RISE: Cahoots meets COVID-19 challenge

02/12/2020 - 19:30

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In a year when many businesses were shedding staff and losing money, not for profit Cahoots doubled the size of its team and its revenue.

Jess Karlsson led Cahoots to a successful 2020.

Osborne Park-based Cahoots redesigned its offering to establish a new food delivery service for those in need during the state’s COVID-19 lockdown, while growing staff and revenue.

In recognition of Cahoots’ flexibility and resilience to the challenges posed by COVID-19, it was named Not for Profit/Charity of the Year at Business News’s RISE Awards 2020.

The theme of this year’s awards was ‘business reimagined’, recognising businesses that had recalibrated their strategies, demonstrated an impressive growth plan and excelled at customer engagement.

Led by chief executive Jess Karlsson, the organisation, which traditionally runs hundreds of inclusive recreation activities and more than 80 camping experiences a year, quickly adapted its services to ensure they were COVID-safe when restrictions were introduced.

Cahoots redesigned its offering to organise small-scale day recreation experiences that adhered to COVID-19 rules.

In March, the organisation realised COVID-19 was affecting vulnerable people across the state and putting them at further risk of harm.

After a period of community consultation, Cahoots found one of the key issues people in their network were facing was food insecurity, lacking safe access to essential supplies, and financial hardship.

In response, the organisation designed Cahoots Connects within two weeks for a mid-April launch, to provide food relief and essential supplies to people struggling to leave their home.

Employees, including seasonal and casual staff, and resources were redeployed from other parts of the business to coordinate accessing, ordering and delivering food to those who needed it.

Cahoots established a call centre, which ran six days a week, to take phone calls from people who wanted to use the service.

The service was free, with participants only paying for their groceries.

The program was co-designed with key community members and supported by the state government, National Disability Services, supermarkets and pharmacies.

Cahoots also collaborated with other not for profits including Foodbank WA, Rise, Chorus, Access Housing, The Spiers Centre Inc, and Emergency Relief and Food Access Service.

In partnership with Foodbank WA, Cahoots Connect delivered hampers and emergency food relief vouchers to people who couldn’t afford to feed themselves or their families.

From April to July, Cahoots delivered food and supplies to more than 300 people.

The service was discontinued in early December as demand was reduced due to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Cahoots was expanding rapidly before the pandemic as well.

The organisation grew from having three staff running 10 camps per year in 2016 to having 30 staff organise more than 100 camps per year for a broader audience in 2020.

Cahoots is expecting to expand further in coming years, with its 2021 financial year forecast predicting its staff, service and revenue will double again.

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