The Productivity Commission “Greater Informed User Choice, Competition and Contestability” Wave is Coming. Is Your Organisation Ready?

July 31, 2017 Catherine Xu


The Productivity Commission Draft Report “Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services: Reforms to Human Services” makes for some interesting reading when at the same time a study by the University of Western Australia showed that 68% of charities in Western Australia aren’t able to measure outcomes.

From our own experience at Blackbaud Pacific, having worked in this space for nearly 5 years, our sense is the percentage is actually higher than 68%.

Our Community of Practice represents those who have just started and are reaping immediate benefits. The benefits have been in achieving improved outcomes for the people and communities they serve as well as with improved funding outcomes to allow scale and transformative impact through collaboration.

In commenting on the University of WA study Professor Flatau, Director of the UWA Centre for Social Impact, stated,

“Overwhelmingly, we hear that there is a recognised and urgent need to effectively measure outcomes, but until funds are secured to do so, there is little chance it will be done effectively and consistently. Without funding, organisations are resorting to diverting funds away from service delivery which, as you would expect, goes against the core principal of many of these front-line workers.”

Whilst funding is a big part of why organisations are not moving forward, funding is not the only barrier. Culture and change management – a fear of change – is the next on the list. There is a lack of urgency in the space and as Julie Goran, Laura LaBerge, and Ramesh Srinivasan put it so well in their article ‘Culture for a digital age’ “Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, solving these cultural problems is no longer optional.” Further “Shortcomings in organisational culture are one of the main barriers to company success in the digital age.”

This is very evident in the disability sector where the “Users” are often disengaged by organisations holding onto ideals of “rights and language” where the raison d’etre is to wait for an incident to react. This is contrasted to a proactive and pragmatic approach of engaging the users and their communities to develop a user informed advocacy that naturally progresses to a wrap around approach. Unfortunately there are some pockets of insular thinking within the disability sector which are a barrier to informed choices that can improve outcomes. Frankly for today’s users rights are a given – what they want are outcomes.

The draft report states: “In a well‑designed and managed market, informed choice can improve outcomes for users because it:

  • has intrinsic value by empowering people to have greater control over their lives
  • enables people to make decisions that best meet their needs and preferences
  • can generate powerful incentives for providers to be more responsive to users’ needs and can drive innovation and efficiencies in service delivery.”

“…change is needed to enable and support people and their families to have a stronger voice in shaping the services they receive and who provides them.”

For those impacted by the NDIS we already have the burning platform. The Human Services Reform extends this to End-of-life Care, Social Housing, Family and community services, Services in remote Indigenous communities.

Organisations ignore this at their peril.

Greg Simmons

Greg Simmons

Greg is the Outcomes and eTapestry Business Manager at Blackbaud Pacific and President/Chair of Down Syndrome NSW.

Through the good fortune of having a daughter born with Down Syndrome, Greg has spent almost 22 years sitting on not for profit boards and finance/fundraising committees.

In 2012 he co-founded (with his mentor, the late Barry Easy OAM) the Kuringgai Chase Community-based Fun run to raise money for his local Special Olympics program.

His passion comes from 17 years of providing pro-bono fundraising advice to charities and helping them apply client-focused software to achieve their mission.

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