Take the community of Moree Plains, in northern NSW. Like many communities, it has grappled with how to tackle crime. That is until close to four years ago.
Through taking a collaborative approach, they have truly made a positive impact. Four years ago, there were many government, non-government and private sector businesses trying to tackle crime issues on their own, in their own way. This is similar to the challenges faced by sustainability programs, governments or not-for-profits across the country.
Recently, I heard the statistic that Australia had, ball-park, over 650,000 not-for-profits. Add to that the many sustainability programs tackling causes as well as government departmental programs – most of whom work in their silos – and that, I truly believe, ads up to too much duplication, fragmentation and a completely ineffective use of people and money.
These benefits of a collaborative approach have been shared. Key to the work undertaken is that rates of all crime types have fallen and the community, as an example, is enjoying the provision of far more activities and services for families and younger people. Importantly, there have also been benefits to the reputations and performance of these organisations, whose work is now understood, and who are now being seen as collaborative in nature rather than focussed on their “silo. This is in direct contradiction to the situation four years ago.
It has required being truly strategic and holistic in consideration. Like leading private sector organisations, the community realised that there had to be tradeoffs in how they improved the community’s sustainability. With limited resources, they could not be all things to all causes or even types of crime. They have instead focussed on a few crime types and considered, together and holistically, how to resolve these. That meant not just trying to improve street lighting or install CC TV, but also say, taking a long-term view through organising new services to transport young people from isolated communities to towns who have activities and events, reducing boredom and renewing pride.
They needed to have a strategy – or narrative – that could be understood and engage the affected. Too many organisations from all sectors talk about having a sustainability strategy when all they have is an incoherent action plan, whose direction cannot be explained to stakeholders, internal and external. The Moree Plains Community set a narrative focussed on “building a family community shire”, one which has struck a chord.
This shared mission has been underpinned by accountabilities and shared measurement.
And an understanding of the strengths each brought was paramount. Leading organisations realise that tackling society’s challenges is enhanced by calling on their core
competencies, those distinctive skills or resources used to help maintain their competitiveness. So too, collaboration has resulted in the Moree Plains Organisations
appreciating that continuing with organisational ego would be to their peril; they had to incorporate the unique skills and expertise they each brought.
While the Community is not finished yet in the work that has to be done, it has shown that together, working towards one plan, they can make a significant difference.