A person hitting a pinata with determination and force

If I ran a not for profit I'd have a swear jar and have the team pay a fine every time anyone said the phrase "we are just a not for profit". I hear it a lot, and I cringe every time. 

On last nights Four Corners Rehab Inc it came up again, this time within the contrast of the service providers who run at a fee for service vs a no fee for service model. 

It seems in the drug rehab space you have a contrast between organisations with knowledge and skills that know how to do effective, impactful work at a low cost; vs organisations that are charging much more for a service that there is a demand for. Now without getting into the morality of charging $30 000 for a service people are desperate for, or the effectiveness of such a service; there is a huge chasm here, and whose responsibility is it to fill it?

If you are "just a not for profit", then you are hamstrung right? You lack power, nothing to see here, move on.

If you are "just a not for profit" that delivers disability services or aged care services you are probably going to be chewed up and spat out with the looming NDIS and My Aged Care changes.   

Being "just a not for profit" doesn't engender any confidence from someone looking to see quality care, innovation of services, or investment and growth. 

And it certainly isn't something the public want to hear. 

Last nights Four Corners shows that there are service providers with models that have very different costs. If not for profits in this space has some of their operations in a social enterprise market could they provide a better service at a lower cost? 

Profit is not a dirty word, it doesn't have to be what you are "for", but if your knowledge and expertise can make an impact then morally should organisations operate in the for profit space as well? Or if they don't want to/can't should they "open source" their knowledge?

The term "open source" runs the risk of being the next "community of practice" buzz concept, where people quickly found out that shoving a bunch of online tools together and telling people to start collaborating and sharing does not a community make. 

But what if everything we know about drug treatment and drug rehabilitation was shared? If people with skills and knowledge in this area were encouraged to consult and participate in sharing information and setting up new services? If organisations that were trying to provide these essential services in their communities had a place to ask questions, share ideas and seek guidance? And that the public could easily ascertain who was doing what and what was effective? Would drug rehabilitation options in Australia look differently?

"Open Sourcing" ideas and innovation isn't just about giving away everything, there are a number of models. But the underlying premise is generally that the cost of mass production is small. A small cost in the rehabilitation space is a relative term, but if the cost of knowledge, resource development, model analysis and research has been invested in (through public funding) then sharing this openly reduces the cost for local communities that want to see these essential services provided for in their communities - at a lower cost. 

I want future conversations to start with "we are a not for profit", "we own this space", "we provide the best services, outcomes and options because we innovate, have the knowledge and can leverage public resources and private sector partnerships to create the best outcomes for the greater good"; or "we share what we've learned and do well so that others can do it to".

In the lottery of life I hope I never have a loved one need a rehab service, but I can imagine the sense of relief I'd feel at finding a service that I had to pay for that wasn't going to mean selling my house - even if the profit made from me meant that another person could be helped, or more out reach services were provided or more research was initiated. So please, be more than "just a..."

Sep 13, 2016 By lyndsey

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