Measuring your impact, multiplying your impact

Net Balance Foundation at Communities in Control 2013

General Manager of the Net Balance Foundation, Jane Farago, addressed 800 representatives of community organisations and local governments at the Communities in Control 2013 conference.

Jane challenged the sector to integrate social and environmental thinking in all aspects of their operations.

‘There is often a sense of disconnect between those with a social or environmental focus. It can seem that environmentalists care more about trees or orangutans than they do about people. It can seem that those in social services have the attitude “I’d love to care about the environment, but I can’t worry about tomorrow when I’m dealing with people who can barely get through today.” But the environment is where we live. I’d say community organisations fall into two camps – those that are already dealing with environmental issues, and those that will be sooner or later. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has already identified that climate change is going to hit the disadvantaged first, and hardest. And as we start to see more effects of environmental pressures, combined with the needs of a growing population, we can expect to see a correlated rise in a wide range of social problems; and it will be the community sector that’s left to pick up the pieces.

‘By starting to measure and report on social, environmental and financial impacts, community organisations can better understand the impacts they create, both positive and negative, enabling improved management of those impacts. Measuring and reporting on impacts offers a host of benefits, from stakeholder engagement, to risk management and competitive advantage with respect to funding and clients. But the most important reason to measure is that it can guide improvement. The point of impact measurement is the impact it can have.

‘However, measuring and reporting can be a significant investment in time and money, especially when you’re learning and you don’t yet have the processes in place. For many community organisations, it will be a long road. Nevertheless, all organisations measure their finances, and that’s not easy either. Think of the resources that go into that. It’s just that we have the systems worked out, and we regard it as non-negotiable. Measuring social and environmental impacts will increasingly be regarded as non-negotiable too, so we need to make a start on putting those systems in place.’

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