Helping Community Organisations

Sara Parott and Kelly Lorentz

Social purpose organisations are facing growing needs, but don’t always have the time or resources to maximise their impact on the communities they serve. Hand Heart Pocket, the Charity of Freemasons Queensland, recognised this need and the barriers that organisations face to building their capability and so partnered with QUT to offer a solution, providing specialised professional development to support leaders of these organisations. 

I met with Sara Parrott, the CEO of Hand Heart Pocket, to discover more about why they have invested in professional development for community organisations, and what impact they expect to see.  Sara commented that:

Designing professional development with QUT… offers an opportunity for people to come together with other like-minded organisations, that also work in the social sector, who are facing similar challenges, to really learn about the solutions, learn about the frameworks, and learn about the theory.”

Bringing together peers from like-minded organisations is a fantastic opportunity to build connections and work on practical solutions to shared problems. Professional development will provide tools, help increase capability, and ultimately build a more robust sector with leaders who are strong in strategy and governance,  ultimatley increasing capacity across the sector.

Watch the full video below:

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If you would like to build your organisation’s evaluation capacity and capability, book now for QUTeX’s short courses:

• Social Impact Evaluation: Principles and Practices 
• Using Design Thinking to create place-based social change 
• Data for Good: Using Data science in social purpose organisations
• Strategic Leadership and Governance in Social Purpose Organisations


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Kelly Lorentz: Hello everyone, my name is Kelly Lorentz.  l am a Partnership Manager with QUTeX.  Today I’m joined by Sara Parrott, the CEO of Hand Heart Pocket, and we will go through a series of questions to share with you a little bit more around the partnership which we have recently formed

Sara Parrott: Thanks Kelly, it’s great to be here. I’ll tell you a little bit about Hand Heart Pocket. So, Hand Heart Pocket is the charity of Freemasons of Queensland, it’s existed for over 100 years, and we have we are a philanthropic foundation which means we have over $200 million under management. We have a couple of jobs to do. What we do is we manage those funds and protect them and then we invest the proceeds into Queensland, so our purpose is to partner for change for people in need in Queensland, and we build partnerships. What we do is we invite people to work together around issues that are affecting Queensland.

We have a specific focus on young people in need especially young people who are at high risk of having poor outcomes in adult life, so we bring together social purpose organisations, community service organisations, social enterprises, and other funders and focus on issues around young people at risk.

Kelly: What would you say are the most pressing challenges experienced by the sector at the moment?

Sara:  One of the things that we see when we get together with other organisations in the not for profit sector and other social purpose organisations is that often they are so busy, and working so hard on the programs with young people, and the beneficiaries in the community, they don’t get time, and they don’t sometimes have the resources to stop and step back, and really work on the organisation, or work on the long term viability of their organisation. We see lots of things that are holding our partners back in terms of their ability to really measure the outcomes of the programs that they run and to define whether or not what they’re doing is actually making a difference for anyone, and we also sometimes see organisations that have being around, they might be quite mature, but they don’t have a very strong strategy in place about their long-term viability, and how they want to make how they’re going to make the biggest impact that they can.

Kelly: You’ve shared a bit around Hand Heart Pocket’s role, and I guess your purpose and mission, just delving a bit deeper around the change that you were hoping to see across the sector if you wouldn’t mind expanding a bit more on that.

Sara: So what we’re trying to do is to work closely with our partners on their long term viability and to also work with them on building their capability and the capacity of the organisation as well as the programs that they run so by working with QUT and providing a program that is allowing them to have good professional development it will help our partners to be able to lift up and not just do a good job for the poor program that they run but to do a great job at running their organisation as well.

Kelly: Thanks, Sara, and I guess the link there to QUT and the partnership we have in place, and I understand this bit of work before we got to that particular stage, so, when you’re in that kind of planning mode and considering the types of courses and the types of needs that these organisations need, and more broadly the sector is, what kind of process did you go through and how did you come up with, of course in collaboration with ourselves, to some degree, with these particular focus areas?

