The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) Evaluation
Additional Document Info
This research study has examined the scope of the Men’s Shed movement in Australia and the role of the Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) in facilitating the management and leadership of the ever-increasing number of Sheds across the country. This study represents the ‘voice’ of the Sheds, and the Shed Leaders, Shed Members and Health Care Workers who are the foundation of this ‘grass roots’ movement.
During the course of the research project most Shed Leaders expressed their support for the AMSA and the rationale was because AMSA does not represent a bureaucratic authority. It was that having a national association is a benefit to the Sheds for the reason that AMSA represents the ‘national voice’ of the Sheds. The benefits to men, the majority of whom are retired, and the growing numbers of men who work, youth, the disadvantaged, and disabled, and their participation in the Sheds correlates with their enhanced self-reported health and well-being. The social, cultural, spiritual and economic benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were also illuminated. We were enlightened to the fact that ‘Men's groups are breaking cycles’ and that the Men’s Sheds ‘are doing it for nothing…..[and have] helped many…..’. In essence, the Men’s Sheds represent one of the largest social, health and well-being organisations in this country.
The phenomenal growth of the Sheds has been a challenge for AMSA and, with the constraints of funding and limited resources, AMSA staff have extended themselves to the point of saturation. The findings here exemplify what the stakeholders say is needed to take the AMSA to new levels of governance and to support the growth of Men’s Sheds now and into the future.
1. The Australian Men’s Shed Movement has undergone an unprecedented level of growth in the last 2 years. According to the AMSA, Shed numbers have increased from 350 in May 2010 with 30,000 members to approximately 900 Sheds in December 2012 with 125,000 members.
2. Ascertaining the total membership of AMSA Sheds is difficult, given the ‘grass roots’ nature of the shed movement, and the fluid nature of the relationship between AMSA and the Sheds. Based on the survey data reveals there is an average of 40.5 members per Shed (based on a 31.1% response rate). The calculation of 900 x 40.5 = 36,450 and therefore, the total number of Shed Members may be approximately 40,000.
3. The current level of strategic planning is adequate given the goals and objectives of AMSA, and given the rapid growth and complexity of the Shed movement. However, it requires a more sophisticated and a specific planning regime to address future needs.
4. There is a limited number of Health Care Workers who visit the Sheds. Only 27.4% of Sheds reported that a Health Care Worker attends the Shed on a regular basis.
5. AMSA staff identified the financial constraints AMSA is currently facing.
6. AMSA staff identified the need for administrative assistance and a business and compliance manager.
7. AMSA staff identified the need to improve the internal communication processes within AMSA, and Shed Leaders and Members identified communication as an ongoing challenge.
8. Database issues highlight the need for an assistant for the Membership Manager and Administrator. For instance, three data entries are required to register one Shed in the ACT and Visionscape programs.
9. There is difficulty in obtaining and recording information regarding AMSA member details. We obtained a database list from AMSA but after contacting Sheds by telephone we needed to add 12 Sheds to the list and change the details of 75 Sheds – see Appendix ‘A’. This highlights the need for extra administrative assistance.
10. Most Shed Leaders suggest that the ongoing sustainability of the Shed is a concern - 93% of Shed Leaders reported that securing funding for the operational expenses of their Shed represents the primary challenge for the Shed in the coming year.
11. There is evidence (quantitative and qualitative) to suggest that the perceived lack of funding available to Sheds is a source of frustration and discontent particularly amongst many Shed Leaders. Shed Leaders and Members claim they do not know how to apply for funding and are offered limited assistance from AMSA. Further, the Sheds claim only the Super Sheds or Sheds in ‘dire straits’ receive funding.
12. There is a perception amongst Shed Leaders and Members that AMSA funding is only available to Super Sheds and ‘the chosen few’ and there is a sensed level of favoritism attached to the application and allocation of funds.
13. Indigenous inclusion in AMSA is important to facilitate future Indigenous participation.
14. Certain Sheds have demonstrated they are active in promoting reconciliation.
15. There is a perception that AMSA Insurance is not discounted.
16. Men’s Sheds save lives:
8.1 there are strong links between men’s self-reported participation and social connectedness;
8.2 attendance at the Sheds correlates with men’s self-reported health and well-being;
8.3 those Members who reported high levels of commitment to their Sheds also reported positive views about their health;
8.4 effective HR practices correlate with men’s self-reported health and well-being;
8.5 more sophisticated management practices lead to greater member participation, which in turn contributes to better, self-reported health outcomes for Shed Members.
