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Leadership index reveals public distrust in NFP sector


24 July 2019 at 5:00 pm
Danielle Kutchel
Australians hold a negative view of the not-for-profit sector because of public distrust in religious organisations and trade unions, new research shows.


Danielle Kutchel | 24 July 2019 at 5:00 pm


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Leadership index reveals public distrust in NFP sector
24 July 2019 at 5:00 pm

Australians hold a negative view of the not-for-profit sector because of public distrust in religious organisations and trade unions, new research shows.

Swinburne University has spent the past year polling 1,000 Australians on their perceptions and expectations of institutions across the government, public, private and NFP sectors.

The Australian Leadership Index measures organisations on how well they exhibit leadership for the “greater good”.

“We wanted to stimulate a conversation about what good leadership could look like, and how we could be doing it better,” researcher Dr Timothy Bednall said.

The index compares the number of people with positive views of an institution’s leadership with those holding negative opinions.

The public sector – including hospitals and schools ­– had a net positive rating of +8, but the other three sectors rated negatively.

The private sector scored -18, the government sector scored -15, while the NFP sector rated -8.

Charities were actually the highest rated individual institution, but the sector’s public perception as a whole was hurt by religious organisations and trade unions.

These NFP institutions had the equal lowest rating along with the federal government and multinationals.

Bednall told Pro Bono News the royal commission into institutional child sex abuse and the George Pell court case were likely the major reasons for public mistrust in religious organisations.

He said the reputation of trade unions was probably hurt by John Setka’s court case and a lack of understanding about what unions do.

“Religious institutions and the trade unions are definitely dragging down the index for the NFP sector,” he said.

“With the trade unions, one of the interesting findings we identified is that there are a considerable amount of people who indicated that they lacked knowledge about what trade unions do, and how they added value.”

Bednall said that unions, along with NFP organisations in general, needed to articulate a clear mission about what they were trying to achieve if they wanted to gain the public’s trust.

Swinburne researcher Dr Sam Wilson said while there was a lack of faith in religious institutions, charities rated strongly on achieving social outcomes, balancing the needs of different groups and being responsive to society.

“Charities such as The Salvation Army and the Red Cross are seen as leaders for the greater good because, by their nature, they are committed to providing support to those in need,” Wilson said.

“People see charities taking direct action to aid particular causes, such as homelessness, so perceive these institutions as contributing to and bettering society.”

This data ­­– which will be updated every three months – has been made public and can be viewed here.


Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on danielle@probonoaustralia.com.au or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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