuals, seeking casual employment, with employers seeking casual labour. This site, if successful, will improve individual finances, with minimum amount of support. There's no training, no assessment and no case notes to be written. Technology, when thought of in the context of our participants, can allow us to do much more for less.
Satisfy your shareholders
There are many different shareholders for your agency; funder's, government, and participants. I would argue that all of these shareholders can be lumped into one named "The Community". The Community, as a shareholder, does not profit from your growth as a long term investment. The Community profits most when you cease to exist! No not because you've ran out of money, but because the job is done and your agency has evolved to solve the next issue. Funder's dollars are no longer tied up in a single issue, governments can re invest in other social matters, and your participants do not need you anymore. My business plan, to The Community, would illustrate growth on a bell curve. This bell curve would announce to the shareholders that the agency is going to: wade into helping some people, get really good at helping those people, take on a lot more (peak of bell curve), watch those people slowly graduate out of my agency. When I am confident that I am passed the peak of the bell curve, I can then introduce a new one showing evolution addressing a new need.
This post was written, and will hopefully resonate, to those who are working with marginalized people. These are my unproven ramblings, that I thought I would share. I do not pretend to be an expert but am aware of being highly opinionated, thanks for the platform to share.