On 28 March 2017, SIMNA NSW held their first breakfast event of 2017. Approximately 50 people gathered at Uniting to listen to and learn from three social impact measurement practitioners reflecting on their experiences of turning training in social impact measurement into practice. We had panelists who work across the private, public and not-for profit sectors, using different tools, including Social Return on Investment (SROI), Results Based Accountability (RBA) and Outcomes Star.
The event was facilitated by James Dudfield, Impact Measurement Director at Social Ventures Australia.
Christina Jarron, White Ribbon Australia: Results Based Accountability
First up we had Christina Jarron, Research and Social Impact Manager at White Ribbon Australia. Christina spoke about implementing Results Based Accountability (RBA) at White Ribbon and the five aspects of turning training into practice she had identified:
- Having the support in the organisation to make it happen. Christina highlighted the importance of having a manager that was also very keen on social impact management, RBA in particular, and how this support from above was very helpful.
- Knowledge of Methods. Research and training is an important step, we need the understanding and belief in the method/framework before we can teach others. Christina spoke about doing a RBA 101 course, reading the book by Mark Friedman ‘Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough’ and also attending the RBA conference before she felt like she could implement it.
- Give it a go. This point refers to just starting and seeing what happens, things don’t have to be absolutely perfect before you give it a go, you will figure out the kinks along the way. Christina mentioned that the RBA framework was quite helpful here as it acted as a guide and helped her identify what White Ribbon already had and what was needed to develop.
- Putting the framework and her learnings out there in the organisation, encouraging discussion about what success looks like, staff input and buy-in.
- Implementation. This is the most challenging part! Some organisations choose to do this part with an implementation expert. Christina highlighted the challenge in changing how some programs capture data, what data is captured and developing a data collection guide, but she believes that White Ribbon is getting there.
Next steps: Collect, Report, Iterate, (Repeat). These are the next steps Christina identified that will most likely be more of a cycle than linear progression. This is where you tweak the process and/or change elements.
Underlying all of these steps is the overarching aspect of Support. This includes internal support from the organisation, management and team and external support from impact measurement experts, communities like SIMNA and your organisation’s stakeholders.
Nicki Hutley, URBIS: Social Return on Investment
Next up we had Nicki Hutley, Chief Economist at URBIS. Nicki spoke about implementing Social Return On Investment (SROI) and how this framework works for them. She spoke about the true Triple Bottom Line Analysis – Environment, Economic and Social, the fact that the social part had been missing for a long time and also how SROI helped identify and fill this gap.
As an example Nicki spoke about the work URBIS had done with Ability Links, a disability program that links people with the services they needed and supports them in becoming more connected to their community. SROI helped them measure the social benefit of this program. Combining all aspects of analysis, the program came out with a cost benefit ratio of three, meaning that for every $1 spent, the government would get $3 back. These $3 comprised of $1 in economic saving and the other $2 in social benefits. The program not only paid for itself but also had very real social benefits.
Another example Nicki gave was the potential Social Impact Bond targeted at Out Of Home Care (OOHC). OOHC is an increasing issue in NSW, and Australia as a whole, and requires a very large investment in order to create changes. Social impact bonds work via an ‘avoided costs’ approach (investment is realised from the money saved by Government). The possible massive social impact, if the cycles that lead to children ending up on OOHC can be broken, is almost invaluable.
Nicki then highlighted the concerns she has surrounding the framework going forward. She recommends economists and organisations use consistent financial proxies and make sure they have the approximation correct. She also recognised the importance of adherence to the SROI framework and maintaining fidelity as it is not a one size fits all approach. More organisations using the framework, not just the larger organisations with economists in house, is a positive step forward but also raises the risk of muddying the SROI waters as it is utilised/adapted in different ways.
Lou Limoges, Uniting: Outcomes Star
The final panellist of the morning was Lou Limoges, Practice Lead Youth and Homelessness at Uniting. Lou spoke about her role implementing the Outcomes Star framework at Uniting.
The Outcomes Star framework was chosen as it spoke most clearly to her in regards to the programs within Uniting, mainly homelessness targeted. Lou also spoke about how important it was to work in a bottom-up approach in order to connect with front line workers and develop commitment to the process. In terms of change management, Lou mentioned how too much chance at once can be difficult and leave staff confused and disenchanted with the idea.
Lou stated she was lucky to be doing this work in a flexible organisation that values learning and innovation, as implementing Outcomes Star has been a challenging and non-linear process with both road-blocks and wins along the way. Due to Uniting’s restructure Lou now has more organisational oversight which enables her to give clearer guidance and ensure adherence to the framework across the board. She also mentioned how the Outcomes Star framework supports more systematic and holistic work.
Another important point Lou made was identifying the opportunity for Uniting to decide what pieces of data they specifically wanted to know, not just what the Government asks for, but what they want to know to further their learning and the organisations impact.
A big thank you to our three panellists, your willingness to share your experience and learnings is much appreciated. Also special thanks to Uniting for hosting the event.