New report identifies the scale of social impact challenge

Posted on 28 Feb 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Social impact

A new report aims to help successful social initiatives achieve broader impact.

There is no shortage of altruistic social enterprises and not-for-profits keen to make a positive difference in the world.

Achieving this goal successfully, though, requires more than simply good intentions.

A new report from Social Ventures Australia (SVA) contains frameworks that aim to help successful social initiatives achieve broader impact.

The Impact at Scale report brings together the collected wisdom of more than 400 NFP leaders who reveal the key enablers of and barriers to achieving meaningful social change.

The recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey highlighted trends such as heightened loneliness and psychological distress among the many challenges Australia’s social sector is working to address.

Despite this, the SVA report found 78% of NFP leaders said their organisations don’t have the funding required to achieve impact at scale.

Just one in four said they have the resourcing needed to work towards achieving impact at scale.

SVA CEO Suzie Riddell said that when society is faced with large scale challenges, it’s necessary to respond with large scale solutions.

“By designing these solutions for this large impact or taking the right existing initiatives and scaling them effectively, we can meet the needs of more people and see a more efficient investment of program funds," she said.

Social Ventures Australia CEO Suzie Riddell.

Ms Riddell said there are some huge opportunities within Australia’s grasp for applying impact at scale.

“With major changes on the horizon for the NDIS and Workforce Australia, as well as the government’s commitment to universal childcare, now is the perfect time for us to rally as a social impact sector,” she said.

“By applying this expertise that enables large scale design, we can support these reforms and create lasting change for people who need support.”

Ms Riddell said this won’t be easy, however, with many NFP leaders still struggling to understand the complexities of achieving maximum impact.

“It requires perseverance and problem-solving, a variety of perspectives and approaches and it is a collaborative effort.

“We created the Impact at Scale report to contribute to the ongoing conversation and provide tangible examples and frameworks to aid these leaders in transforming promising ideas into widespread impact.”

“By testing and learning from our network of 660 centres and driving change through advocacy and research we are driving impact at scale and better outcomes for all Australian children.”
Goodstart Early Learning CEO Dr Ros Baxter

One example in the SVA report is Goodstart Early Learning, which believes every child should benefit from inclusive, high quality early learning.

Goodstart CEO Dr Ros Baxter said her organisation had used its commitment to inclusion and tackling vulnerability to demonstrate what works, and changes of policy were needed to ensure children experiencing disadvantage weren’t missing out.

“By testing and learning from our network of 660 centres and driving change through advocacy and research we are driving impact at scale and better outcomes for all Australian children,” she said.

Goodstart Early Learning CEO Ros Baxter.

The SVA report follows the Impact at Scale Summit in September 2023, which brought together social sector, government and funding leaders from across the nation.

In an address to delegates at the recent Social Impact Measurement Network Australia (SIMNA) awards, Charities Minister Andrew Leigh described measuring social impact as a “critical component to achieving strong outcomes for Australian communities”.

“The Australian government is placing a greater focus on outcomes, partnerships, innovation and investment to bring about significant change in the way we deliver services and achieve outcomes for Australians who are experiencing disadvantage,” he said.

“We're moving away from a top-down approach and embedding social impact and partnerships with communities at the heart of our investment decisions.”

Mr Leigh said government programs such as one targeting entrenched disadvantage were “in part made possible because of the emerging field of social impact measurement and the evidence base it helps build.”

More information

Guide dogs show the way at social impact measurement awards

Untapped billions could fuel greater social impact

The Australian Government is getting better at impact investing – just not at home

People with Purpose: Sound investment

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