Giving the NDIS Clickability
Wednesday, 23rd March 2016 at 11:36 am
Two social workers concerned about the lack of information on NDIS services, and their quality, have created an online directory of ratings and reviews, writes Ellie Cooper in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
Jenna Moffat and Aviva Beecher Kelk were working as case managers in disability and mental health when they noticed a lack of transparent information about support options available to their clients.
“We really saw in that work that there was a lack of consumer-focused information and a lack of peer-generated information,” Moffat said.
“And we found that in our roles that was really lacking – and if we didn’t have access to that then the community certainly didn’t have access to that.
“We just didn’t feel that was right… we felt like we were gatekeepers of the information that we did end up collecting and that didn’t sit well with our values.”
When the National Disability Insurance Scheme was announced, Moffat and Beecher Kelk saw an even greater need for participants to have the information necessary to make informed choices about their support.
“We saw that kind of information was going to be really crucial in realising the values that are underpinning the NDIS – of choice and control,” Moffat said.
“Without that type of information economy people really wouldn’t have informed choice, and wouldn’t be able to autonomously search for services and have information about what’s available.”
Moffat said they also wanted to create a way for users could share the quality of the services they received.
“One of the things that we noticed in our work was around the quality of services. All these providers were having audits, but that information just wasn’t made public, and it was really left to people who worked in the sector to know who was who, and what the quality was like,” he said.
In 2014, the pair founded Clickability, an online directory similar to Tripadvisor, to help people with disability choose and purchase the services they need.
“It’s a service directory that also features ratings and reviews… so we populate the site with NDIS registered service providers, and other service providers as we come across them,” Moffat said.
“Then the service providers have the opportunity to subscribe and that gives them administrative rights over their listing.
“Regardless of subscription, it’s a functional directory and people can rate and review service providers so that that information economy is being created, and then our revenue comes from that subscription model and from service providers wanting to engage with that feedback.”
She said that there are a few NDIS directories available with “varying degree of helpfulness”, but nothing that includes consumer-driven information.
Currently the site is in beta, and the enterprise is in the early days of generating a revenue from the subscription service, but Moffat is confident that it will become financially sustainable.
Clickability is following the tried and tested expansion model of other successful user-generated content sites.
The service is currently in Victoria and is looking to expand into New South Wales mid-year, and Moffat said that they would aim to follow the NDIS rollout from there, depending on their rate of growth.
“We’re not wanting to move into a new area and stretch our resources until we’ve saturated the one location,” she said.
“That’s coming off the back of research into other like-services, so Tripadvisor and Yelp and Facebook and all the social media sites, they’ve all started with one geo-location and have waited until they’ve saturated before they’ve moved onto the next so we’re following that model.”
Moffat said that she and Beecher Kelk got the enterprise off the ground “through a lot of hard work and a lot of community support.”
The pair built the website and self-funded a minimum viable product, which they are still using today. They’ve been upgrading it throughout the process and plan to add more features in the future.
The pilot was run in Victoria’s Barwon region for nine months, and in that time they conducted consultations about the content and the usability, and about how both users and service providers would engage with it.
They have also received significant recognition from incubator programs, including a kickstarter program between the School of Social Entrepreneurs and Macquarie, which provided a grant to help fund the pilot, travel allowance support from GoGet, and, more recently, Australia Post who’ve funded their participation in the Social Trader’s Crunch program.
However, they have faced the typical financial struggles of startups, with Moffat leaving her job and Beecher Kelk living off a PhD scholarship.
Moffat said that they have received volunteer support and mentoring from a team that has grown organically throughout the process.
“We’ve really collected a beautiful team along the way. We have a number of people who work with us in a volunteer capacity,” she said.
“Most of them have lived experience with disability, either by having disability themselves or being in a carer role previously or some of them having worked in the sector and it’s been incredible having them working with us.”
She said that a lack of experience has also been a challenge, but their team has provided guidance on how to develop Clickability.
“Both myself and Aviva don’t have experience doing this. It’s our first time setting up a social enterprise so we’re really feeling our way through and it’s been really intuitive,” she said.
“Sometimes hindsight has told us what we’ve done could have been done better, but we’re learning so much along the way.”
But Moffat said the greatest uncertainty is that their social enterprise is built around the NDIS, which is also a new service.
“I think the other thing is we’re entering a market that doesn’t really exist yet, the NDIS hasn’t actually rolled out into Victoria, so we’re kind of pre-empting the changes that are going to occur and that’s been difficult because we’re really at the front end of this cultural change, and so our market isn’t full yet,” she said.
“What we’re seeing at the moment is a big culture shift that’s happening in the sector, and this is the idea of people with disabilities going from being clients and users of services, into customers directing their care a bit more.”
She said that providing users with feedback and helping them understand their consumer rights will have a significant social impact.
“We’ve seen the impact of it already, every time we speak to consumers about their experience with service providers and about their experience of reviewing, and hear about the amazing services that are out there that aren’t being celebrated.
“That’s something that keeps me motivated as well, is wanting to really support the services that are doing well, and lifting the whole sector to that standard – that’s the ultimate goal.”