Ethnic Community Services Co-operative has a long history of innovation. Depending upon how you are connected with us, you may know part of our story. But did you know that we…
- Pioneered the model of Bicultural Support in early childhood through our Casual Ethnic Workers’ Pool (now Bicultural Support). This model has been acknowledged internationally as one of the most effective models for inclusion and in 1997 UNESCO recognised our program as a model of best practice in Early Childhood.
- Established the first disability advocacy group for people from CALD backgrounds in NSW.
- Developed Multicultural Respite Services (initially known as the Partners Program) for people with disability, where a person with a disability was given opportunity to enjoy recreational activities with a peer without disability. This was the first disability respite services specifically focused on meeting the needs of CALD people with disability.
- Have led the way in addressing intersectional disadvantage for people from CALD backgrounds with disability, including developing the model of ‘double disability’ in the 1980s and training organisations in implementing the Step-by-Step guide to inclusion of people with disability.
- Established the first Home and Community Care Sector Support project in NSW known as the Bilingual Access Program and later Multicultural Access Project (MAP), following ECSC’s research project on the needs of frail aged people from CALD backgrounds.
- Established the Multicultural Disability Interagency (MDI), in collaboration with a range of disability and multicultural organisations, to bridge the gap between our sectors and improve outcomes for people from CALD backgrounds with disability.
- Developed the IDEA Pathway bicultural playgroup initiative, a unique program which facilitates access to early childhood education for families from CALD backgrounds, through bilingual playgroups, family mentoring, community capacity building, and Bicultural Support.
Our history of innovation prepared us well to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, we covered some of our strategies in this blog post. At that stage, we didn’t know what a significant impact these innovative responses would have upon participants of our programs. Many of the strategies we implemented became a lifeline of connection and mutual support.
For example, during the first lockdown, our Multicultural Aged Care Services (MACS) team partnered with the Addison Rd Community Centre, Randwick Council, Viral Kindness and Harris Farm Market for the “Fresh Produce Bag” initiative, which delivered 100 complimentary bags of fresh fruit and vegetables to isolated older people each week, providing much needed financial relief, stability and social contact. But this project delivered unexpected benefits too. The produce bags motivated participants to call each other and share the recipes they had created. Participants also posted their recipes on the MACS Facebook page and encouraged one another to try new recipes or foods. After providing support to participants to use social media, the MACS Facebook page became a one-stop source of multilingual information and connection for 412 seniors from CALD backgrounds, with 112 seniors participating in the weekly ‘Stay Standing’ exercise program streamed via the Facebook page. This quote from a 79-year-old participant from a Russian background says it all:
“Thanks to MACS during the last year I’ve learned how to use Facebook to communicate with my friends and family and finally discovered in my 79th year of life, how to properly use weights while exercising. It helped me significantly to survive throughout the COVID 19 isolation. Morning exercises with Monique via MACS Facebook had become my daily routine”.
Here at ECSC, innovation is in our DNA. But we don’t innovate just for the sake of creating something new. We innovate in response to what CALD communities are telling us is important to them. For us, consultation comes first. We connect with communities at the grassroots, building relationships of trust, and listening carefully to what matters in peoples’ lives. Then we take a step back and look at how we could address the barriers to these goals becoming reality. We are not daunted by the concept that ‘it’s never been done before’. Instead, we think, plan, research, collaborate, and test ideas, all to move us that little bit closer to our vision of ‘an Australian society that celebrates and values diversity and equal opportunity and encourages participation and inclusion’. Our approach to innovation is shaped by our values, vision and commitment to grassroots engagement.
What does innovation look like in your organisation?