New studies seek evidence to power social change

Posted on 11 Apr 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


Research has long been at the heart of the charity and not-for-profit sector’s efforts to effectively address social disadvantage.

From uncovering the true impact of the cost-of-living crisis to measuring the level of youth homelessness and the impact of social enterprise initiatives, information is a key currency for organisations committed to fulfilling their purpose.

In line with that philosophy, Mission Australia and the Centre for Social Impact have both launched new surveys to learn more about the people and organisations they serve.

The annual Mission Australia Youth Survey is the largest online survey of young people in Australia and last year attracted more than 20,000 respondents.

Now in its 23rd year, the survey is a new opportunity for young people aged 15–19 to have their say on issues that affect them.

Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister.

Mission Australia CEO Sharon Callister said the survey enables young people to share what they view as the key issues affecting the country and highlight their own personal challenges.

In 2023 young Australians named the environment (44%), equity and discrimination (31%), the economy and financial matters (31%) and mental health (30%) as the issues they believed needed urgent attention.

“The results of the 2024 survey will reflect the current reality for young people in Australia,” said Ms Callister.

“Our young people are living with the existential anxiety of climate change while also navigating a cost-of-living crisis where housing stress is impacting many families.”

Results of the survey will be published in November before being shared with government and non-government organisations, schools and the public.

“Policymakers, organisations and schools draw on our Youth Survey data when making decisions that impact young people and when determining how best to support them during what can be a challenging time in their lives,” said Ms Callister.

“Strong levels of participation in Mission Australia’s Youth Survey will ensure the views of young people are comprehensively captured and their voices heard, so I encourage community groups, schools and sporting organisations to publicise the survey and support young people to get involved.”

Associate Professor Melissa Edwards Centre for Social Impact
“Social purpose organisations are vital to the fabric and well-being of Australia.”
Associate Professor Melissa Edwards, lead researcher for the social economy report.

Measuring the social economy

Helping Australia’s social economy to thrive is the rationale behind the Centre for Social Impact’s inaugural social economy survey.

The new longitudinal study will seek the views of CEOs and senior sector leaders which will be encapsulated in a social economy report intended to inform policy and help organisations achieve a greater impact.

The three-year study will analyse the nature, role and changing needs of the nation’s social economy over time.

The Centre for Social Impact said it hoped to attract more than 200 for-purpose organisations to participate in the survey.

The study will explore:

  • measuring impact and demonstrating evidence of outcomes
  • navigating legal frameworks and adapting to changing regulations for social economy organisations
  • analysis of emerging sources of funding and finance for the social economy
  • patterns of collaboration and partnerships within the sector and beyond.

Associate Professor Melissa Edwards, lead researcher for the social economy report, said the findings will be used to create a body of work that will be able to support sector leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions, implement targeted strategies, and foster growth within the social economy.

“Social purpose organisations are vital to the fabric and well-being of Australia,” said Professor Edwards.

“Their tireless efforts in addressing social, environmental, and cultural needs contribute to the overall resilience and progress of our nation, providing essential services, championing advocacy, and driving positive change.”

However, Professor Edwards said a lack of data was holding back knowledge and support for further growth.

“Findings from our research will address this gap by empowering sector stakeholders, providing valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and advocates so social purpose organisations can evolve and deepen their extraordinary contribution to our society.”

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