By Matt Bevan, SIMNA NSW Committee member
The end of year event for the SIMNA NSW chapter is a time where our members get together to reflect and celebrate the year that was, and to look forward to 2017.
It is also a time where the chapter committee, who volunteer their time during the year, can be officially thanked by members for their efforts in leading the local network.
Whilst this tends to be a very busy time of year, we are always pleased to see this event well attended and to experience that buzz that signifies another engaging and successful SIMNA event.
During my introduction to the event I provided a summary of the SIMNA activities this year, which included;
- Vibrant state chapter events around Australia
- Co-convening the Think Outcomes conference
- Celebrating success in social impact through our SIMNA awards
I acknowledged that these activities have again been resourced by the hard work and time volunteered by our members and supporters.
The other big change for SIMNA this year has been a change to the governance arrangements, with the incorporation of SIMNA Limited as a company limited by guarantee.
This new structure was at the request of members, who wanted a better vehicle to lead change.
Membership is open – and it’s open to anyone who;
- believes decision making should include the social impact that activities have on society; and
- is willing to be a shared voice to lead change.
I suggested that the role of SIMNA in leading change, both within our own organisations and in society, is as important as ever: reflecting on a quote by Margaret Mead;
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
This is what SIMNA is about – and it is only limited by the determination and persistence of its members – and their creativity and imagination for a better world.
The Panel was introduced by Les Hems, the evening’s facilitator, who was able to talk to the initial inception of SIMNA back in 2012. Along with being one of the leading experts on social impact measurement in Australia, Les was instrumental in the original meetings that led to local networks being set up following the October 2011 Social impact Measurement in Australia conference, supported by the “Investing in Impact Partnership” project partners.
Les also highlighted the importance of the social impact measurement movement from a number of perspectives, not least a concerted drive by government to better direct funds to interventions that make a difference, and the need for innovation within service design.
The panel for the evening was made up of;
- Dr Gillian Considine from the Smith Family, and
- Mark Peacock of Social Ventures Australia
Les really captured the spirit of SIMNA events by facilitating an open and respectful discussion with the panel, who both openly shared information and insights aimed at helping members to better lead change in their own organisations.
Dr Gillian Considine, The Smith Family
As one of the winners of the 2016 SIMNA award for Excellence in Social Impact Measurement, The Smith Family has continued to go from strength to strength in setting an example of how to build an integrated organisational framework.
The key components of the approach taken by the Smith Family are;
- An organizational-wide goal of improving the outcomes of the children and young people they support
- Having rigorous measurement and evaluation systems embedded in business as usual
- Using results to inform internal policy and practice
- Public transparency on the outcomes being achieved.
The Smith Family has impact measurement as part of its strategic plan and now has the systems, teams and the infrastructure to support measurement practices.
This development didn’t happen overnight, and has been an iterative process over the last 5 years.
Gillian was able to talk to some of the surprises and many examples of learnings that have shaped and changed practice in the programs that The Smith Family run.
Whilst it’s hard to record all the insights provided to members at these events, the main benefit for those that attend is an open and honest sharing of the lessons learned and the ability to ask questions that may generate ideas to take back to members own organisations.
What is most encouraging is to hear that The Smith Family is planning to continue improving its impact measurement practices, including – but not limited to the development of a data warehouse. The warehouse will enhance their existing data analysis and reporting infrastructure and, provide systems that deliver local level analysis and reporting tools.
Mark Peacock, Impact Investing at Social Ventures Australia
Mark is a leader in structuring financing opportunities for impact investing. Mark works across the social, affordable, disability and Indigenous housing sectors to structure financing opportunities that generate both a financial and social return for investors and the broader community.
The highlight again this year for NSW is that the NSW government is leading the way in social impact bonds, introducing and supporting 2 potential transactions a year.
This last year has seen work on transactions in recidivism and youth homelessness, with the coming year to focus on mental health / chronic heath and early adoption / youth unemployment.
More information on past, current and future social impact bonds can be found at http://www.osii.nsw.gov.au/
This regular cycle of impact investing in NSW is very encouraging for the sector, and we are also seeing progress emerging in other states and around the world.
Mark highlighted one of the real challenges in these transactions is around the availability of adequate data sets to inform likely intervention outcomes. This has been helped in some cases where governments has invested in specific studies or made richer data sets available. In addition, the payment by results mechanism generally requires a landing on 1-3 priority indicators that can be linked to available data and used as a proxy for the broader impacts sought.
So clearly there are some areas and interventions that are likely to be more suitable to impact investing than others – and to me highlights the need for the specialist services of people like Mark and SVA in helping set up such transactions.
When a social impact bond is set up and is successful, there is still a question of what the next stage should be – and how we scale effective interventions. A good example here is the success of the Newpin social benefit bond.
Mark was able to answer many questions from members and talk through things going on in the sector. He ended by highlighting the Commissioning and Contestability Unit as something for all members to investigate.
The NSW Government is establishing a new Commissioning and Contestability Unit to improve government services by exploring delivery models that include a mix of government, NGO and private sector providers.
In simple terms the unit will examine government service delivery to identify innovative opportunities to improve quality, efficiency and value for citizens.
I and the rest of the SIMNA team wish to thank all those involved in our Christmas event including members and our expert panel, with a special mention to;
- Les Hems as our superb facilitator; and
- Poppy Wise and Nicki Hutley from Urbis for hosting us in such a beautiful location
SIMNA NSW wish all members and supporters a happy Christmas and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2017!