17. In the survey, 31% of Shed Leaders identified the need to implement sustainable management practices as a key challenge in the next 12 months.
18. In the survey, 31% of Shed Leaders indicated that even though many Sheds are exempt from OH&S regulations there is a great need for Duty of Care. From a qualitative perspective Shed Leaders and Members recognise the potential risks involved with the use machinery and the conditions of some Sheds.
19. There is a limited number of Health Care Workers who visit the Sheds – only 27.4% of Sheds reported that a Health Care Worker attends the Shed on a regular basis.
20. Only 26.4% of those Sheds that participated in the survey have attended an AMSA Conference.
The following recommendations provide AMSA with a framework to arrive at more sophisticated governance management practices and support the unparalleled growth of Men’s Sheds:
1. AMSA review the ‘AMSA Governance and Management Policies’ to broaden the definition of conflict of interest. Further, it is recommended the constitution of the Board needs to include Indigenous representation, and representation from the Business, Local Government, Legal, Health, Social Work, Accounting and Academic sectors.
2. AMSA review their ‘Business Plan’ and the stated objectives of AMSA to provide more detailed and specific, measureable key performance indicators for each objective.
3. Whilst the current level of strategic planning is adequate given the rapid growth and complexity of the Shed movement, AMSA requires a more sophisticated and specific planning regime to address future needs.
4. AMSA seek more Government funding to be in a position to better service the ever growing number of Sheds and build Shed confidence.
5. AMSA increase Private Sector funding to support the Sheds.
6. Re-visit the role of the president of each State/Territory. Currently, the president is appointed by votes within a State (or Territory). Make appointments differently and perhaps given a new title - state/territory advisor/co-ordinator. Those in the role need to have certain skill sets (e.g. management skills, proactive, strategic, sustainable business skills, passionate leaders).
7. Distribution of funding to the Sheds and the method of dissemination of funding could also be carried out through regional co-ordinators. The list of funding recipients needs to be more transparent.
8. Systematise the link to Health Care providers with innovative interventions to enhance the health outcomes for Members.
9. Sustainable management practices developed and offered to the Sheds. The Sheds need more funding and if they are given assistance to build sustainable management practices they may become self-sufficient.
10. The EO of AMSA needs to be more accessible to the Sheds - develop a plan to visit Sheds in regions across Australia. For instance, invite Sheds in a particular region to meet with the EO at one particular Shed.
11. The EO’s profile needs to be added to the AMSA website.
12. Regional co-ordinators should be appointed to offer Sheds advice regarding management and funding, OH&S and Duty of Care.
13. Insurance – revisit and ensure all Shed Leaders/Shed Members understand the details of the insurance package offered by AMSA.
14. Safety Interventions – many Sheds resist OH&S but they are at least aware of their obligations to ensure Duty of Care – AMSA could develop innovative ways of introducing OH&S into all Sheds (e.g. forming relationships with Hearing Australia and – perhaps even provide ear protection for men in each Shed). AMSA also needs to have a clear policy (relative to each State) regarding working with children.
15. Greater recognition of the link between effective business management practices and the sustainability of the Sheds. Practices to include Training and Development, OH&S, Recruitment and Retention, Communication, Leadership.
16. Communication – develop innovative communication strategies to reach more Sheds. This also links to the EO visiting more Sheds across Australia.
17. Reconciliation – AMSA consider including the ‘black and white handshake’ in their logo.
18. AMSA staff need to keep at arms length with Sheds in terms of the governance of any individual Shed. Therefore, if any member of AMSA staff is a Board member of any particular Shed then that needs to be re-considered. When there is a strong perception that AMSA only associates with a chosen few, the association needs to eliminate that perception.
19. Recruit and appoint a Business and Compliance Manager. The AMSA database needs to be updated. Administrative assistance is also needed to maintain the database as was highlighted by having to add 12 Sheds to the list and change the details of 75 Sheds.
20. Computer programs – need to be more sophisticated and/or training provided to maximise the current programs.
21. AMSA need to relocate to larger and more suitable premises.