Sara: Yeah, well in talking to our partners about what they needed and what they thought was holding them back, a lot of conversations around outcome measurement, and how to set up programs, and set up their systems within their organisations to be able to collect the data from beneficiaries that they’re working with, and really understand what outcomes are they trying to achieve with beneficiaries and the young people that they’re working with, and then to be able to collect the information and collect the data from young people about the change that they’ve been able to affect in their lives. Essentially, for a social purpose organisation and with some key programs, if they can’t demonstrate what change they’re actually creating it’s really hard to then attract further funding and to build the long term viability of those programs, so our partners we work with closely with them to have good outcome measurement, but sometimes they really struggle with the very basics of that like starting and setting that up so we identified that there was a need for some key people within our partners so it could be executive, program managers, sometimes even board members, to actually come along and learn about what is outcome measurement, how do you set it up, how do you use data, and what’s the benefit of having a really strong outcome measurement program, so, that was one of the topics that came to the fore as something that our partners really needed.

Some of the other things that when we work with our partners and talking to them we understood that they really needed was also capability building around strategy for their organisations and we have a conversation we had with partners around what we called the end game so if we’re funding a program for young people and we’re hoping and then to deliver services sometimes you have to understand what the end game of that program is so after say three years of funding where do they want to take that program and organisations really need a strong organisational strategy to connect that up. Another area that we know our partners are really interested in and other social purpose organisations are really interested in strong governance as well yeah absolutely so having a really good strong board that can steer the organisation, that can ensure strong decision making and also be involved in that strategy work so there’s a couple of topics in there and then we came to QUT and said we know that there are a lot of social purpose organisations our current partners and others that we’d like to work with who would really lot to come and do that professional development for their leaders, executives and their boards together, and what can we design that will be really valuable and from our perspective it’s a really valuable investment into the leadership within the organisations in the social sector and also it’s a step before us getting involved in core program funding.

Kelly: That’s great, thank you Sara, and I think you made a really good point around impact. There’s obviously the social impact cause but more broadly is impact at that organisational and individual level, I appreciate that Hand Heart Pocket can support organisations in a range of ways, why professional development, why down that particular route?

Sara: Yeah, that’s a really good question. We were thinking about how we could support our current partners and other organisations in the social sector, and there really is an underinvestment in professional development and learning for people and leaders within the social sector. A lot of not-for-profit organisations really run on the smell of an oily rag, you know, that they are very efficient, and we felt it was a really good investment into the leaders, and that professional development was something that was missing that our partners were looking for. By designing professional development with QUT what we’re able to offer is an opportunity for people to come together with other like-minded organisations that also work in the social sector, who are facing similar challenges, and really learn about the solutions, learn about the frameworks, learn about the theory, but then at the same time the way that QUT puts the courses, together they are given a lot of really fantastic tools but because you’re coming together with peers from across the sector you’re also making those connections and it’s a fantastic opportunity to work on practical solutions, meet other people who are doing the same type of work, and then connect up. And we have found that our partners and others in these courses have really enjoyed the connection with other people. The practical aspect of being able to learn the theory, go away, apply it to a real problem within their organisation come up with great solutions, but then test those solutions and test their ideas with their peers, and we’ve heard a lot of really great feedback about the value not just of the learning but also of the connections.

Kelly: Well, we are certainly pleased that you reached out to QUT, and that professional development was the reason, so thank you that’s a great answer.
So, for you, obviously, there is a partnership with QUT but I think it’s around driving change across the sector, what would success look like to you what does it look like to you?

Sara: Well, I think, for Hand Heart Pocket success for us will be that organisations that we currently partner with, and organisations that we’d like to partner with, and others in the ecosystem of the social purpose would be able to come to QUT, and, subsidised by Hand Heart Pocket, participate in this fantastic professional development. But the long-term outcome of all of this is a stronger social purpose sector, and also leaders who really understand and are committed to outcome measurement and impact, understanding impact and, understanding how to measure their impact and then articulate that end. Ultimately, a sector that has more leaders who are strong in their strategy, in their strategy work, and board members who are really strong in governance, and it’s about building that capability across the sector.

Kelly: Thanks Sara, and look thank you very much for coming in today. I think it’s been short and sweet, but you’ve given us a great overview of Hand Heart Pocket’s role and I guess your role and how you would like to support this sector, so we are delighted to be supporting you with that and I look forward to working with you this year.

Sara: Thanks.


Kelly is a Partnership Manager within QUT Executive Education, partnering with organisations across the Health, Ageing and Disabilities sectors in respect to professional development. Kelly has a wealth of knowledge and experience in sales, marketing and communications, Human Resources and project management.

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