Collective Impact in Hume
29 January 2014 at 12:42 am
Joy Nunn of Lentara UnitingCare and Huon Damm of the Better Futures Local Solutions program at the City of Hume in Victoria respond to Pro Bono Australia’s Impact Opinion column, contending that Collective impact approaches are helping transform Australian communities.
Collective impact ‘place based’ Local Solution Funding (LSF) approaches are working in Australian communities. The LSF is opening the eyes of our citizens to the power of collective action and the measurable outcomes that can be achieved through shared value, vision and responsive sustainable action.
This is true of the City of Hume, north of Melbourne, where these outcomes can be clearly demonstrated by results achieved through the LSF, part of the Better Futures Local Solutions (BFLS) initiative, a federal government approach to promoting long term economic participation that will help people living in communities with high rates of disadvantage. This initiative aims to help families and individuals boost their work skills, find jobs and provide opportunities for their children.
The city is one of the 10 nominated Local Government Areas in which the program is being trialled.
Kerry Graham and Dawn O’Neil’s article on 13 November 2014 identified that the BFLS “is light on direction and resources when it comes to implementation at a local level…The strength of this approach is that the 10 communities have freedom to design and direct how they want BFLS to be implemented”. The weakness is that communities “while knowledgeable about their local context, are looking for guidance on how to collaborate and navigate complexity to achieve the intended social impact . And that this weakness in design outweighs the strengths”.(1)
They also refer to the Collective Impact approach resonating because it guides implementation.
The concept of collective impact hinges on the idea that in order for organisations to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large scale, they need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal. (2) The approach of collective impact is placed in contrast to ‘isolated impact’, where organisations primarily work alone to solve social problems.(3) Collective impact moves away from this, arguing that organisations should form cross-sector coalitions in order to make meaningful and sustainable progress on social issues.(4)
The BFLS program commenced in the City of Hume in April 2012 and since that time, the structure of the initiative has allowed considerable collaboration and co-operation to be developed across the services sector, the three levels of government and between the actual funded projects. The success to date of this initiative has not only been driven by the project co-ordinators and providers but more importantly by the place based positions which include the Government and Community Action Leaders and the Local Advisory Group (LAG).
As part of the HOW, these positions support the community by:
1. Working with the community to set the strategic direction and priorities for the community.
2. Leading the implementation and ongoing development of the local area by encouraging involvement and co-operation of key community partners. This includes the community and family support sectors, business and education sectors, and all levels of Government.
3. Building local expertise and establishing a sense of ownership within the community for addressing local participation challenges (5).
The HOW in Hume has been around the building upon the strong community relationship base which existed and which has been further enhanced by this initiative. The service sector, private enterprise and the various government departments have worked closely in identifying the needs of the disadvantaged within the community upon which the LSF projects have been developed.
There are many problems to face in all communities as Graham and O’Neil state, and the challenge of sustained and lasting change over a longer period of 10 – 20 years is acknowledged and agreed. However, without sustainability either internally or with other forms of financial support, the desired outcomes of these projects will not be achieved and government cannot be relied upon to continue providing the funding.
The challenges as outlined by Graham and O’Neil are real. With more effective forward planning, an increase in the level of data sharing, and detailed recording and evaluation by the various levels of government the opportunity exists for improved collective outcomes. The ‘singular’ ownership and perceived protectionism can only hamper the collaboration, learning and the future establishment of clear and defined pathways for disadvantaged communities.
O’Neil and Graham said that “gaining access to good data collection at a local level is an element in serious need of investment in Australia. In spite of the enormous amounts of data collected (mostly by various governments) in Australia, very few communities have ready access to local, detailed data on issues around social disadvantage”. (6)
Since its inception the LAG has established itself as a strong advocacy group within the city, one which has contributed to both the social and economic participation of those disadvantaged within the community. The structure of this initiative has allowed for significant capacity building which has been created by the group through bringing the project implementing agencies and the LAG members together to share practice and knowledge.
