This research looked at some interrelated questions. What are the attributes of an organisation that builds social value? And what is it about faith-based aged care providers that makes them distinctive? How do these attributes promote wellbeing? Much of what we learned applies to any organisation that wants to do well and keep its focus on ‘mission’, yet the work has captured some of the distinctive mix that is typically present in those faith-based agencies. The research found that the organisations looked at go above and beyond the minimum mandated requirements. Their unique combination of factors forms “organisational specific capital,” (i.e. the ways they value lives) that contributes directly to social value. It is that social value which in turn results in increased quality of life for the older people using their services.
This organisational specific capital is also made up of the way the unique characteristics and infrastructures of the community and voluntary sector combine to build the social value of the sector. They are meeting not only contractual requirements set by government but a range of individual, family, whānau and community needs at the same time. This community-connectedness emerges as a central finding of the project. Faith-based agencies extend pastoral care beyond the staff member-service user relationship and incorporate family and whānau into events and activities across the continuum of care. This helps to maintain social connections in the community and continuity in residential care settings. Those connections are in turn aided by the natural networks that community-based organisations have to a wide range of other community groups, including child care, music, craft and young parent groups,.
A willingness to provide support for older people who could not find it anywhere else, especially those with few resources or complex needs, is another defining characteristic: “We take all comers, we work it out. We’ll take people on no matter what has gone on before.”
This research is a celebration of the difference that organisations make in people’s lives, the things that make them distinctive and the special way those distinctive characteristics work together to promote better lives. The appeal behind this work is for those involved in all aspects of our sector – the policy, funding, management and governance – to recognise this ‘bigger picture’, the wider social value that is present in the web of our communities. This social value must not be dismissed or given lower priority in the debate about the future shape of an aged care “market.” The value of older people, those who work with them and their communities really counts and goes well beyond dollars and cents.