02/07/2020 - 09:47

Chorus explores a fresh approach

02/07/2020 - 09:47

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Community services provider Chorus is reporting early success in a trial it hopes can better connect people to their communities and local services.

Chorus explores a fresh approach
Dan Minchin says he was given a mandate to investigate how services could be delivered differently. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Community services provider Chorus is reporting early success in a trial it hopes can better connect people to their communities and local services.

Called Fresh Approach, the trial aims to improve service delivery in a competitive and highly regulated environment.

Chorus emerged in 2017 amid the rapid changes in the community services sector brought on by the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the introduction of Home Care Packages, which required providers to adopt a more commercialised business model.

A merger of Community First, Volunteer Taskforce, and Care Options, Chorus was formed with the goal of delivering new, community-focused ways to provide care across aged care, disability, and mental health sectors.

Chief executive Dan Minchin, who was chosen to lead Chorus in 2017, said the merger was unusual because none of the three organisations were struggling financially.

“They weren’t about to go broke, which is mostly what happens in not for profits; it’s a looming crisis and someone goes, ‘We are just going to have to fold’, whereas these guys separately said, ‘We can look into the future and we can see this is going to get harder,” Mr Minchin told Business News.

The three organisations were of equal size when the merger took place: Community First had annual revenue of $10.1 million, Care Options $9.8 million, and Volunteer Taskforce $10.2 million.

In 2019, Chorus had revenue of $38.3 million, and is now ranked as the 16th largest charity on Data & Insights (formerly BNiQ).

As CEO, Mr Minchin said his mandate was not to deliver the same services from a bigger organisation, but rather look at how services could be delivered differently to challenge the increasingly regulated environment.

“Our view was [that] Chorus could be an organisation that had a vision for healthier, happier communities within which we are delivering services,” Mr Minchin told Business News.

With a $500,000 grant from Lotterywest and $500,000 from the Chorus board, the organisation has been putting this theory to the test this year with Fresh Approach.

Mr Minchin said the project had three aspects.

“If we can be more authentic and relational in the way we work with individuals, that will lead to better outcomes for those individuals,” he said.

“The second thing is, if we can activate and support neighbourhoods to become more interconnected and compassionate, we will be able to connect these individuals with their neighbours and other support organisations within the community.

“The third view was, we could coordinate among the various care-type providers who might be in an area: the hospital, the GP, the physio, and other things like volunteer groups, shopping centres, local government.”

Chorus trialled Fresh Approach in Bull Creek, where it had existing relationships with people in the area and identified potential community partners, including the local shopping centre and the library.

COVID-19 upended the original plan to physically connect people living in a small area of three or four streets, so the program went online as ‘Street Teams’.

Mr Minchin said the project was testing whether neighbourhoods were interested in being activated, whether parts of the formal care system would share data and contribute some money, and to see if this way of working might generate some philanthropic investment.

“Once we know what this looks like, we can replicate that all over Perth and WA,” he said.

The project could also have business benefits.

Mr Minchin said costs would be reduced due to increased staff engagement, less travel time, and the possibility of sharing premises for free or reduced rates.

“We believe our services will be more tailored and local, which could convert into more customers,” he said.

“We are already starting to see non-traditional revenue flowing in, such as sponsorships [and] partnerships.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Fresh Approach is expected to reduce the number of people hitting our hospitals and justice system, which will save money – thus we hope to see various levels of government supporting our work with additional funding.”

Mr Minchin said Chorus would decide whether to pursue the strategy on a larger scale over the next three months.

“We’ve got enough confidence to believe this is better for communities and better for our business to pursue it, the question is how much risk do you take?”

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