One of the strengths of the LAG is the extensive knowledge which the voluntary group of senior executives bring to the table. Their depth of knowledge and expertise within their respective organisations is a catalyst for the sharing and learning and also in the identification of the service gaps which enables the channelling of limited dollars to groups that are going to make a difference.
Their role as intermediaries allows for the improved co-ordination of these dollars in place to ensure:
o a greater impact within the communities;
o better informed decision makers through identifying assets, strengths, talents;
o clearer accountability to government;
o a more effective and transparent funding process.
In the initiative’s two funding rounds a total of some $1.1m has been approved to a cross section of service providers in Hume through a variety of youth, family and community education and employment projects. This has created clear economies of scale, improved efficiency in the distribution of Commonwealth funding and created greater program impact, driven by ‘place based’ innovation.
It has also reduced the risk mitigation of these funds, allowed for better informed decision making and has also opened the door for smaller organisations agencies to partner with other agencies and build their capacity to better service more vulnerable residents residing in Hume City.
At the halfway mark, we recognise the importance of evaluating the initiative’s progress and outcomes to-date so as to position the community to address needs, identify opportunities and maximize investment for the sustained improvement of education attainment and workforce participation.
Results from the projects are a clear sign of the local community helping themselves and reducing their respective welfare dependency. The BFLS initiative has created momentum within Hume City and between service providers and more importantly, complemented an increased level of collaboration between all levels of government , the Not for Profit and business sectors, with the shared purpose of increasing the wellbeing and workforce participation of job-seeking families. It has also created a higher level of optimism both from within the provider network but more importantly among the many program participants and recipients of the funding.
Joy Nunn, CEO Lentara UnitingCare, BFLS host organisation in Hume believes the collective impact in Hume is clearly demonstrated by the collaborative nature of the deliverables in projects such as the Expanding School Hubs into Secondary School, and the Brite Services Organic Herds Social Enterprise. The partnerships between the various services providers, the cross-referencing between projects and the value-added services provided by private enterprise all contribute to the project’s successes and capacity-building.
Results from the program to date indicate that the local community is developing new ways to enhance social and economic participation. For example the ‘Future Pathways’ program, which was funded for $90,000 in the first round to train disadvantaged jobseekers in areas of skills shortage and employer demand such as child care and aged care, has resulted in fifteen ongoing full time and five part time jobs. The delivery of tailored accredited training, work experience and post placement support has been commended by employers, training providers and employment provider agencies.
The collective impact ‘place based’ Local Solution Funding approach is working in Hume. The Local Solution Fund has opened people’s eyes to the power and measurable outcomes that can be achieved through shared value, vision and responsive sustainable action.
For full project details: www.humelag.com.au
About the authors:
Huon Damm is the Hume Community Action Leader, employed by Lentara UnitingCare to administer the Australian Government Department of Human Services Better Futures Local Solutions. Huon works with the Hume Government Action Leader and the Local Advisory Group in exploring new and effective ways of improving pathways to education and employment.
Joy Nunn is the Chief Executive Officer at Lentara UnitingCare, the host organisation for the City of Hume for Better Futures Local Solutions.
(1) Kerry Graham and Dawn O’Neil: “How Collective Impact can help Better Futures, Local Solutions – and other place based policies – implement for impact”. Pro Bono News 13 November
(2) Kania, John and Kramer, Mark. "Collective Impact”. Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011. p. 36-41.
(3) Jump up ^ Schmitz, Paul. "The Real Challenge for Collective Impact". The Huffington Post.
(4) Jump up ^ Bornstein, David. "The Power of Partnerships." The New York Times. March 10, 2011.
(5) Australian Government Department of Human Services; “The New community positions and the Local Solutions Fund” – 8618.1208
(6) Kerry Graham and Dawn O’Neil: “A Reflection: Collective Impact in Australia- 12 months” in Pro Bono News,11 December 2014