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Case Study

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO REGIONALIZATION INITIATIVE: TELLING THE STORY
Brittany Van Den Brink, Public Sector Digest

Interagency collaboration, be it between not-for-profit or government organizations, is a trend that cannot be ignored. Not-for-profits and governments alike face similar challenges. Strained budgets, a significant number of employees nearing retirement, and the need to continue providing quality services has caused organizations across the board to look closely at their service offerings and internal procedures in order to ensure long-term sustainability.

In doing so, organizations are turning to each other for support. Oftentimes, collaborative models emerge. Shared services is one popular and fruitful method of collaboration that is being used to address these challenges. As such, regional models can be beneficial in reducing duplication. For example, not-for-profit agencies in a given region may pool their resources to hire one regional employee to take care of, say, marketing tasks for all agencies, thus freeing up resources to improve public-facing services. Similarly, neighbouring municipalities might opt to share water, sewer, or transit services, as the northern municipalities of York Region have done.

Tough conversations often accompany such initiatives, as they raise apprehension and fear of the unknown. Despite the recognition that collaboration through means such as shared services or mergers can lead to increased efficiency, productivity, and improved quality of service, there is also the possibility that jobs or autonomy could be lost.

However, forward-looking organizations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, not only recognize the necessity of such conversations, they embrace them. In fact, with the help of Pillar Nonprofit Network a consortium of Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations in the Southwestern Ontario region has demonstrated that change can be positive and that it does not have to come from the top down. Rather, collaboration in a way that takes the voices of all participants into account, eases fears and, ultimately, better positions organizations to fulfill their missions is possible.

This case study tells the story of the experience of the successful interagency collaboration between Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in Southwestern Ontario. In today’s fast-paced world that demands adaptability and teamwork, organizations elsewhere can learn from this endeavour and consider how to replicate its success.

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