Leadership, empowerment and technology
ACES Incorporated, a NSW provider established in the 1990s, provides a range of disability supports. NDS sat down with John Faithfull, Project Manager NDIS Readiness, to discuss their point of difference - a new way of conceptualising online teams led by the person with disability.
A few years ago ACES considered the conundrum - how to reconcile the relationship between the traditional hierarchical organisational structures, where the ‘client’ generally sits at the bottom of the pyramid, and the new paradigm where the client is at the centre of their supports, and how they interact with each other.
This led to conversations on what comprises a team, exploring the inter-relationship between staff (management and direct support staff) and clients, informal supports and other service providers, and how contemporary communication methods could support these relationships.
After unpacking the traditional hierarchical pyramid, ACES reconceptualised the ‘client’ to ‘client team leader’ and established online teams around them (closed Facebook groups at this stage). Philosophically and practically, clients have choice and control over how it is used. Depending on their ability, they may administrate the Facebook page or be supported by staff and/or their family. It’s based on self-selection – both clients and others (staff, informal supports and other organisations) choose to participate. There are no specific rules (it’s based on good will and trust) and a shared responsibility (no monitoring).
ACES has trialled the Facebook groups for 6 months with 6 clients and had really positive outcomes. Everyone plays equally important roles in contributing information, photos and videos, instead of the usual case notes. This unique way of interacting with each other is creating a more holistic profile of people across all areas of their life and opportunity to co-create the support for an individual.
There have been some amazing transformations. It has developed clients social identity and adds another dimension to their social status. Staff from multiple organisations are more engaged, well-informed, outcome focused and efficient through sharing of real-time information (activities, successes, challenges, health changes etc.). It’s also connecting parents to the day-to-day experience of their son or daughter.
Empowerment, leadership and technology are the three elements necessary for this transformation to work. Other essential key elements include:
- Purpose and leadership - clear mission, careful messaging, progressively devolved responsibility and authority,
- Resources - time, dedicated budget and staff for the change process
- Cultural - tolerance for uncertainty, risk and mistakes, patience, informed courage (willingness to proceed on limited information), incremental/organic process, active engagement through experimentation and personal and collective responsibilities.
ACES have encountered a few minor issues. For example, staff being contacted online about transport/appointment changes out of hours. ACES have dealt with the symptoms rather than the system. Other clients and their families have requested to be part of the trial. Once evaluated, they will expand the initiative to other people who wish to be involved.
For any queries, please contact John Faithfull on 02 6581 2348 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.