Growing Together: partnerships to help your station thrive

Jon Bisset, CBAA's Chief Executive Officer, 29th January 2019

A key strategy of the CBAA is to assist stations to build their capacity. This means, helping your station to build its skills, resources, knowledge, personnel, infrastructure, content and income to continue trhiving and growing to meet the current and changing needs of your community.  

I’ve recently been thinking about the many ways in which we do this. But what exactly does capacity building look like?

A traditional understanding of capacity building in the not-for-profit sector is on that highlights that organisations accepting help or support (be it through partnerships, contractors of funding avenues) must eventually grow up (and “on”) and be able to eventually stand on their own two feet. And this may be true, and one of the things we assist stations to do and be is independent and sustainable.

But this narrow definition can sometimes be detrimental. If the “ultimate goal” of a not-for-profit organisation is a complete state of self- sufficiency where they are not reliant on external resources to run or support operational tasks, then organisations end up doing a lot of highly-specialised operational tasks that they might not have trained people or enough people to undertake. This especially impacts small organisations with limited personnel, or, like many community radio stations, those that are volunteer run. Trying to do a lot of things not so well instead of a few things really well can often lead to burnout or an unsustainable organisation.

All types of organisations outsource work: be that accounting, report auditing, market research, web development and maintenance, or waste collection services. By not bringing these operational tasks into your organisation, it doesn’t mean that you’re not independent or sustainable, but rather you’ve found a model that allows you to focus on your organisation’s key purpose and tasks. Perhaps in community radio, you bring a bookkeeper in, so you can focus on creating engaging radio content that reaches your community.

We understand this model can be challenging for volunteer-run stations, and all stations have limited finances. One way we aim to help build stations’ capacities is by providing affordable or free services and partnerships. For example, the CBAA provides Radio Website Services (RWS), a tailored website package that is developed for community broadcasters, by community broadcasters, and can be catered to your unique needs – including IT support and training. We provide the Community Radio Network (CRN), which offers supplementary content you can use to broadcast alongside and enhance your local programming offerings. Our Amrap services help you find the newest Australian music that you can access for free, to help build your station’s library and find new artists, which you can share with your listeners. The aim of these services is not to take away from your independence, but rather to support your independence, and assist you in making the best radio possible to service your community.

So I propose a new way of thinking about capacity building: one that really helps us to become the best community organisations that we can be, that enables us to focus on our specialities, provides us with time and scope to learn new things, and relies on healthy partnerships for other organisational functions. Our sector has a long history of collaboration, as well as sharing knowledge, music, content and resources, and has always worked creatively to problem solve and contribute to a diverse and democratic Australia. We’ve never been afraid to ask for help when we need it, and continue partnerships when they’re working and meeting our needs. I look forward to continuing in partnership with you all.

This article was originally published in the November 2018 edition of CBX Magazine.

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