Community organizations fear that a lack of flexible funding and investment in technology and training will force them to abandon many of the successful service innovations offered to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released today today by the Center for Social Impact (CSI).
The findings are part of a new collaborative research project led by a team of researchers from CSI UWA, Swinburne and UNSW that examined how organizations of people with disabilities, elderly care and emergency services have adapted and broke new ground during the pandemic.
Representatives from more than 34 organizations in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales were interviewed from late 2020 to early 2021, and the research was driven by the fundamental questions: what is services did differently during the COVID-19 crisis and what do they want to do differently in their post-pandemic service delivery?
Report researcher Dr Mariana Atkins of CSI UWA said the research found organizations have gone beyond their efforts to support clients and their families during the pandemic.
âMany were concerned about the social isolation their clients faced, so activities aimed at promoting social well-being were very common. They often paired social cooking, art and exercise groups with online platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime to create opportunities for interaction and connectivity, âsaid Dr Atkins.
âThe provision of food was another common theme, with organizations arranging for grocery deliveries or purchases for customers. They also provided information in preferred languages ââand in an accessible manner, such as videos and SMS. “
Community organizations said the decline in one-on-one support during the pandemic meant many of their clients had learned new technological skills.
âWe sent our support staff to teach the elderly how to video conferencing and in the second or third week they would have Zoom meetings,â said a research participant from WA.
In addition to new or expanded service offerings, researchers found that many community organizations have changed the way their services are delivered by:
- Allow customers to choose how and when workers interact with them in person
- Focus on efforts to maintain face-to-face interaction using personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Give staff flexibility and the ability to work remotely
- Empower staff to make independent decisions to avoid service delays for customers
âAlthough the pandemic crisis has been and continues to be extremely difficult, it has also been an opportunity for innovation. We have found that organizations and their staff are resilient, flexible and creative in responding to their clients, âsaid Dr. Atkins.
âAnd while these innovations have proven to be very successful, their pursuit will require significant investments in technology, resources and development beyond COVID-19. “
Research found that barriers for organizations to innovate during COVID-19 centered around financial and technological resource constraints, the administrative burden associated with certain funding sources, the support needs of some people who were unsuitable for remote support (especially those with mobility or language difficulties) and structural factors, such as the precariousness of the workforce.
Many participating community service organizations focused on their desire to offer flexible and blended services in the future.
âWe hope to offer a mix of face-to-face support and technology. We want to standardize the technology but make it more inclusiveâ¦ âsaid an NSW research participant.
The Service Innovation Deep Dive: Capturing and leveraging lessons learned from service innovation during COVID-19 is part of CSI’s National Building Back Better series – a large-scale national initiative that monitors social issues over time , revealing what works, for whom and when.
CSI leverages its extensive expertise and networks to reveal how to create a more impactful, inclusive and sustainable future for all of Australia’s people.
To access all Deep Dive research reports, visit www.csi.edu.au/deep-dives
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