A panel of prominent Western Australian social impact experts, representing the state's Government, Community and Industry sectors, have taken part in a live panel discussion to discuss key issues facing the sector.
The event, held as part of the Bankwest Foundation Social Impact Series, marks the release of the interim report, which contains findings from year one of the five year program with the Centre for Social Impact at UWA.
The ongoing challenges of outcomes measurement in the community sector, as well as the sustainability of social enterprises were the key topics discussed and debated.
Contributing to the panel discussion was WACOSS CEO, Irina Cattalini, who responded to a question around who the most vulnerable populations in WA were and if our social programs are creating positive change for these populations.
“Entrenched poverty and disadvantage in WA remains a matter of considerable concern - our rental market continues to be inaccessible to those on lower incomes and we know that without shelter, it is impossible to address other areas of disadvantage such as alcohol and other drug use, mental health and financial hardship,” Ms Cattalini said.
“Many effective services are being delivered by the community sector and anecdotal evidence suggests a considerable impact is being made to ameliorate the hardship experienced by vulnerable West Australian. A greater focus, however, on measuring outcomes and demonstrating positive change is required and WA needs to invest in measuring long-term welfare costs and monitor what programs are working where.”
Deidre Willmott, CEO at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA discussed the expectations corporates have when funding community sector programs.
“The private sector has embraced social and community engagement, but like any investor, when businesses provide funding for community programs they want to know their money is making a real difference,” Ms Willmott said.
“The business community would welcome any improvement in the transparency and simplification of how the state’s various community sector programs report performance, because that would encourage them to continue with their generous contributions and invest money where it is best spent.”
Panelist Ashley Reid, CEO of Ngala, was asked what progress community sector organisations were making in measuring their outcomes and impacts and what the challenges were.
“There is broad acknowledgement in the community sector of the need to measure outcomes and demonstrate a value proposition for service users, funders and supporters - the challenge is to avoid having outcomes narrowly interpreted through procurement, competition and market mechanisms,” Mr Reid said.
The next step of the Bankwest Foundation research program will see WA community organisations participate in the first major Australian survey on outcomes measurement. The survey will examine the state of play of outcomes measurement in community organisations in WA, the barriers they face, the tools and methods they are using, the policy and environment and why they want to measure outcomes.
Director of CSI at The University of Western Australia, Professor Paul Flatau, said that outcomes measurement is the missing key in achieving long-lasting social impact.
“We need to focus on actively measuring the difference that an initiative, program or organisations makes to the lives of the people they engage with – if we don’t measure impact we are missing key opportunities to capitalise on what works to create better outcomes for the people of WA,” Mr Flatau said.
The Bankwest Foundation was established in 2013 with a mission to improve the well-being of Australians by enabling the implementation of significant and meaningful community initiatives in Western Australia and nationally.
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For more information contact:
Bankwest Senior Manager, Media & Communications
(08) 9369 8259 / 0416 526 421
Centre for Social Impact, Media & Communications
(02) 8936 0915 / 0407075307