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The Power of Community

Written by Lauranne Beernaert, Sector Support Coordinator

In late February 2023, a group of CEOs from Aged Care organisations met at Your Side’s office for a morning of sharing and learning about managing change in the context of the reforms. It was facilitated by Lindsay Cane, an experienced facilitator accomplished in the governance and leadership of social enterprises, professional associations, sporting organisations and community agencies, and former CEO of a care organisation where she led the organisation on a journey of innovation, growth and reform.

The group was invited to think about how to engage with the community and individual staff members in times of change, the important role of organisational culture and how to create and sustain it from a leadership perspective, and finally, interesting insights regarding the balance between innovation and risk, and business as usual.

Key areas for consideration and tips:

Start with your mission: Is it clear? 

  • Look at your business practices or model, is the mission achievable?
  • In an uncertain environment, start with the low hanging fruit, then think strategy.
  • Spend time looking at your service data and start from there
  • Data will help guide those decisions: e.g. which area needs more fundraising efforts, or whether there is a need to increase number of services.
  • Which assets can you leverage to help your mission? Think outside the box – there may be partners just across the road with whom you could partner with. One participant suggested engaging with an ‘uninformed observer’ to provide objective and neutral insights about the business. This person may ask genuine questions (e.g. ‘why do you roster your staff like this?’) which may lead to interesting and new ways of working or partnering!
  • Turn things upside down, who haven’t you thought about in your network?
  • When you have an innovation/idea, implement it first, trial it, refine it, then ask for funding, using that evidence.

Your values need to be instilled at all levels in the organisation

  • ‘watercooler chats’ with every single staff member: how are they feeling, how are they embodying the values?
  • Call people out when their behaviour doesn’t align with the organisation’s values, what is the core driver of these behaviours? If their daily embodiment of values is truly in conflict with your mission to serve your community, you’ll have to make those tough judgement calls about their future viability.
  • Set performance reviews with all staff members and include those values into these reviews.
  • Champions will start to show up once there is a general understanding and alignment of organisational values, and they will be powerful allies to the leadership team.

Get your local community on board!

  • It is important to put roots to the ground where the service is located, even if the customer(s) are not necessarily from the same area.
  • Be visible. Talk to shoppers, introduce yourself to business owners and managers, they are one of your greatest assets.
  • Share happy stories with the public, using all platforms possible: school and community events, radio, social media.
  • Get the community to engage with you and the service, both directly (e.g. fund raising and volunteering) and indirectly (use of physical space for other purposes/organisations)
  • Embrace your critics and make them feel heard and valued.
  • Remember, if there is no community support, care organisations do not exist. 

Empower your staff, with a particular focus on front-line staff

  • Give discretionary fund for staff to think outside the box and try new ways of doing and working
  • In an uncertain world, confidence in staff, partners and the community can be certain and controlled.

Important role of Board

  • Board members need to be the organisation’s greatest advocates, this is part of their role.
  • The CEO needs to have KPIs that target the same areas: advocacy, resilience, promote the business.

Rewrite the narrative – and be aware of the power of language

  • Change the Aged Care lexicon. Instead of ‘reform’, ‘Commission’, which often refer to negative feelings and assumptions, use the terms ‘leading change’, ‘knowing what good Aged Care looks like’, ‘aging well in the community’ etc.
  • What does ‘good Aged Care’ look like? Get together with your teams and articulate what it looks like.
  • The sector, as a collective has the power to create positive messaging, tone and culture about good care, and influence change.

Following the session, we walked away energised. We hope that these tips have created some inspiration for you.