From testing to evaluating
The design and prototyping phases for Weavers have been a rollercoaster of learning and economical challenges. Due to not having continuous financial support we have been driven to work in a flexible and agile way.
At the beginning of this year, we conducted an evaluation to understand the impact Weavers was having in the lives of carers. As a result, we learnt that Weavers was helping carers to gain assertiveness in relation to their own needs, gain self-efficacy in their carer role and most importantly decrease their levels of depression.
There were also some unexpected learnings. Weavers was having impact not only for carers but also for the people being cared for as well was having an impact on the Weaver volunteers. Individuals had reported receiving more attentive caring by their carer and an improvement in the use of services. Weavers themselves had an increased sense of purpose and valued the training/professional development that the program had given them.
After understanding all these positive outcomes, we wanted to have a higher impact for carers around Australia. The starting point was building a financially sustainable model in the long term.
We had some hunches on business models we could pursue and we transformed them into scenarios. We mapped divergent paths to take, specifying the business model that would best help TACSI spread Weavers. We did this using a Business to Business approach – the offering that TACSI could make to other organisations. Three scenarios we explored including:
For each of these business model scenarios, we started to explore the Business to Customer side of the business model. That is, the offer from the organisations that could potentially start-up Weavers to their members or clients. We mapped options such as offering it as an add-on service within their offering or asking for a fee per service from the members/clients care packages.
This was the point at which we started some deeper research to understand the funding context that organisations considering Weavers will face. We explored: Consumer Directed Care (Aged Care), the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Disability), Integrated Carer Support Service (Informal Carers) and Restorative Care Places (Aged Care).
Once we had all this baseline information mapped, we went to meet with the experts. We met with organisations in the age care, carer support and healthcare sectors. We asked them about their hunches on how the context they are operating will change and gathered their feedback on the various business models that we were contemplating for Weavers. These were very valuable conversations to understand the pros and cons of each approach that we could take.
We also gathered feedback from the experts in the program, the Weaver volunteers, through the monthly learning lunches. During these sessions we discussed the different paths we could take to ensure the underlying values of Weavers were prioritised and to include the vision of the Weaver volunteers.
What organisations value about Weavers
We identified the key components of Weavers’ value proposition and shared them during the interviews.
One of the main things that organisations valued was the different type of support Weaver volunteers can provide because they have been there and they get it.
“Obviously having someone that has walked in their shoes, actually gets it. Because it is tough”
In addition, they also confirmed that two of the core needs that Weavers works on are important to their members or clients. These were “Help carers stay connected and involve others” and “Help carers navigate and negotiate the service maze”.
“People are struggling to enter and navigate through the service stuff, particularly with my age care”
Interviewees stated that Weavers service will bring value to their organisations as an added value service and being customer centred. This last point was mentioned to be very valuable in the current policy context.
“People will say about our organisation that they can go that extra mile, they’ve done this for me. The difference from other programs is hard to measure, is not about cost saving, it is about the value of emotional support”
We have learnt that emotional support provided by Weavers builds the capacity of carers to fulfil their role, and this is measurable. This has cost saving impact in the long term.
They also stated that Weavers could provide a new avenue for recruitment and will support them in more effective use of existing volunteers.
“People that are in a volunteer role sometimes there is not enough structure to it and so I think sometimes the Weavers stuff can provide that better structure for volunteers”
Weavers Business model framework.
After analysing all these insights we gathered to reflect on them in detail with The Difference Incubator team. The outcome of all this work is a business model framework that is made up of three elements:
There were different people that we were talking to during our Weavers research that really inspired us. The first one was Charles Leadbeater, he listened to our insights and asked us “Why is it important that you hold the model? Why don’t you open-source?”. He proposed us to think about it in terms of fidelity vs quality, and he asked us to reflect if in Weavers these were the same thing.
“The reason why – despite all the efforts to cut it down, to constrain it, to hold it back – why these open models will still start emerging with tremendous force, is that they multiply our productive resources. And one of the reasons they do that is that they turn users into producers, consumers into designers” Charles Leadbeater, The era of open innovation TED talk
Another person that inspired us in open-sourcing Weavers was Marcus Veerman founder and CEO of Playground ideas in Melbourne. He mentioned how open-sourcing their playground designs had helped them to reach more communities, giving the possibility to more people to build their own playgrounds.
We were driven by wanting to give back what we have learnt, we wanted to share with everyone what we had understood was a valuable model and was having impact on carers lives. We were also aware that we didn’t have the resources to hold it ourselves and run it internally at TACSI, if we were to try to run it we would always face the challenge of sustaining it in the long term. And we were very keen on having a higher impact and having more people involved. This is how the exciting story of open-sourcing started!
After open-sourcing the model we have been busy sharing the news and talking to a lot of people. Every email that we receive and every new registration through the website brings excitement in the room. We are receiving very positive feedback and we are starting to implement the model in various contexts. We are currently involved in exploring Weavers in a residential facility with the organization Helping Hand, We will be sharing more about this in our next blog post in this series.