On 7 June 2016, SIMNA NSW members heard from a panel of experts in affordable housing and social impact measurement. The panel included Karen Walsh from SGCH, Stephen Bennett from the Centre for Social Impact, Mark Peacock from the impact investing team at Social Ventures Australia and Mike Myers from the National Affordable Housing Consortium. The event was facilitated by Susan Rudland from Urbis and hosted at the Sydney Urbis headquarters.
‘More than bricks and mortar’
A key theme for the workshop was the importance of identifying and measuring both the housing and non-housing outcomes of affordable housing.
Karen explained that looking beyond housing outcomes was essential to SGCH becoming a ‘social impact organisation’. This, she explained, requires the organisation to go ‘beyond the bricks and mortar’ and see housing as a means to an end, the bedrock to creating opportunities for people and making a difference to their lives. To measure these diverse outcomes, SGCH focus on five domains: home, people community, services and organisation. Download a copy of the SGCH presentation on their journey to impact measurement.
Mike later described the need for the affordable housing sector to undergo systemic outcomes analysis. He also outlined two of the challenges National Affordable Housing Consortium have faced in attempting this: attribution and measuring benefits to diverse stakeholders. Download a copy of Mike’s presentation on measuring the social impact of affordable housing.
Shared measurement and comparison for social investment
Stephen Bennett from The Centre for Social Impact talked about the challenges and benefits of developing shared measurement frameworks. He described the process of agreeing on shared outcomes and indicators as being just as valuable as the development of the shared measurement framework itself. Download a copy of Stephen’s presentation on shared value and shared measurement frameworks.
Shared measurement frameworks would assist with comparing affordable housing initiatives, potentially supporting social investment in affordable housing. Impact investing is firmly on the agenda of large superannuation funds, however Mark from Social Ventures Australia described the current challenges with comparing investment options in terms of financial and social returns. Organisations are developing outcome measurement frameworks tailored to their operations and needs. Bringing together information on the social and financial impact of affordable housing initiatives in a consistent and comparable way will, he said, help the sector access these significant funds.
Mike noted that affordable housing has a public policy purpose. He argued that because of this, social benefit, as opposed to financial benefit, must drive outcomes.
Identifying targets, outcomes and indicators
Mike and Karen discussed the challenge of deciding which outcomes are important, moving beyond funder expectations when setting targets and the challenge of finding comparison data. The panel discussed shared measurement and the importance of selecting indicators that are important, useful, ethical and valid.
Mike quoted a well-known passage from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
`–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
As a reminder of the importance of getting back to basics and understanding the outcomes and impacts we are working towards, this was a fitting conclusion to a lively and informative workshop.
Thank you to the panel, our facilitator and Urbis for hosting the workshop.