Over the years I have worked for a number of different health charities. All do great work to provide supports and services and all work exceptionally hard to fundraise for these services and for the necessary research for treatments and cures. Over time, it became clear to me that while each health charity is unique in the cause it supports, there are some commonalities particularly in the needs of caregivers – and there may be opportunities to work together to more efficiently deliver services to a greater number of people. To that end, the MS Society of Canada approached two other health charities supporting people with neurological conditions: the Alzheimer Society and Parkinson Society Canada. Recognizing that there are many topics which appeal to all caregivers in the broader disease community, our three organizations have decided to partner to offer caregiver webinars. I see this collaboration as an opportunity for practice, idea and resource sharing as well as a way to potentially avoid the duplication of precious resources.
Following a survey administered by all three organizations through posting on the respective websites we were able to capture key caregiver needs and topics of interest. We convened two think tanks (one in English and one in French) made up of caregivers representing each organization to drill down further on what we heard through the surveys. I had the pleasure of participating in the English think tank; we asked for their input to distill down the survey content into their suggestions for topics and themes of caregiver webinars. Ensuring that the caregiver voice is represented in this initiative is critical to all three organizations.
The rich information provided by over 500 caregivers across Canada in the survey will not only help us define webinar topics but will also prove useful and insightful in supporting further initiatives for all three health charities. The experience so far of working in partnership has been truly successful – I can see doors opening up for additional collaborations and this partnership can be used as a model for future cooperation among diverse health charities. While each organization has strength in working independently, there is even greater strength in what we can accomplish for those we serve by working collaboratively when opportunities arise.
Look out for our national caregiver webinars to be offered later in 2015 and 2016!