21st century support
Gather My Crew was developed with initial advice from Unico and other pro bono technology partners, to provide a technological solution that encourages the development of ‘support crews’ around a person experiencing crisis.
The idea was simple, the person in need of support creates a schedule of activities they require practical help with, which could include cooking meals and shopping, support during medical appointments, childcare and school pick-ups, or home cleaning, garden maintenance and pet care. The schedule then becomes an online roster that family and friends can sign-up to and nominate themselves for certain activities. The person receives the practical support they need at the most difficult time in their life, while their friends and family – their crew – know that they are making a positive and practical difference.
The Foundation’s first grant supported the launch and rollout of the Gather My Crew platform to the wider community, especially the medical and not-for-profit sectors, to create and build awareness of this innovative online resource.
To date 18,000 people have registered a ‘crew’, with 100,000 hours of support logged as well as a growing network of referral partners around Australia, including national organisations such as Cancer Council, Red Cross, Palliative Care Australia, Stroke Foundation and Heart Foundation. Gather My Crew is also regularly featured in media and have developed information sheets and articles as part of an ongoing education and awareness campaign.
Dr Palmer says, “We have many wonderful stories where it has been life-changing for that person once they make the decision to establish a crew. The support generated by the crew has lifted the burden of essential day-to-day activities so the person can receive the medical treatment they need or begin their recovery without worrying who will pick their children up from school.
“We have a growing reputation as being a research-driven and evidence-based organisation and we partner with peak bodies in their fields. The organisation is built on a deep understanding of the personal impacts of crisis situations.”
Supporting risk and innovation
Dr Palmer says that funding from the Foundation came at a critical time for Gather My Crew.
“We required this funding to take Gather My Crew to the next level and launch it to the community as there was no other online resource available to schedule care.”
Dr Palmer says, “We were a new organisation and the Foundation took a risk to back our innovation and the potential of the platform. The Foundation demonstrated that they understood it was important to provide funding early, which again is unusual as many funders don’t come on board until you have a track record of success and business stability for at least for five years.”
The Foundation has a history of seeking out innovative solutions to ongoing social issues through its Seed Challenge, Proactive and Innovation grants. In addition, to being the first philanthropic organisation providing a grant to Gather My Crew, the relationship with the Foundation assisted Dr Palmer to leverage other support.
“The support of the Foundation as our first funder opened up opportunities for us to meet with and apply for other philanthropic funders.”
As part of a longer-term plan, Gather My Crew is developing new revenue streams , such as a corporate wellness program, to become a self-funding social enterprise. Corporates and other businesses can add Gather My Crew to their existing employee assistance program as added value to the wellbeing supports already offered to staff.
Scaling-up in times of emergency
In response to the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, Gather My Crew launched three new programs in 2020 with the active support of the Foundation to support the work of emergency response organisations and community sector partners:
- Street Crews for local neighbourhoods – for local communities to help one another, identify and respond to practical support needs, communicate with each other, and coordinate the best possible care for vulnerable people within their neighbourhood.
- Volunteer Crews for local government areas – for groups of volunteers within local government areas that are activated to provide needs-based practical support to the most vulnerable and isolated within communities especially during the social distancing measures.
- Kindness Crews to support healthcare professionals – developed in partnership with Pandemic Kindness to provide specific and targeted support to health professionals who are working to support Australia during the COVID-19 crisis.
A $150,000 Proactive grant from the Foundation in April 2020 supported the development and launch of these initiatives, which have now been added to the core self-help platform to create broader communities of care. These new crews are supporting the most vulnerable people within local areas as well as the dedicated healthcare professionals who have been working through the pandemic.
Recently, Gather My Crew received a Victorian Government ‘Let’s Stay Connected’ grant to develop the initiatives into a new model of community support that directly responds to the Victorian-specific experience of living with, and responding to, COVID-19.
With key learnings and experience from the first four months of the Foundation-funded initiatives, the new model focuses on using a referral network to link vulnerable people living in the community to local 'support crews' who can be mobilised to provide neighbourhood-based help.
Three local government areas are partnering with Gather My Crew to develop and trial this new model with support from Red Cross Victoria, Justice Connect and Volunteering Victoria.
Positive personal impact
For the team at Gather My Crew, measuring impact is not just about gathering and analysing data but also about the impact a support crew can have on each individual person seeking help.
Dr Palmer believes that Australians are stoic and find it hard to ask for help. “We make it easy for people to ask for help, and the help received is meaningful, sustainable and it becomes ongoing.”
Those helping also feel the benefits. “Once people are signed up to help, they realise how good it makes them feel to lend a helping hand. We have had a positive impact on the lives of 18,000 people who have really needed extra care and support during and after their personal crisis.”