Social Work Australia: Engaging our community
As CEO Cindy Smith foreshadowed in her podcast and interview in September last year, we have delivered on the first stage of improved member services and connectivity.
On 25 June, we launched Social Work Australia, our social work online community. Access it now.
If you would like to see the launch, with a short demonstration, please access the webinar on demand now, or you can watch it on Facebook.
Access Password: 7T=xB+U@
AASW transforming access to member services and information
The AASW is transforming and improving the way you access member services and information – these include the closure of state offices and the adoption of “flexible offices”.
It’s important for all members to understand not only how this affects them but also why this is happening.
Listen to our podcast to hear CEO Cindy Smith explain what is happening, and why, while the following Q+A is designed to help you get fully up to speed with how we are changing, or you can watch the video below.
Should you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact your Branch Manager or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What changes are going to take place within AASW?
We are making some changes in order to create a fairer and more equitable AASW. Under our current model, we do not offer equal value for all members. Quite naturally, that has to change.
We are doing this by phasing out fixed state and territory offices and replacing them with a combination of flexible ‘pay-as-you-go’ offices and a new digital membership network.
This will allow members to access information, meetings, CPD, and other services from a central digital membership hub, when they want, and wherever they may be.
Q: So why are we closing the state offices?
Our research over a 12-month period shows that over 10,000 of our members – roughly 80% - have had no interaction at all with an AASW physical office.
In some locations, more than 60% of the local member base live more than 100 kilometres away from the state office. We’re effectively denying them the opportunity to engage with events and sessions under the current model. That is clearly not equity of access.
Even members who do live near a fixed state office are very rarely visiting them. With an increasing amount of information and services available online there is less need for them to do so.
Q: So what will happen to branch meetings and events?
What we plan to do is phase out fixed offices and use flexible office spaces to conduct meetings and host events, when they are required.
All members pay the same in membership fees no matter where they live, and irrespective of their ability to access opportunities to participate. But if the majority aren’t accessing offices, and if we don’t offer online opportunities to engage, then we are not offering equity of access for all members.
We have identified flexible offices in each state and territory – not just in the largest city, as is the case now - which will enable the AASW to go to the members – rather than the other way around.
Conservative estimates suggest using flexible offices will save the Association a considerable amount of money – funds which will be redirected into improving our member services – including the upgrade to our IT systems and digital capability.
Q: So what does this mean for state branches and branch member committees?
It means we are making them more effective for more members. Branches remain a critical part of the overall AASW operation. We see this as investing in our branches, and our members, to create a better and more equitable member experience.
Branches will still perform their current roles, but via the more centralised infrastructure and through the online community and in flexible offices.
Many of the BMC meetings are conducted via Skype now and have done for some time. We’re simply going to create a more effective and modern platform for those video meetings.
Q: Why are we doing this?
This is about transformation.
We are going to modernise the way our Association functions, to ensure the majority of members are provided with equal access to our services and get the most value for their membership fees.
At the moment, our Association model has not adapted to meet the needs of members living in a changing world. As a result, we do not offer equal value for all our members. Clearly that needs to change.
Q: Can you explain what you mean by changing world?
We live in world that is increasingly connected by technology. Society in general consumes almost all its information via digital means.
We know that our members are showing an increasing preference to engage with our learning programs and services via online channels.
At the same time, people are living and working further away from major cities in greater numbers. This is simply a reflection of the dynamic and fast-growing society that Australia has become. Our members are no different.
Q: So can you tell us more about this new online community?
It’ll be an online community made possible through a major IT upgrade. Through it, our members will be able to interact with each other, learn from each other and share information, and pursue their CPD. This can all be done where and when suits them.
At the moment, some events and development opportunities are only offered at fixed times in fixed locations. Through our new system, members can access them from home, from work, from public transport even, if they want – at whatever time suits them.
They can even work with other members to create their own programs and discussion groups. Members in say, Broome will be able to collaborate with members in Melbourne and Sydney. This is something that has not been easily achieved for our Association.
Q: So, you might say a social media network specifically for AASW?
In a way, yes.
This will create a broad range of opportunities for members, a level of collaboration that we simply haven’t been able to offer before. It is in every way the first ever national AASW member community.
It’s a system designed especially for us and we’re very much looking forward to what it will bring.
Q: So what makes you sure this is the best way to modernise the AASW?
We have gathered more than 12 months of research and data. This looks at member activity – where they are based and how they interact with the Association.
These data tell us that members are showing an increasing preference for online engagement, and they are less and less likely to attend physical state offices. From that perspective, this is an essential change.
The Board also consulted extensively with industry experts around the future of associations.
Ensuring that as many members as possible are given the very best chance to participate and engage with the Association when they need is important if we are to stay relevant and remain a strong professional voice for social work.
Q: Are you worried that some members may be unfamiliar with this new technology and be scared of using it?
We know that the vast majority of our members are well-connected and will reap the benefits of our new modern platform. However we know that connectivity in some areas is not as effective as others and we also know that not everyone is familiar with the devices we are increasingly using.
AASW will offer support for any members needing assistance or guidance on how to extract maximum value from our digital community.
Q: Did you conduct any consultation with the broader membership base about these changes?
Twelve months of member activity data gave us a very clear picture of what was happening and thus what we needed to do. We certainly are not acting on a whim.
What we’re planning is about building member value for all members. While we’d like to engage with every single member and canvass their views, it really isn’t possible or practical.
We do consult with our members very thoroughly especially for changes to our Constitution and Code of Ethics. We think we are very inclusive when it comes to asking for members opinions and feedback, through elections, surveys and advisory panels.
We see these changes as necessary for the future, and in reality, they don’t actually change what we do – they just create a fairer association for all members.
Q: How can members seek more information that may be relevant to their local area?
We encourage members to contact their Branch Services Coordinator with any questions.
It’s important to remember that the Branches are not closing – only the fixed offices are.