Q: What will the Strategic Alliance look like and where will people be situated?
A: The process that Mainstream and Gateway is undertaking is about just that - figuring out how and where we might share resources to enhance and make our services and supports better, together. We will be exploring a number of future scenarios to determine which is best for people supported, the employees who support them, and the Boards responsible for governance.
Q: Will Mainstream & Gateway end up as one agency?
A: The intention of the Strategic Alliance initiative is to explore possibilities in relation to an alliance not a merger. Specifically, we are looking at what ‘back office functions’ might we share, and ways to enhance supports. The two Boards will need to approve all directions and decisions. The process is, however, an evolving one and if the strategic alliance is successful, the possibility of a merger beyond the 2-year timeline might arise, but that is not the intention of this initiative.
Q: Is a merger possible with 2 different funders?
A: Yes, technically, it is. But again we are not pursuing a merger at this time.
Q: How will staff interact and share resources?
A: It is likely that staff will share training opportunities, and this can begin soon. Both agencies support people with dual diagnosis and have identified joint training as beneficial to all.
Q: Gateway is unionized. Mainstream is not. How will this affect the alliance?
A: Employees form unions - unions are employee not agency driven. It is the employees’ choice, not management. A union could approach Mainstream employees at any time to form a union. There is no obligation for Mainstream employees to unionize. Gateway will continue to follow its union requirements.
Q: How will administration manage two office properties when there is one shared back office service?
A: Determining the best use of physical office and service space is one component of the exploration process, as is the role of property management. Gateway currently has a part-time Property Manager. Mainstream does not have a Property Manager the function is currently covered by the Executive Director. How to best use resources to meet all the needs in this area is an important piece of the future scenario planning.
Q: Will the strategic alliance affect wages? Will employee’s wages increase?
A: We try to compensate fairly based on the funding we receive. Wages go up when the amount we’re funded does, which isn’t directly related to this initiative. The Strategic Alliance initiative received funds, so the project coordinator and consultant wages come from that extra funding.
Q: Will there be job cuts?
A: Making cuts to direct support staff jobs is not part of, or the intention of, the potential strategic alliance. One of the key drivers of the strategic alliance is leadership succession planning for both agencies. The timing of Mainstream ED’s retirement is being planned for when alliance decisions have been made and implementation near completion (Spring 2020). There are other people in management roles at both Mainstream and Gateway that are also retiring, which will impact decisions and organizational structures. Gateway’s ED is planning to retire by approximately 2022.
Q: Will there be shared employees – people who work for both agencies?
A: There are currently people who work for both agencies in direct support roles. Through the strategic alliance process, it is likely that some administration positions will be specifically designed to work for both Mainstream and Gateway.
Q: Will people supported have access to each agency’s programs?
A: Although Mainstream and Gateway receive base funding from different Ministries and have specific criteria to meet to obtain funding, the hope is to better address the needs of people who fall through the cracks. This could involve combining resources in ways that increase capacity and better meet the needs of people, with a focus on those with a dual diagnosis.
Q: Will the strategic alliance have a positive impact on the number of people supported?
A: Target numbers of people supported are technically determined by funding provided. Also, numbers are impacted by the ways in which supports are provided, which continues to evolve and change over time. Our hope is that capacity grows as a result of the strategic alliance.
Q: How do you anticipate families, communities, and other stakeholders will feel about the alliance between Gateway and Mainstream?
A: Both Gateway and Mainstream will continue to provide existing services and supports. One key objective of the strategic alliance is long-term sustainability, which stakeholders should be pleased about. We are hopeful that communities will be happy with this direction. Importantly, the alliance provides us with an opportunity to do something unique and different to better services.
Q: Is it the plan for one Executive Director, John from Gateway, to lead both Mainstream and Gateway when Kevin retires? Will John be available to people like Kevin is?
A: Leadership succession planning was one of the initial drivers, and is a strong consideration and part of future scenario planning. Both Kevin and John are confident that one ED can lead both organizations, and this is one scenario being seriously considered. Recognizing the importance of succession planning, Kevin has made a concerted effort to prepare Mainstream’s Admin Team (Directors, Supervisors and Coordinators) to take on more leadership responsibilities and has delegated a number of functions to prepare for his departure. The future Executive Director will be able to rely strongly on Mainstream’s Admin Team.
Q: Will management staff be stretched even thinner?
A: The plan is to strengthen administrative and management supports through the strategic alliance. For example, Mainstream currently does not have formal Human Resource (HR) or Information Technology (IT) positions. Gateway has employees that oversee these areas but there is room for enhancement. We are confident that through the strategic alliance, these areas of business will receive a boost and staff will not be stretched but will be strengthened.
Q: Will there be joint events, training, and fundraising?
A: Yes. As the organizations begin working closer together we expect there will be a number of opportunities for joint fundraising and events. Staff training and knowledge exchanges are in the planning phase already.
Q: Will the strategic alliance change the values and culture of each agency?
A: Mainstream and Gateway staff completed a Cultural Assessment to determine where values and beliefs align and don’t align, which will help determine where focused attention is needed to maintain the positive cultures of each agency. Both agencies have successfully partnered on a previous project and entered into this initiative because of the alignment of values, such as approaching their work from a person-centered place. The Project Team, made up of people from both agencies, created a shared ‘Vision’ at the front-end of the initiative – the ease with which they did so, and the statement itself was reflective of shared values. This was a great start to the process.
Q: Will the alliance impact the way we (Mainstream) interact with people supported, for example, we don’t use physical restraints.
A: While Gateway supports people with mental health challenges and Mainstream supports people with developmental differences, both agencies support people with a dual diagnosis, and approach their work with similar ‘person-centered’ values. Neither agency uses physical restraints. The strategic alliance should only have positive not negative impacts on people supported, as staff from both agencies will have access to additional training opportunities and their knowledge is sure to expand through both formal and informal knowledge exchange, and interactions with new people.
Q: Will agency policies be the same?
A: It is likely that through the strategic alliance both agencies will share and adopt policies that benefit operations, and that some policies will change to reflect new ways of doing things, such as shared back office functions.
Q: How can we learn more about each other’s agencies?
A: Both agencies have websites that contain detailed up-to-date information. Additionally, joint Knowledge Exchange events that are open to employees from both agencies are in the planning phase and will continue onward as the strategic alliance moves forward.
Q: Will Gateway and Mainstream be housed in the same building?
A: Currently, both agencies use their respective office buildings to full capacity. Ways in which to house operations is being assessed and will be determined at a later date.
Q: How will we learn more about the Strategic Alliance?
A: A Communication Plan is in place and ways to best reach stakeholders has been determined by the Project Team and implemented by the consultants. Check the shared ‘Strategic Alliance’ web-page, accessible on both agencies’ websites, for regular updates. And, stay tuned for joint events and learning opportunities.
Q: What if the strategic alliance doesn’t work?
A: A strategic alliance is a complex endeavor, and that is why the process being used is extremely consultative and involves methodically implementing one component at a time to promote informed decision-making by both Boards and Executive Directors. If it is determined not to be in the best interest of both agencies to formally align, at minimum they will have an increased awareness of ways in which they might further collaborate and partner together.