Competition-and-innovation-in-aged-care #agedcare

With the rise of purpose-based for-profit corporations, not-for-profits now more than ever need to strongly embed their mission in their culture and marketing to stand out from the crowd.

“Purpose is being seen as the new genetic code for business.”

How much and the extent to which we did any of these five simple tasks probably makes up much more of our ‘normal day’ than it did five or 10 years ago.

  • Checking email.web-internet _macbook_unsplash
  • Updating Facebook,
  • LinkedIn or other social media status.
  • Searching for information via an online search engine.
  • Researching a purchase, assignment or paper on the web.
  • Connecting with a friend, colleague or business via internet telephony, online chat or web capture.

In the last 24 hours, most of us would have done one or more of the above.

This simple snapshot provides some insights into the reasons behind the changing landscape of aged care and social services.

If we extend this example, as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Age Lab has done, and begin to imagine the impact of this technology on the lives of older people we begin to see how and why change in the sector is necessary.

In a short animated video called ‘Life on demand: A possible tomorrow’ Age Lab captured a hypothetical day in the life of a US elder.

The video showcases the range of technology and disruptive business models that an older person might use in a typical day, replacing existing formal services. In this scenario, a  typical day includes using services such as

Customers are driving the change in aged care

Consumers are already and will increasingly be interacting with their colleagues, peers, services and businesses differently  because of the evolving digital marketplace. This reality is turning us all into ‘non stop’ customers to which businesses, including aged care, must respond.

A non stop customer is one who is comfortable in the digital marketplace and whose journey to purchase is no longer linear but involves multiple channels of evaluation, re-evaluation and enquiry. They embrace the art of prospecting, reviewing and interacting with business when researching and reviewing their purchase decisions.

So while the Age Lab example might seem a bit farfetched or only available to the economically secure older Australian, the availability of these services will change the landscape of aged care and social services.

Aged care’s reform horizon – enter new competitors and business models


Significant change is being driven by government policy, which is reforming the way they  fund and contract for services to better reflect a consumer-driven marketplace.

The primary objective of this reform is to ensure the long-term sustainability of services to the community in the face of finite government resources.

The aged care sector is poised to operate in an environment that is closer to a free market model with greater deregulation of the supply of services through changes in government policy. The federal government has already announced the removal of the Aged Care Approvals Round for home care packages from February 2017.

Many organisations have seen the writing on the wall and have begun to get ready for a more open marketplace for aged care and caring.

As a result, we are already seeing new models and players enter the marketplace. These have also been highlighted as some of the key trends to watch out for in the sector .[1]

disruptive innovation compass disruptive innovation compass

Examples include:

  • Disruptive models such as web platform Better Caring, which provides an independent care and support worker network for hire similar in concept to the US tech start-ups HomeHero and Honor.
  • Diversified product offerings such as wellness centres and onsite GP clinics.
  • Mergers, consolidations and IPO activity, new market entrants and exits.

Historically the not-for-profit sector has dominated in the delivery of aged care services across Australia. These organisations are committed to investing their surplus to achieving their mission and returning broader societal benefits. These commitments enable them to seek various taxation benefits.

Many are predicting the balance in the aged care sector is set to be tipped in favour of  for-profit providers and that is almost inevitable. They point to the US, UK and NZ experience as evidence to support this argument.

What defines us also divides us

The polemics of the for-profit and not-for-profit debate are well-rehearsed across a range of sectors and industries. Depending on where you sit in the debate you will examine the issue from differing viewpoints.

Not-for-profit providers are seen as enjoying a benefit (taxation) which is viewed as providing a competitive advantage vis-a-vis the for-profit business counterparts.

While the for-profits are characterised as focusing on achieving profit through driving costs down, which may impact negatively on service quality.

In a recent journal article  titled Residential Aged Care Policy in Australia – are we learning from evidence?’ Richard Baldwin and colleagues  found that  a “short review of the international literature…suggests that there are differences in outcomes for residents between services operated by not-for-profits and for-profit providers (not-for-profit providers deliver higher quality of care)…”. The authors did caution however that “Australia has a different structural pattern  to other countries which may limit comparability”. While neither argument has been tested in Australia they remain embedded in the polemic. It is unlikely that this debate will abate with the reform agenda and its continuation will hurt all aged care providers.

This debate is not helpful to moving the sector forward.  It represents a level of navel gazing and discourse which while of interest to service providers does not have resonance with consumers. Instead what we should be focussing on and putting our energies into is discovering what is important to the consumer and their families and innovating our product offering or communication strategies to effectively meet this high priority needs.

MissionMarket VS mission don’t mean much for the consumer

Irrespective of the ownership mix debate,  the key consideration of consumers is not the charitable status, or otherwise, of the organisation but rather does the organisation deliver services to them that are good or bad, or of a high or low quality?

