Jacqui Graham: Meaningful Engagement in a Large Organisation

• Written by Alanna Irving

Jacqui GrahamJacqui Graham is a social entrepreneur who believes in using her skills for social good. Driven to improve the lives of New Zealanders who experience mental illness, Jacqui founded and serves as joint chief executive of the Wise Group, one of the largest non-government providers of community-based mental health and wellness services in New Zealand. The organisation employs over one thousand staff and is regarded as one of the most sophisticated and innovative NGO service providers. Jacqui sat down with us to discuss the importance of staff engagement and why she decided to use Loomio.

We were looking not so much for a product, but a process that would allow an organisation of our size to talk to each other in a meaningful way.

For Jacqui, the evidence that Loomio really worked was when the results of a staff engagement survey asking “do you feel involved in the decision-making of the organisation?” showed 96% positive results in the leadership team initially trailing use of Loomio – higher than any other team in the organisation. Wise Group is now rolling out Loomio to other teams and expects similar results.

Apps can help your processes and systems, but if you have something that fundamentally changes the satisfaction levels and engagement levels of staff, that seems to be magical and naturally supports the evolution of the organisation, something that’s actually being generated by the people themselves, what more can you ask for as a chief executive?

Wise Group

The Wise Group has a major goal to involve those they support in decision-making, who often have mental illness. Jacqui sees Loomio as a platform for inclusion, especially of vulnerable people. A number of Wise Group staff also have experienced mental illness, and engaging them in a safe, supportive way is critical.

There was a lot of excitement when a certain staff member first posted on Loomio, someone who would have been timid about sharing and had never done something like that before. She was putting her ideas out there. Loomio is easy to use, but it's also safe and respectful. Vulnerable people aren't going to get shot down. To roll Loomio out to our client group would be wonderful because it’s a group who are rarely consulted about anything in their lives and have a lot done to them. It’s so liberating for our staff and our organisation, and I have no doubt it will change the way our client group can participate in their own wellbeing.

Jacqui also has a call to action for more dialogue and collaboration throughout society:

If the government were to pick Loomio up and enter into dialogue with the NGO sector and the people, it would be liberating for the whole country. They are sometimes are afraid of not being able to control what they hear, or it’s too risky, but my experience has been that people enter into really strong, healthy dialogue, and just try to make the world a better place, whatever their part of the world is.

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