GENERATIONS – Journal of the American Society on Aging

outside the sector. These outsiders bring fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and substan- tial resources to move quickly and aggressively. In markets nationwide, digital disruptors like Uber and Lyft are moving into non-emergency medical transportation, national platforms like Mom’s Meals are delivering meals to high-need individuals, and for-profit care management and homecare services are applying their busi- ness know-how to provide localized solutions at greater efficiency or lower cost. For such competitors, CBO-style services represent substantial new revenue opportuni- ties, linked to either reimbursement via the MA supplemental benefit or through worthwhile contracts with healthcare organizations that believe that by investing in the delivery of social services they can improve their clinical and operational performance. What these competi- tors may lack in local know-how (traditionally, a key advantage for CBOs), they make up for in strategic thinking, business savvy, infrastruc- Today, CBOs need to view healthcare providers and payers as potential competitors. ture, and scale. For this reason, healthcare orga- nizations may opt to partner with competitors such as those mentioned above, rather than with CBOs, which have a history of providing such services in their communities. As significant as those two new sources of competition may be, CBOs cannot ignore their more traditional competitors: other nonprofit organizations providing similar services. Here though, the focus should not be on other CBOs satisfied with the status quo, but on those that are pushing the envelope. These organizations learn to understand their partners’ terminology, operate more like businesses, build interest in and demand for their offerings, replicate effective cross-sector partnership models in other markets, and forge a strategic path toward growth. In doing so, these

CBOs position themselves to capture an outsized share of the social services market, even in the face of increased, aggressive competition. The basic questions any CBO leader should ask are whether their organization has what it takes to compete in this new landscape and whether the rewards outweigh the risks of change. Given that the market for social services continues to expand, the answer to the second question should be obvious. Regarding the first, the answer depends on the CBO’s ability to glean insights and apply new strategies and practices from the three types of competitors highlighted above. How CBOs Can Compete While there is no set playbook for success in a sector undergoing rapid and continuous trans- formation, CBOs can triumph through apply- ing a combination of core strengths and bold approaches to create new value. The following four strategies can help CBOs position them- selves to compete: Know the market (really well) : One key advantage for many CBOs comes from years, even decades, of experience serving people in the local community. By developing an up-to- date understanding of the population, the chal- lenges it faces, and its evolving needs, a CBO can be laser-focused on practical, effective solutions for that population. Bolster this with a complete understanding of the pressures and priorities of local health providers and payers, knowledge of evolving reimbursement models, and a robust analysis of all potential competitors (not just other CBOs). Market knowledge can improve a CBO’s ability to identify emerging opportunities and respond proactively to address existing and new challenges. Leverage strengths (but don’t be limited by them) : Every established CBO has a num- ber of advantages for providing value to people, proving value to payers, and positioning itself as valuable to healthcare partners. Advantages may include a proven track record of results, established programs and services and the infra-

56 | Spring 2019

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