Scholar Profile - Alison White PDF Print E-mail
Alison White

ALISON WHITE

CEO at People Who Care Inc.

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / Institute of Community Directors Australia scholarship for a Diploma of Business (Governance), October 2014


What sort of work does your organisation do?

People Who Care are a grass roots volunteer charity recruiting and co-ordinating community volunteers to perform acts of charity for the frail aged, disabled and disadvantaged. The charitable works are funded through our Donations and Fundraising, Op Shops and Paper Recycling activities.

Some of our Mission driven works include assisting pensioners in extreme financial hardship with the payment of essential expenses, or through food hampers. As a preferred provider of Aboriginal Services, we also provide assistance and practical support to older Aboriginal people. Other services include gardening, transport and social support to the frail aged and younger disabled.

Describe a typical day's work.

Aside from the general work involved in the running of the organisation across the corporate and workforce portfolios there are some day to day operational matters I am involved in where an organisational policy response is required.

As a small to medium sized organisation we have over 350 volunteer and 53 staff so some of my time is spent reviewing the effectiveness of our organisational structure to ensure the work flow, resourcing, service outputs and service quality may be best leveraged. I am often meeting with other organisations that share a similar philosophical approach to services to look at ways we can work together particularly given the policy reform changes to the aged care sector.

My day is broadly defined into implementing the activities to meet the strategic objectives of our Strategic Plan, monitoring the risk of our activities and ensuring we are on track with everything we do to realise our organisation’s purpose.

What were some of the key learnings from the Diploma of Business (Governance) program?

The primary learnings are in the effectiveness of good governance and how it benefits every person who works for, volunteers in, receives services from or presides over the organisation.

Every telephone call received or letter written shows the outside who you are, how you treat others and how you are viewed. It is hard to imagine why good governance permeates over these areas but the protocols the organisation develops for responding to clients or in maintaining good citizenship with colleagues are embedded in the organisations governance of its culture.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

I commenced the Diploma in November 2014 so I am still working through the course units however I have implemented quite a bit from it so far. I have seen how Governance shapes and influences organisational culture as much as it drives the organisation's purpose. I have commenced work on reviewing the organisations protocols about how we do things to ensure our policies communicate the right message to our clients, staff, volunteers, community partners and funders. The course has contributed to a review of our risk management and has had a strong influence on valuing our workforce and improving our retention through our rewards and recognition program.

Our Board of Management have seen a greater emphasis on staff accountability for service delivery, budget management, risk profiling and workforce planning. A good part of the last year has been on renewing our strategic plan and includes activities on future sustainability and diversification of revenue which was timely given the course dates and our organisation's current position. I have really benefitted from the course and believe it will continue to assist me in my role.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

Given the link between maintaining self independence and home tenure, I was asked to manage retirement villages and social housing to support older people at risk of moving into care by enhancing neighbouring social networks and be introduced to funded practical supports.

I am strongly drawn to addressing disadvantage and am honoured as CEO to be working alongside a workforce of volunteers and staff equally committed to improving the lives of thousands of disadvantaged and frail aged West Australians. I commenced my career as a nurse working across the acute care hospital system and first moved into the not for profit aged care sector in 1992 when I was appointed as aged care facility manager in Broome, 2200 km north of Perth. The appointment was a critical one for my development as it propelled me into an area of work that showed me disadvantage in the remote community first hand.

For the next ten years, I worked in community care operating a diverse portfolio of programs with NFPs providing services to older people and those with chronic mental illness in their own homes, working with government and other agencies to prevent early or inappropriate admission into residential care.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

The community needs to work together more for a common aim. Our Community agencies are now defined and limited by their buckets of government funding rather than on collective innovation. I went on a study tour in 2010, part of which was in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and was greatly impressed by the philanthropy supporting community groups rather than reliance on government funding. This model inspires such innovation in service which we miss here because funding parameters limit or restrict providers to clients, service types, regions or amounts. We also see services as more secular with only those who are “eligible to participate” rather than being more inclusive of anyone in the community. We need to see more services going into the community rather than the clients coming “into” the service.

I love the Street Doctor program in Perth which brings the service to the street. These are the sorts of programs that makes sense in a community and encourage more people with little means to receive services. As a provider of Aboriginal services, our services and the access to them must make a connection for Aboriginal families to their cultural life and by being present in their community become a natural part of it.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I have a goal to bake a perfect Gingerbread House even though packet cakes are quite beyond me. I think if I can do that with absolute precision, I can stand proud alongside any Masterchef!


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"I am strongly drawn to addressing disadvantage and am honoured as CEO to be working alongside a workforce of volunteers and staff equally committed to improving the lives of thousands of disadvantaged and frail aged West Australians."


ABOUT ALISON:

Ali has a strong background in aged care, disability and disadvantaged program administration across the aged care continuum of residential care, acute care, in home, housing and retirement villages. She has been the CEO of People Who Care since late 2013.

Late 2014, ASF awarded Ali a scholarship to attend ICDA’s Diploma in Business (Governance).

ABOUT PEOPLE WHO CARE:

Annual revenue / size:

Large - $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Philanthropic Intermediaries and Volunteerism Promotion & Social Services

Operating in:

WA

Website:

http://www.peoplewhocare.org.au/