Thinking about the services that organisations in the social sector provide to their clients and the difference it makes for them in the long term.
Recent project work has led me to think about the services that organisations in the social sector provide to their clients and the difference it makes for them in the long term. In our sector, we spend a lot of effort making sure services are maintained on a day-to-day basis and that they comply with certain standards. While this is essential, of course, it is important to keep sight of the long-term objectives of a service or program.
Here is an example. I recently helped run some interviews and focus groups for people with disabilities living in isolated settlements in the north of Australia. The aim was to inform the design of services for this group of people and their carers. One insight that emerged was around the balance between their everyday needs being met and changes to their overall quality of life being achieved. On the one hand, individuals worry a lot about being able to move around in their homes as safely and efficiently as possible. Ramps in key locations, for example, are a part of achieving that. On the other hand, people are also trying to tackle the ongoing problems of, for example, isolation or not being able to spend time with family members or visit places special to them.
Another example comes from support for individuals and groups to start small enterprises. The work we have done with Enterprise Learning Projects and with BeadforLife comes to mind. Both organisations help people in situations of disadvantage build their confidence and skills in business. Again, there are tangible benefits to be achieved from income and skill development. And there are longer-term and more esoteric changes that come from growth in people’s confidence, self-reliance, connectedness and a stronger place in the wider economy.
In these examples, there is a dynamic between transactional work and transformational work. The transactional component is often day-to-day, regular service of some kind. It might be a home visit for a person with a disability or refresher training for small-scale entrepreneurs. The transformational part is what happens in the longer term, especially the difference to people’s quality of life that comes from reduced isolation, for example, or greater confidence and self-esteem. The key is for everyone involved to keep both the transactional and transformational aspects of the work front and centre of their thinking. While we might spend a lot of time working on the everyday, it is critical to never lose sight of the overall ambition of the work.