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Social sector leaders are facing more complex choices than ever before as they strive to achieve greater social impact whilst their business models are being disrupted, customer expectations are changing, government policies are evolving and, of course, all in the context of navigating the continuing disruption of COVID-19.
In this blog, we reflect on the key insights from Deloitte’s Social Impact Executive Roundtable, with our guest speaker, Claire Robbs, Chief Executive of Life Without Barriers . Claire shared invaluable insights from Life Without Barriers’ incredible journey of achieving social impact – the successes, the challenges, and the lessons learnt.
See the link to the full recording of the event at the end of this blog.
Key insight 1 – Growth is for the purpose of achieving greater impact and addressing systemic barriers through partnership
Growth for Life Without Barriers is not about revenue growth or growth for growth’s sake; instead it is driven by their inherent values and belief that there is more to be done to support vulnerable people and to “not close that all important door” where support is needed.
Growth and scale are harnessed for the further opportunities they create for vulnerable Australians; to attract great talent, achieve greater reach into communities and build cross-sector partnerships, thereby enabling a “greater capacity for impact”.
Claire highlighted Life Without Barriers’ goal is to impact the systemic barriers to support vulnerable people, however the organisation has made a conscious decision to only do this through partnerships. This is underpinned by the organisation’s core purpose to “partner with people to change lives for the better”.
Life Without Barriers believe that “if we can do it alone, then we haven’t picked the right systemic problem”. Life Without Barriers' commitment to partnership is exemplified by defining themselves as an organisation that is "generous" by openly sharing their learnings, what has worked and what hasn’t about major issues and systemic barriers.
Claire reflected on the role of the Life Without Barriers Board as another fundamentally important partnership that has been a major contributor to the organisation’s successful growth journey. The board is a critical and important friend to Claire where the relationship is based on trust, transparency, and a shared understanding of Life Without Barriers’ purpose and values.
Key insight 2 – There are key drivers for decisions in regards to growth
How does a growth journey begin? Claire pinpointed the critical decision point for Life Without Barriers' journey was the divestment of government services as part of the transition to the NDIS, with the organisation’s decision based on two key drivers:
(1) Purpose: Life Without Barriers’ recognition that they had a fundamental role to support people with complex needs to experience choice and control, where many may not have realised this experience before, and;
(2) Practicalities: Increasing Life Without Barriers’ footprint would enable them to deliver more services in regions where they are required and attract more talent and resources to provide safe and quality services.
Importantly, Claire stated the driver for this decision was based on supporting Life Without Barriers' purpose and ‘why’ they exist.
In embarking on their growth journey with these two drivers based on purpose and practicalities, Life Without Barriers has been able to come back to their core purpose when challenges arose, holding their principles and values clear.
Key takeaway 3 – Lessons learnt
Reflecting on Life Without Barriers’ growth journey, Claire highlighted that some of their key learnings resulted from being upfront about their organisation’s strengths and challenges.
Life Without Barriers has been able to provide localised, empowered decision making and responsiveness to help solve funders’ issues with agility – strengths that have enabled greater impact. However, continuing the analogy of having “a thousand flowers blooming at different times”, a challenge arose when having “so many flowers” meant that this diversity created a lack of consistency and quality at times.
Being honest about recognising these challenges and strengths has led Life Without Barriers to openly acknowledge that to further the organisation’s social impact, “some people can only do certain chapters with you, being great for those chapters” and “other people will be great in the next chapter”. For Life Without Barriers, these chapters have been roughly 18 months, a time for the organisation and its people to reflect and align on what works best to support the organisation’s strategic aims.
The one most important lesson learnt from Life Without Barriers’ growth journey was summarised by Claire as the recognition that “to be part of something bigger…we have to tap into what we are here for, and who we are here for, and bring our values to life so they are experienced and not stuck on the wall”. Claire also reflected that bringing organisational purpose and values to life is closely linked with authenticity, as is a belief in the organisation’s people, the people they support and the purpose.
Being open to recognising that different people will be involved in different ‘chapters’ in a growth journey and that authenticity is a fundamental attribute are both important lessons for all sector leaders to reflect on when looking to grow their organisation’s impact.
Whilst every organisation’s growth journey will look different, Life Without Barriers’ experience provides three key insights:
(1) focus on purpose and strive to meet that purpose. If that means growth is the key to achieving greater impact, then align with sound values and strive for systemic change through partnership
(2) make decisions based on your “why” and be unafraid to pivot
(3) have open and transparent conversations with your team about the journey and their role in each chapter, underpinned by authenticity
As you look towards your organisation’s future journey, what choices will you make to grow your impact?
Watch the full recording of our Social Impact Executive Roundtable, with our guest speaker, Claire Robbs, Chief Executive of Life Without Barriers here, via our Deloitte Australia YouTube channel.
Deloitte Australia’s Social Impact Consulting Practice supports social sector organisations, government agencies and businesses to deliver greater social impact aligned to their vision and mission. Our team is passionate about bringing the latest trends in strategy, technology and innovation from adjacent industries and global players to support social sector organisations to be ‘future fit’ in an increasingly complex, disrupted and competitive market.
Should you require any support, please feel free to reach out to either Tharani Jegatheeswaran (Partner – Social Impact Consulting) or Les Hems (Principal – Social Impact Consulting) or Vivian Stephens (Director – Social Impact Consulting).
Tharani leads Deloitte Australia’s Social Impact Consulting Practice, a dedicated practice supporting social sector organisations, government agencies and businesses to deliver greater social impact aligned to their vision and mission. Drawing on over 15 years’ of consulting experience, combined with a deep passion for social change, Tharani has partnered with many organisations (including, disability, homelessness, and community services providers) on their transformation journeys. Her areas of experience include – strategy, growth, operating model design, operational excellence, and governance. She is passionate about bringing the latest trends in strategy, technology and innovation from adjacent industries and globally to support her clients to be ‘future fit’. Tharani is a Director of UNICEF Australia and the Deloitte Foundation, an Ambassador for Good Return, a judge for the Good Design Australia Awards and a passionate advocate for greater corporate and social sector collaboration.
Les is a Principal in Deloitte Australia’s Social Impact Consulting Practice, a dedicated practice supporting social sector organisations, government agencies and businesses to deliver greater social impact. Les has over 30 years’ experience advising NGOs, government and business. His specialties include strategy, organisational performance, operating model design, social innovation, service design, social impact investing, public service reform and social impact measurement. Les supports organisations to achieve greater social impact, operational excellence and commercial sustainability. He works across disability, ageing, family and children, homelessness, justice, regional/remote and First Nation communities. Les has an MBA from Aston Business School and has held senior research positions at UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact, University College London and Johns Hopkins University. Les was a founding member of the Social Impact Measurement Network of Australia.
Sophie is a Senior Consultant in the Social Impact Consulting and Operations Transformation practice. Sophie’s areas of experience include - Strategy, transformation programs, business reviews, implementation planning and project management. Over the last five years, Sophie has worked across the private, public and social impact sectors, with social sector organisations, aged care providers, national and international government organisations. Sophie is passionate about increasing the effectiveness of social and community impact initiatives. Sophie holds a Bachelor of International and Global Studies (Dist.) from the University of Sydney.