Community Connections faces uncertain future


I have thought long and hard before setting out to write this entry. It would be easier for me not to do so, and some might even suggest better for my reputation as a consultant if I were to refrain from comment. However we all have a set of values we live by and one of my values is a sense of equity and fairness.
Community Connections is the largest funded nonprofit service provider in south west Victoria in the city of Warrnambool. This is also where I live for part of each year and where my consultancy is based. Community Connections has been a long standing client of mine, and I will be involved in helping them move into a new future.
In the past I have written about other nonprofit organisations who have exhibited management failure and it is only equitable that I comment also on Community Connections.
In the past week Community Connections has been stripped of a significant amount of current funding. The impact of these decisions by the Victorian State Government Departments of Justice and Human Services will have significant impact upon a large group of people, both clients and employees. It is possible these decisions could impact upon the ongoing viability of Community Connections.
This is not the place to question the validity of State Government decisions and it would be pointless to do so, as the past is the past and the focus of management in Community Connections has to shift firmly to the future. There is no doubt there will be some very difficult decisions to be made by the executive at Community Connections over coming weeks and months.
Many people will question how this situation could have occurred? There is only one response, and that is the management team at Community Connections have stuffed up! It doesn’t matter what spin you put upon this outcome or the events that have contributed, it is a responsibility of any management team to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen. That’s the bad news out of the way. The good news is that it is fixable, there is a future for Community Connections in Victoria and I have no doubt whatever emerges from the ashes will grow to once again become a significant employer and provider of social services.
It is likely there will be reductions in staffing as a result of the funding cuts, that is inevitable. Alternative providers have already been named and it is hoped many of those people will find positions with these providers. Some will, some may not. On the other hand, a large number of existing staff will continue to operate a vastly different organisation to the one they came to work at earlier this week. These people will be seeking leadership and a vision of the future from those on the executive. This is an organisation that is built around a solid set of values and principles. The executive team understand their reason for being. Now is the time for them to stand up and provide leadership.
It is not a time for recriminations. There is more at stake than the welfare of clients. There are reputations, careers and credibility on the line. There are almost 150 employees reliant upon salaries to make their next mortgage payment. Never has the saying been more true than at this moment. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
The future of Community Connections rests in the hands of those that work there and those that volunteer to be a part of this organisation. Good leadership will see everyone engaged in the process of restructuring. Good leadership will provide everyone with a vision going forward and a plan for survival and sustainability.
There may be some that wish to judge the executive group at Community Connections for their actions to date. My suggestion is this, don’t. They have made mistakes, there have been errors of judgment. Now it is time to address the root cause of issues and move forward. Hold off making judgements and judge the executive team upon their success in rebuilding Community Connections.

Those are my thoughts for the day
John Coxon

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About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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