Aboriginal community controlled health organisations or services (ACCHOs) in Australia have often developed innovative ways to address the many challenges they can face delivering health, wellbeing and community services to their communities with limited resources. One of these challenges is how to most effectively manage the significant ‘corporate’ or business functions of their organisations (such as human resources, finances and legal services) so that the core business of the organisation (delivery of services) can benefit. Some ACCHOs face particular issues because of their size, geographical location, available workforce, legislative and policy environment, and speed at which they are growing.
The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Aboriginal Health, (a precursor to the Lowitja Institute CRC) in consultation with the ACCHO sector identified the need to build knowledge about corporate support and funded this project. The project was guided by an expert reference group and included investigating the corporate support needs of ACCHs as well as describing different models that had been developed to strengthen and support the corporate side of organisations. The method included (1) conducting a literature review; (2) undertaking a brief national consultation about corporate support needs and the factors affecting support needs; (3) conducting case studies of organised models for obtaining corporate support; and (4) holding two national roundtables about this issue.
In this presentation we will briefly describe four different models that were developed in Australia to strengthen corporate functions across a number of ACCHOs. These are two types of centralised corporate support, one peer support network and one peak body provided model. From this work we drew out lessons about successful models pertaining to leadership, governance, underpinning principles, processes for model development, decision making, communication and relationship development, capacity building, sustainability, and factors associated with risk.
This work highlights the capacity of ACCHSs to develop innovative solutions to difficult issues while working in rapidly changing environments.