Collaboration - what makes it effective?

In response to COVID-19, Evelyn Rodrigues (Eve), Manager, Customer and Community at Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and Sabiene Heindl, Director at the Energy Charter have worked together to address some of the shared challenges across the water and energy sectors to deliver better outcomes for customers.

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Collaboration - what makes it effective?

About the Energy Charter  The Energy Charter is a national CEO-lead collaboration that supports the energy sector towards a customer-centric future. 

About Water Services Association of Australia The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) is the peak industry body representing the urban water industry. 

“Collaboration is all about humans. We sometimes think it's hard, big and time consuming, but it often might be no more than picking up the phone or sending an email. Find the combined passion to do better for your customers and communities and work with the people in your organisations that feel similarly.” - Sabiene Heindl, Director of the Energy Charter

Collaborations and shared engagement across the water and energy sector have focused on:

  • How to identify people who are having trouble paying their bills
  • How to best communicate to customers that support is available and encourage them to access it
  • How to use data to predict the challenges customers may face

It was the Energy Charter #BetterTogether – Getting Concessions to the Right People initiative that prompted the initial collaboration that focused on working together on cross sector referrals to inform customers about available concessions. Since then, further opportunities for collaboration have come through sharing knowledge and information. Sabiene and Eve have invited one another to webinars and meetings to present knowledge and hear but also to hear challenges. This helped them to identify the strengths and weaknesses across both sectors.

We asked Eve and Sabiene what they believe the essential factors of effective collaboration are:

1. Trust and confidence

The first and key factor to collaboration is trust. Both within sectors and across sectors. Building trust and confidence amongst ourselves and then across sectors is so powerful. Through trust and confidence, we can share information, learnings and work together to put our ‘shared’ customers and communities at the centre of what we do.

“We need to be building trust and confidence both working within our sectors but across sectors as well.” - Sabiene Heindl

2. Shared mindset - share, borrow, steal!

What do we do with the trust we’ve build? Sharing research can help to build a clearer understanding of customers and reduce barriers. One of the greatest gifts we have as communities and networks is the ability to learn from each other, share, be open and transparent. Using a sharing mindset for collaboration, collating information across and within sectors and communicating this information broadly can enable improvements in practice across the board.

3. We are all humans

The reality is collaboration is all about humans and often we think it's not. We put up barriers thinking it’s so time consuming, but we encourage everybody to think it might be no more than just picking up the phone or sending an email. Even if you don’t hit it off straight away, through a combined passion, people can just start doing stuff. Everybody can do this stuff you’re inspired and passionate to do better by customers and communities. We all work with good people within a number of organizations across all sectors that also feel passionate. Understanding that the customers we are supporting across sectors are the same humans is critical to providing better support, especially for programs designed to support those experiencing vulnerability.

4. From little things, big things grow

Collaboration and looking for ‘green shoots’ are the way forward; when business, organisation or individuals are doing ‘the good’ it should be communicated broadly. Highlight ‘what’s happening that is helping customers and how we can do more of that’.

“Collaboration doesn't have to be formal or complicated, you just have to look for it and chat with people.” - Eve Rodrigues

Hear from Evelyn Rodrigues (Eve), Manager,Customer and Community at Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA)and Sabiene Heindl, Director at The Energy Charter on TCP Connect Webinar 21 - Collaborating within and across the water and energy sectors to improve outcomes for customers during COVID-19.


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