So what is mission’s place in the marketplace

Not-for-profits, however, are not alone in delivering a return to the community and many for-profit organisations are operating a triple bottom line approach to business, where they seek to monitor not only their financial bottom line but the social and environment impacts of their business as well. There has been a growing focus on for-profit organisations distinguishing themselves in the marketplace for the ‘good work’ they do. Globally we are seeing the evolution of Benefit Corporations and B Corps. These organisations collectively represent a global movement to use business as a force for good.. Benefit Corporations have developed from a realisation that businesses and the work they do impact more than just shareholders.


In the US and UK you can be certified as a B Corp, while in Australia there is a growing movement to enable B Corp certification and legal recognition. B Lab, a not-for-profit organization which assesses companies applying for B Corp status has recently set up in Australia. (See

This aligns to a strong movement to recasting purpose in business. With purpose being seen as an integral part of the business success and re-injecting ‘humanity in business’.[2][3]. Purpose is being seen as the new genetic code for business.

These movements demonstrate the value of mission to business and community. It is not surprising then that the paper Changes of Tomorrow[4] identified the rise of purpose-based organisations as being among the most significant trends in business.

Businesses are being encouraged to embed their culture and values in their products and services as a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

There is a growing focus on building and supporting purpose in and amongst employees, in part driven by meeting the needs of the Millennial worker’s hunger for meaning.[5].

Purpose is seen as returning

  • greater employee satisfaction
  • greater customer advocacy and loyalty, and
  • higher quality of product.[6]

This is one area that not-for-profits can, and should, be ahead of the game because they have a compelling message to share with their customers and have staff who have self-selected to work with them because of their support of the organisation’s values and mission.

The ability to manage this interplay between the organisation and the individual staff member’s purpose and make them stick remains a challenge and an area for further work for not-for-profits. (See the work of Echoing Green   or take inspiration from   US ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s which has established a cross-departmental team dedicated to working on how best to instil individual purpose and connection. Winning hearts and minds of customers

The not-for-profits’ challenge in this new environment

The challenge, then, for  not-for-profit providers is to ensure they weave into their culture, business models and marketing a strong link to their values and mission and strongly differentiate their mission from that of ‘purpose’ organisations.

The Harvard Business Review paper, ‘The Business Case for Purpose’[7] identified the full range of business functions and activities where purpose/mission should be integrated and embedded. These are:

  • strategy development
  • branding
  • formation and community of culture/values
  • business model
  • customer acquisition and training
  • marketing
  • leadership development and training
  • product/service development
  • operating model
  • performance metrics and rewards
  • supply chain management
  • talent management, and
  • vendor management.

Key to achieving this will be selecting, developing and supporting the kind of leadership that can communicate and align others around the purpose/mission of the organisation.

Leaders need to be able to express with clarity, enthusiasm and passion the vision, mission and values. Their culture and messaging must appeal to the hearts and minds of customers and their community.

Being more customer centered – how to

Added to this, there is a need to shift from an ‘organisation-centred’ marketing mindset towards a ‘customer-centred’ or customer-focussed approach. A customer-centred approach should explore and address the customers’ needs and wants.[8] It is also about offering customers a consistently high quality experience in their interactions with the organisation. The goal is to make the customer feel that they are the centre or heart of your service offering.

On mechanism to better understand the needs and desires of your customers is the co-production movement. It providers a mechanism to hear from and gain insights from current, future and key stakeholders to your business. In using this model business can design or amend existing products and services to better meet the needs of consumers now and into the future, plus gain an understanding of what is important for consumers to better target marketing efforts. [9] [10]

Lessons in how to communicate mission can be learned from other successful not-for-profits already achieving success in this area such as in the US.[11]

While the challenges are significant and perhaps only add to your to do list, the potential rewards for your not-for-profit and your clients are significant. I urge you to explore the opportunity that re-committing to your mission provides you, your colleague and organisation.

Originally published in the Australian Community Care Review – Feb 2016


[1] Corrs Chambers Westgrath 2015 Five aged care trends to watch. Viewed 5 Jan 2016

[2] EY Beacon Institute Undated. Beacon institute – Our Work. Viewed on 5 Jan 2016

[3] EY Beacon Institute Undated. Harvard Business Review – The Business Case for purpose. 2015 Viewed 5 Jan 2016$FILE/ey-the-business-case-for-purpose.pdf

[4] Hyper Island 2015. Changes of Tomorrow. Viewed on 5 Jan 2016

[5] Klein, L,K. Galinsky,L. Grant, Gl. Why purpose matters: It may be the ticket to social impact. August 2015

[6] Ibid Harvard Business Review. p1

[7] Ibid, p12

[8] Dolnicar, S. Lazarevski, K. 2009. Marketing in no-profit organisations : an international perspective. University of Wollongong Research Online. Viewed on 5 Jan. 16

[9] Etgard, M. Ways of engaging consumers in co-production. Technology Innovation Management Review. Viewed 7

[10] Burkett, I. 2012. Co-designing for social good Part 1:The role of citizens in designing and delivering social service. ProB ono News. Viewed 7 Jan 2016

[11] Gray, Chloe. Nine valuable marketing lessons from a non-profit – Kissmetric Blog Viewed 5 Jan 2016