Guest Blog: Dave Wells Dave is General Manager Innovation Impact and Government Affairs at Melbourne City Mission
Melbourne City Mission was one of two successful applicants for the Victorian Government’s latest outcomes-based funding round known as ‘Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage’ (PAD). With negotiations currently underway, the PAD is allowing the team to co-design a tight, appropriately-resourced service response for a cohort of young people that our system has lost – 15-21 year-olds who are not in employment, education and training, and who struggle with their mental health.
Along with Russ Wood and Dale Renner of Latitude Network, we’ve thrown ourselves into the experience. And while it has been a steep learning curve, we are now convinced that outcomes-based investment is a vitally important approach for two key reasons:
True collaboration Firstly, community services has long boasted that its work is based on partnerships and that community development works best when in partnership. And while we think that is true, the PAD is bringing new and exciting players into the partnership who have more than just money to contribute. The government departments are genuinely around the table to problem solve and overcome barriers – this is a first in my experience. Intermediaries (like Latitude Network) provide invaluable advice and analysis to help us design the best solution and rapidly respond to the weekly challenges we all need to resolve. Financial advisors and institutions give frank advice on what kinds of projects are investable, with an eye to getting the project funded as a partner, not just an arm’s length business deal. Within our own organisation, our project teams and finance staff are having new discussions about what the best solution is and how to structure it for funding. Each partner brings a different perspective and works together toward a common goal. It’s liberating and empowering.
Deeper service design Second is the incredible focus the MCM team now has on the service response. Due to the importance of getting the program design right (or more accurately the financial consequences of getting it wrong) we are focusing on every single element of the program to make sure that it will contribute to the outcomes – without exception. MCM is being precise and tireless in understanding what activities work and in what ‘dosage’. The focus on outcomes gives our program logic and program design process real teeth – driven by evidence and data. The next step is to build an organic innovation process that, in addition to government and providers, gives investors, wider community and clients greater ongoing contribution to improving the design and impact of our programs.
While outcomes-based funding approaches are not suited to every project or every cohort, we recognise the vital role they will play in the future of community services delivery. MCM also recognises the disciplines developed through the negotiation and design phase will enhance the organisation more widely and are transferable to other programs, funding models and organisational tasks (with the obvious parallel being the development of an outcomes measurement framework across other program areas). MCM is greatly benefiting from being a part of the early growth of outcomes-based funding models.