Impact to the Beat of a Drum
19 November 2014 at 10:09 am
A West Australian social enterprise harnessing the power of music as a therapeutic tool is preparing for a global rollout, writes Nadia Boyce in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
Drumbeat is run by Holyoake, a leading Not for Profit provider of drug and alcohol counselling and support services in Western Australia, and uses drumming techniques as a tool to improve wellbeing.
The program, developed in 2003 by managers working in the wheatbelt of Western Australia, was originally intended as a means to connect with young aboriginal men for whom traditional talkback counselling was not effective. A simple suggestion to look at the idea of music and of drums as a therapy spawned a program that has grown to become formally recognised.
Today, Drumbeat is a comprehensive program comprised of several arms. The program is delivered in schools, prisons and other institutions, and a program developing facilitators has trained over 4000 fee-for-service customers around Australia. All revenue generated is reinvested back into the growth of the program.
Pro Bono Australia spoke with Holyoake CEO Angie Paskevicius about the program, its benefits and expansion plans that will see other organisations deliver the Drumbeat overseas.
Capturing the Benefits
Angie Paskevicius says there is a challenge in capturing the results of a therapeutic program that is, in effect, unique.
“The real strength of Drumbeat is that it provides some significant social and emotional benefits to the people who participate in the program. It impacts directly on their quality of life and their capacity to participate in the community,” she says.
“It has a strong evidence base and it’s a therapeutic program as well. We know now that its recognised as a meaningful form of behavioural intervention.
“We've been involved with a large number of evaluation and research projects and the sorts of outcomes that they’ve identified are things like reduction in psychological stress, improvements in self esteem and social skills, improvement in emotional regulation, and certainly improvement in behaviour problems especially talking about young people at school .
“We’ve found those benefits sit across a number of different age groups and contexts. The research we’ve done has been in schools, in prisons, in hospitals, in psychiatric wards, with drug and alcohol services and also with returned servicemen.”
The program is now an accredited alternative to the PE program in WA and QLD, something Paskevicius says she hopes to extend to the other states as well. The process of evidence collection to build the reputation of the program has been extensive.
“We collect qualitative data every time we run a Drumbeat program. We’ve got a lot of data over a long period of time from a number of different people and locations. In terms of measuring social impact, we’re probably not fully sure of the full social impact, even though we’ve undertaken a wide range of evaluations and been involved in research projects. What we’re really wanting to do is explore that further, particularly longitudinally,” Paskevicius says.
“We had a research project last year that we undertook in all the main prisons in metropolitan Perth with Aboriginal men with mental health issues. We found significant improvement in mental health and we also checked that three months post as well.
“There are many other longitudinal research studies we also want to get involved with.”
As Holyoake seeks to scale and expand Drumbeat overseas, this evidence base will be critical.
“Last year we introduced the program in the US, this year into Canada, and a couple of years ago into New Zealand. In our US and Canada market, what we’re looking for a partner organisation over there to do what we do here, so they would pay a license fee to operate like we do here,” Paskevicius says.
“We’d also like to develop some resources for particular populations, for example, a parenting version of the program.”
Paskevicius says it has been in the past five years that Drumbeat has come into its own, growing from something supported by a small amount of Government funding to a program able to generate its own revenue.
“Originally when I came to the organisation seven years ago, we were 100 per cent Government funded,” she says.
“As time goes by, our aim has been to diversify revenue streams so we need to rely less on Government and more self-determining to do more what we want to do as an organisation and ensure that aligns with out purpose.
“Going back a couple of years, we got to 70 per cent Government funding and 30 percent from social enterprise. Eventually we would hope to be at about 50-50 as a target, which will take a couple of years.
“Because it is self-funded and gets no recurrent Government funding we’ve had to invest financially in the growth of the program so whatever we generate at this point goes back into it so we can grow to be more sustainable.”
Paskevicius says limited resources have been a challenge.
“What we’ve had to do is invest quite significantly financially to grow Drumbeat, obviously taking some risks around that and making sure those risks are important and worthwhile, and that we’re going to get a return on that investment,” she says.
“We’re having to look at other opportunities where we might be able to partner with others. Getting that regular income when you're relying on fee for service is always challenging, and that’s why we have developed other income sources.”
These additional income sources include Drumbeat Quest, an online interactive game version of the training program where users will pay and download a licence for use, along with a corporate arm.
Building the Brand
As Angie Paskevicius and her team look to the future, building the Drumbeat brand will be a priority. She says she recognises the shift in her own organisation’s culture that has enabled the program's success to date.
“One of the main challenges for us has been the vision that we can start up a social enterprise and make it successful. Having the belief and the courage that this is going to work, and bringing others along with you to share that belief, particularly when times are tough and you might be struggling around resources,” she says.
“Sometimes there needs to be a cultural shift in an organisation as well, to understand the reason why we’re charging fees in a Not for Profit environment, and that that is okay.
“Spreading the word is really about marketing and promotion. That’s a challenge internally within an organisation, understanding that we actually need to do this in order to grow.
“Part of that is building brand and getting your positioning right and making sure our materials are well-printed and professional looking, and also protection of all our intellectual property and trademarks. These are also often extra skillsets you don’t always have within an organisation. It’s a very small team that we have and they can’t do everything.”
Paskevicius says the decision to experiment with social enterprise should not be taken lightly.
“I think in today’s environment with the uncertainty around Commonwealth or State funding, when you go to conferences and presentations, social enterprise is almost a buzz word. I think its got its own challenges as well, it’s not the right approach for everyone. It’s not easy.
“It’s been an interesting journey.”