Bolstering Research Capabilities in Social Service Agencies
Mr Chairman, Social Service Agencies (SSAs) form a vital part of our social support system, plugging system gaps and providing last-mile services to beneficiaries.
So, how might we support them better?
When I was running Daughters Of Tomorrow as its Executive Director, it was a fledgling charity, and it benefitted from financial management workshops held by Credit Suisse and social media marketing mentorship by Facebook employees. It helped the organisation greatly in enhancing its fundraising and outreach capabilities. But not many SSAs have a dedicated employee to lead such engagements with private companies. Many would prefer to spend their operating budget on direct service personnel that executes services and programmes for beneficiaries.
And the same goes for impact evaluation. Many SSAs dedicate their bandwidth to interventions and services, and do not have spare capacity to track and evaluate their programmes, which is crucial to show effectiveness and impact and to attract more funding to scale their solutions.
When they do attempt to hire more staff, they find themselves unable to offer competitive salaries. Some boards of charities are worried about optics or hindered by personal beliefs of board members around the notion of altruism or sometimes for whatever reasons, prefer a large reserve. These create constraints on management teams that try to be more progressive in adjusting their compensation system and results in talent risk for the social services, which then perpetuates the longstanding phenomenon of burnout amongst sector workers.
How can we empower our SSAs to professionalise and scale effective interventions better?
I have three recommendations and that is for MSF to require an audit of salary practices each time an organisation renews its IPC status. And also, in addition to the Research Capability Development Service, MSF can replicate the Volunteer Manager Funding Scheme to help SSAs have a headcount in impact evaluation.
I do not have enough time, but I believe these recommendations will enable SSAs to be more self-reliant in the long run by helping them to build up their capabilities.
So, to this end, I would like to if the Tote Board Social Service Sector Fund will be renewed to continue supporting SSAs in their efforts. And will MSF consider also enhancing this funding programme to cater additional budget for impact evaluation headcount?
The corporate partnerships are also an important function because it requires a different skillset and experience from community volunteer management, which requires some corporate background as well. This will have a catalysing effect to enable SSAs to excavate the potential of the private sector to contribute not just financial donations but also employees’ skills and expertise for knowledge transfer. And this will help to shore the “heartware” that Ms Janet Ang spoke about.
In summary, there is still room to optimise our sector funding for capability enhancements for SSAs. In the long run, it must be the goal of MSF to have a vibrant and resourceful SSA community that is able to do more with less reliance on public funding.
Watch the speech here.