The co-location model involves a number of agencies sharing common premises and common resources and facilities such as secretarial and book-keeping services, photocopying, and joint insurance and telephone services (Walsh et al., 2008). This model was used in the MTSC Pilots Project. Many different names are used to describe this model, such as:

  • service cluster
  • service hub
  • one stop shop
  • multi-tenant service centre (MTSC).

In this report we will refer to this model as the ‘MTSC’. In terms of the continuum in Table 1, the co-location model would involve coordination or cooperation between agencies, and the use of formal agreements and other protocols to clarify roles and responsibilities, governance and administrative arrangements, and policies and procedures.

This model has been successfully adopted by a number of not for profit organisations around Australia. A well known example of this model is Ross House in Melbourne. Co-location was considered to be a key sustainability strategy by the Tasmanian Communities Online initiative (Norris, 2005). Successful Queensland examples of this model include the Child Care and Family Support Hubs established by the Department of Families around the State, and the numerous Neighbourhood Centres in rural and regional areas which operate on community development principles.

The co-location model can take many different forms such as:

The co-governance model: one member from each agency forms a sub-committee to manage and govern the MTSC, under the legal auspice of one of the agencies’ incorporation. An example of this model is the Regional Outreach Support Program, conducted in Cairns (see Earles et al., 2005).

The cooperative model: a formal non-trading cooperative is established which is managed by a board, made up of members from each organisation. Each organisation is an incorporated association but operates collectively with the others. The Caboolture MTSC
pilot is an example of this model.

The lead agency management model: a large organisation manages the centre and holds the lease for the building in which all the agencies are co-located. It is supported by the management committees of the smaller organisations which sub-lease the building from the larger organisation. The Toowoomba MTSC pilot is an example of this model.

The amalgamation model: a number of agencies with a common focus and philosophy merge to create a new organisation which is managed by a committee made up of one representative from the agencies involved. The Mackay MTSC pilot is an example of this
type of model.

Each of the co-location models involve a number of risks, challenges and benefits that need to be taken into account and will be explored in more detail later in this report. Fine et al.(2005, p.4) advise that ‘the level of integration required should be determined by  the degree of need amongst clients’. It is well worthwhile taking plenty of time to explore all the risks and benefits before deciding on the collaboration model used. For example, the amalgamation or merger model is the most complex and difficult to adopt, requiring effective management of different cultures and recognition of the many ‘human factors’ involved (Cairns et al., 2003).

Mergers in the voluntary sector in the United Kingdom are increasing due to factors such the view that there are too many agencies doing broadly similar work and expectations that voluntary organisations ‘will be efficient and effective, especially when they receive funding from government agencies’ (Cairns et al., 2003, p,3). However, mergers and other, more complex forms of collaborative arrangements can be very expensive in terms of the time, energy, and human resources required. Cairns et al. (2003, p.7) point out that:

"The costs of merger, in terms of staff time, money and human resources, should not be underestimated. The cost of developing a new organisational infrastructure, identity and publicity material is likely to be substantial. At the same time, it seems likely that, in the short-term, a merged organisation will significantly increase its voluntary income."

Case studies of the three MTSC pilot projects are presented in the next section. They highlight the challenges and risks involved in the co-location process and outline the strategies used to overcome these challenges and risks.

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