Cape York Partnership recogised the need to scale for grater impact on its communities. This required change and growth to achieve this, Fiona Jose, CEO shares their organisations story.

Our latest report in collaboration with McKinsey & Company examines what makes a not-for-profit organisation “healthy”.

Research highlights a collective national effort is needed to sustain and improve the health of the not-for-profit
sector. It has some remarkable strengths to build on, but also significant opportunities to expand its
aspirations: to grow talent, enhance its execution discipline, and boost innovation and collaboration.

Cape York Partnership shares how by prioritising talent growth and execution excellence they have been able to more effectively support their mission.

‘We realised the positive impacts of scale—in buying power and standardising processes—were critical to freeing up funds to then put to frontline service delivery and reform.’

FIONA JOSE CEO, CAPE YORK PARTNERSHIP

Case study – Cape York Partnership


Cape York Partnership (CYP), a non-profit Indigenous organisation empowering the people of Cape York, recognised an opportunity to scale the impact they could have across their community. This meant aligning their entities around a unifying vision, and investing in shared, enabling systems to support their frontline leaders in bringing that vision to life.

Over the past two decades, CYP has grown rapidly from an initial institute to ten thriving entities, but their success has also resulted in lack of clarity, and duplication in their operations. ‘To deliver on our mission, we needed to grow,’ explains CEO Fiona Jose, ‘but our back-office operations, in particular, became out of control.’

CYP embarked on a five-year journey to bring their entities together around a unifying vision and consolidate their services. “We realised the positive impacts of scale—in buying power and standardising processes—were critical to freeing up funds to then put to frontline service delivery and reform,’ says Jose. The process of consolidation also brought to light ‘how much risk we had been exposed to that we hadn’t fully understood’.

Critical to this shift was ensuring leaders felt part of the journey, ‘driving a collective sense of ownership over the whole entity’.

Collaboration with funders was essential too. ‘We worked with funders to show that upfront investment now meant they didn’tneed to continue to fund manual processes later down the track,’ explains Jose.

While the transition has been tough at times, Jose reflects that: ‘This model has allowed us to become much more sustainable. It has meant that we can track performance against standard goals, which has built accountability. Real conversations are now happening about performance.’

For Jose, the work of consolidating shared services has always been intimately tied to mission. ‘This change was not about losing people … it was about freeing up our central services professionals to be able to support and upskill our regional leaders with the operational and financial skills to more effectively have impact.’

CYP’s journey towards operational excellence has ultimately reinforced their purpose. As Jose says, ‘Let’s be clear: we are bold. If you don’t think your job is to build the capability of an Indigenous Australian to replace you, you haven’t understood our vision.’

‘Let’s be clear: we are bold. If you don’t think your job is to build the capability of an Indigenous Australian to replace you, you haven’t understood our vision.’

FIONA JOSE CEO, CAPE YORK PARTNERSHIP

Cape York Partnership website

*About this research – The Australian Scholarships Foundation collaborated with McKinsey & Company for this research. The research was based on McKinsey’s Organisational Health Index (OHI)’ diagnostic tool. McKinsey have used the OHI with 2000+ organisations (6 million+ responses) globally over two decades. The OHI measures how ‘healthy’ an organisation is. How it aligns around mission and strategy, executes with excellence, and renews itself to sustainably achieve its aspirations.

Findings are based on 4,000+ OHI survey responses across 37 prominent Australian social sector organisations. Also sector CEO roundtables and in-depth case studies on non-profits who are out-performing, even in the current environment.


Sharing stories to support organisational health

We’d like to share more insights like these to help improve not-for-profit staff capabilities and support organisational health and growth. If your organisation perform well at one or more of the three key capabilities this latest report has highlighted (talent growth, execution excellence and system shaping) we would love to hear from you. Please contact us if you are open/willing to share some of your insights and lessons with others in the sector.

Read more of our insights on not-for-profit capability building here.