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IT, HR and overseas research benefit young mums and babies

Hong Kong, 14 Jun 2016

For nearly 30 years Mother's Choice in Hong Kong has supported more than 51,000 young women, cared for 3,600 babies and assisted with 1,400 successful adoption cases.

The non-profit cares for babies and children needing permanent homes and for single girls facing crisis pregnancies.

“Mother’s Choice serves the many young girls facing crisis pregnancy and children without families in our community - our passion is to see their lives transformed and to give them hope for the future,” says Alia Eyres, CEO of Mother’s Choice.

Eyres, born and raised in Hong Kong, grew up volunteering at Mother’s Choice alongside her mother and six siblings. She says the experience shaped her into the person she is today.

“My parents co-founded Mother’s Choice when I was just nine-years old. Watching my parents and their friends make generosity and service a priority inspired me to make a difference to the lives of others.”

Disrupting the system

Eyres’ efforts to “disrupt the system” saw her win one of Macquarie’s David Clarke Social Innovation Fellowships in 2014.

She used the grant to meet with research institutions, child care agencies and child development experts in the United States to learn how they approached caring for children and young women.

“I knew that we needed access to best practices, business skills and different ways of doing things, but I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, and I didn’t know how to bring that kind of disruption and best practice to our work without looking outside,” Eyres said.

“The Fellowship allowed me to do that and we gained so much more than what we set out to achieve.”

On her research trips Eyres and her team learnt how other organisations safeguarded the best interests of children in their care, developed milestones to facilitate quicker resolutions with families and found new solutions for the growing problem of children in the system.

“We have benefitted in so many ways from the Fellowship and can now move forward with confidence, knowing where to invest sustainably, unafraid to innovate and ask advice from experienced individuals and organisations around the world,” says Eyres.

"I will look back on my Fellowship as a turning point - not only for Mother's Choice but also for my confidence as a leader in setting a vision and building the foundations to see it through.”

Applications for the 2016 David Clarke Social Innovation Fellowships open on 13 July, 2016 and the Fellowship recipient in Hong Kong will receive a grant of up to $HK150,000. Find out more.

The Fellowships are presented biennially to CEOs of non-profit organisations in Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom and selected US cities to recognise, promote and reward ideas that address social needs, and to encourage lateral thinking on community issues.

Transforming lives through technology

The Mother’s Choice team have benefited from Macquarie’s support in a variety of ways, from event hosting to senior management mentoring, human resources advice and staff fundraising.

This support has also included a grant from the Macquarie Group Foundation in 2015 to help Mother’s Choice improve its IT infrastructure and processes.

As a way of leveraging that funding, multiple members of Macquarie’s IT team in Hong Kong also contributed their time and expertise over several months during the project.

“Many people don’t understand or realise how technology can really impact the lives of the most vulnerable in the community but Macquarie was one of the first to really believe in it for Mother’s Choice,” says Eyres.

What previously took 20 hours can now take 20 minutes for our case managers and that enables us to be a lot more efficient and effective.

As a result of the project, Mother’s Choice now has network connectivity between its offices, a new phone system, a document management solution to improve processes and communication, an internal staff directory, software which allows for easier tracking, management and participation of volunteers, and an online case management system which has resulted in the organisation’s intake process being more systematic and measurable.

“What previously took 20 hours can now take 20 minutes for our case managers and that enables us to be a lot more efficient and effective,” Eyres says. “It also helps us respond to our clients who are often in desperate need and it’s helped us to become much more agile and impactful.”

“It’s been amazing to see us become more consistent in the work that we do, have our work become more sustainable and also have the potential to really scale what we do through technology.”

Macquarie staff member Casey Gallagher, who was part of the volunteer IT team, saw great value in supporting Mother’s Choice.

“When we first began speaking to the Mother's Choice team, they had no network connectivity between their offices, limited phone lines and had to rely heavily on physical movement of any case data,” she says.

“Given the hundreds of girls, babies and families they deal with on a daily basis, this was simply incredible. On top of that, they were managing thousands of volunteers manually.”

For their efforts, the IT team won the Pro Bono Adviser of the Year category in Macquarie’s annual 2016 Staff in the Community Awards.

A team of human resources specialists at Macquarie are now continuing the partnership and working with the Mother’s Choice team to improve its internal HR systems.

Image caption: Alia Eyres, CEO of Mother's Choice.

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