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Govt Grows Social Impact Focus


Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 10:09 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist
An investment expert claims a social impact report commissioned by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which found funding for an Indigenous program had almost tripled in value, could influence the way governments spend money in the future.

Wednesday, 18th May 2016
at 10:09 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist


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Govt Grows Social Impact Focus
Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 10:09 am

An investment expert claims a social impact report commissioned by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which found funding for an Indigenous program had almost tripled in value, could influence the way governments spend money in the future.  

The department commissioned Social Ventures Australia (SVA) to produce a social return on investment (SROI) report for five Indigenous protected areas around the country.

It found that between 2009 and 2015 a $35.2 million investment generated $96.5 million in social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes.

Simon Faivel, a director of consulting and leader of SVA’s SROI work, said that the method of assessment, which measures social outcomes, could have the power to shape government investment. 

“There’s been some really positive feedback on the approach and on how it’s developed an incredibly rich theory of change that would inform government investment, so I think that… will definitely come through,” Faivel said.

“There’s also interest in using the holistic understanding that comes from SROI. In the case of this report, [there’s a] richness of understanding culture, environment and the socioeconomic changes. A lot of other methodologies haven’t been able to capture that in that same way.

“I think there is interest in being able to see how SROI can be used to be able to capture some of that richness and to understand more deeply what’s changing and to make decisions based on that information.”

He said one of the most appealing aspects of the SROI approach for all stakeholders was the community engagement.

SVA worked with communities in the Indigenous protected areas to understand how the investment had taken effect.

“One of the things that is important to note is how investment decisions from government need to align with community interest,” Faivel said.

“Frameworks like this [provide] a good understanding about what is going on and what changes are valued because there’s a difference between the objectives of government and the objectives of community.

“This is one way of being able to be clear about not just the changes that are being sought, but also how important those changes are.

“One of the attractions of SROI is being able to place a value on outcomes like cultural outcomes or even some environmental outcomes that currently don’t have market values.

“It’s absolutely changing what data is collected overall and what’s asked of different communities in investments.”

SVA had previously worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to produce SROI reports. However, Faivel said government engagement with social impact was a slow process.

“It has been a while for it to get to this stage where they’re actively looking at how to use the methodology SROI,” he said.

“[It was] probably 2008 or 2009 when the first seeds were planted and there was interest at varying levels, so it’s a good seven years of evolution to get to this stage where it’s been used and thought about actively within the departments.”

Despite the positive outcome of the report, the government only released its findings last week without any announcement although it was completed in February.

Faivel said there was a risk that SROI could be politicised or used to the advantage of government.

“But I don’t think it’s specific to SROI, I think there’s a lot of challenges with any work that’s commissioned and how that is subsequently released and shared,” he said.  

“One of the good things about SROI is the level of transparency that’s required. So when you do see the reports from a SROI it’s got to abide by the social value principles, and one of those principles is being transparent.”


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.


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