Almost every day, I have conversations with people who play different and vital roles in the social purpose ecosystem, and in almost every conversation, there is a direct or indirect reference to leadership and measuring outcomes.
It’s not surprising when you consider the social purpose landscape faces uncertain times. Social inequities remain stark and, in some cases are rising. Housing remains increasingly unaffordable, we are not closing the gap in many areas between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, income inequality has risen in Australia and our poor households are poorer than they were a decade ago. There has been a tightening in available economic resources and significant changes in way social purpose organisations are funded, structured and delivered.
We have seen the introduction and rise of social finance such as social impact investing; shared value and expectations of for-profits to play a role in social good; the marketisation of social services (consider the NDIS); increases in the focus on human-centred design; and the emergence and growth of hybrid organisations like social enterprises.
The terrain is shifting and there are elements of uncertainty which increase the need for social purpose organisations to be agile and adaptive. However, amongst this uncertainty, two things remain certain: the importance of effective leadership and measuring whether social purpose organisations are making a difference.
Linking Leadership & Outcomes
Earlier this week I was talking with a CEO who wants to use social finance to support their programs and future financial sustainability, but first they need support to measure the organisation’s social and the economic outcomes and develop a theory of change. This CEO isn’t alone, linking leadership to outcomes is critical for numerous reasons. Here are three:
There is now a much more widespread understanding of ‘why’ outcomes measurement matters and an impressive commitment to measuring change. It’s the ‘how’ that is sometimes stuck: from a leadership, cultural and technical perspective. Hence this is the focus of our third Think Outcomes Conference.
We’re excited and privileged to have the UK’s Professor Norman Drummond as our keynote. He will talk about “Leading in Uncertain Times”. Professor Drummond is an international expert in leadership and author of bestselling books - The Power of Three, The Spirit of Success and Step Back. He’s going to explore key ideas around adaptability (“Leadership, like life, is a lifelong process of refinement”); standards (“Leadership is the medicine we can bring to areas of dis-ease“) and surviving in difficult times (“The real test of leadership is when the wind is blowing against you”); he will also offer take-away actions. We’re also bringing together speakers from across sectors and with different ideas and, of course, practical workshops on outcomes measurement. This year, we’re adding a new workshop to our list that I will co-facilitate with Professor Drummond on outcomes measurement and leadership. I really hope you’re able to join us.
Beyond the conference, understanding and measuring whether and how change is occurring remains a core piece of CSI’s work. We’re hoping to scale outcomes measurement through a big project called Amplify Social Impact – I’ll share more about this in coming months, but from a visionary perspective, just imagine if we had a tool that the social purpose sector could use to better understand social change over time, measure and benchmark outcomes, demonstrate and communicate social impact and work out where to invest effectively, and understand and target areas of need. Imagine if we could catalyse change through helping others more easily, and systematically measure outcomes. If this sounds like something you would be interested in knowing more about, contributing to, or could benefit from it, we’d love to hear from you.
Looking forward to seeing and meeting many of you at Think Outcomes.
Kristy Muir, CEO