«Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability Working Paper Series MEASURING PERFORMANCE: A STORY OF ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ THROUGH INDIGENOUS ...»
inputs, organizational capacity, outputs, outcomes (behavioral and environmental changes), outcomes (client and customer satisfaction), public value accomplishment, and network/institutional legitimacy. According to Lee and Nowell’s (2014) review, measuring ‘inputs’ concerns how nonprofits procure and utilise resources to optimise their financial position and support their activities. They say that ‘organizational capacity’ refers to the human and structural features of the nonprofit to deliver services. Nonprofits create ‘outputs’ (products and/or services) by utilizing their resources and their capacity. Throughout the literature, some frameworks focused on the importance of ‘behavioral and environmental outcomes’, and other frameworks focused on ‘client and customer satisfaction’ as an important outcome. Lee and Nowell (2014) found that some authors focused on the ‘public value’ created within the community from the activities of the nonprofit and finally some frameworks took a social ecology approach to prioritise the success of the organization in managing its relationships with key stakeholders in the community, referred to as ‘network and institutional legitimacy’.
While Lee and Nowell’s (2014) integrated framework draws together the key elements of frameworks from the literature, some authors argue for the subjectivity of performance measurement despite normative frameworks. Bagnoli and Megali (2011: 162) cite Herman and Renz (1997) stating that performance measurement can be largely subjective. Social enterprises (SEs) and nonprofit firms in general have multiple constituencies (stakeholders) that may differ in how they measure effectiveness.
Consequently, organizational effectiveness is not a single reality but a more complicated matter of differing interests and expectations.
Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 5 This is perhaps even more so in the case of an Indigenous social enterprise that must negotiate the work commitments of its Yolŋu staff with their cultural obligations as and when they arise. Thus while some might measure performance based on profit, others on services delivered, an Indigenous nonprofit might include the ways in which Yolŋu are employed and trained as it relates to their mission. An integrated framework therefore allows a more rounded approach to measuring how the Indigenous social enterprise is fairing on the whole.
While many performance measurement frameworks for nonprofits consider inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts, the ancillary effects that may accompany the work of an Indigenous social enterprise are equally important. Measuring effectiveness can focus on the contribution made by the social enterprise to the creation of social inclusion, social capital and collective wellbeing through the measurement of medium or long-term impacts (Bagnoli and Megali 2011). This paper embarks on a social audit of an Indigenous social enterprise drawing on Lee and Nowell’s (2014) integrated framework to determine the effectiveness of, and the contributions made by, Nuwul Environmental Services.
Method Research participants were selected using purposive-convenience sampling. Nuwul Environmental Services management and staff formed the main pool of participants followed by key local stakeholders in the community. In addition, volunteer sampling was used enabling staff to self-nominate for the study. This study involved a total of 24 interviews with 15 Nuwul participants (5 female staff, 5 male staff, 2 managers, 3 board members) and 8 external Nuwul stakeholders (Laynha, MEP, Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services, Art Gallery, Department of Families and Children, East Arnhem Shire Council, Dhimurru, Rio Tinto Alcan, a registered training organization).
Over several visits to Yirrkala the researchers observed and participated in Nuwul activities such as fencing, light construction as well as tree planting, seed collection and irrigation work, weeding, clearing rubbish from important cultural sites, and unpacking and sorting of plant stock at the nursery. Participation in these activities provided an opportunity for forming working relationships with local Aboriginal staff members and for building rapport. It is in this context that participants were invited for a ‘yarn’ about their work and associated experiences. A form of interviewing, yarning is an informal conversational approach through which the researcher and participant address topics of interest relevant to the research. It is a legitimate method in Indigenous research (Bessarab and Ng’andu 2010). Yarning requires the researcher to develop and build a relationship that is accountable to Indigenous people participating in the research. During the yarns, with the informed consent of research participants, field notes were taken and where appropriate conversations were recorded subject to consent being given. The format was open-ended, encouraging participants to share their views on, and experiences working at Nuwul. Field notes were collated and compiled and interview recordings were transcribed verbatim. The researchers employed thematic analysis; the encoding of qualitative data in search for patterns and themes, which help explain social phenomena. Themes were developed through the careful iterative and reflexive examination and re-examination of the raw interview data (Fereday and Muir-Cochrane 2006). Rigorous ethics processes were adhered to working with an Indigenous community.
An Indigenous Social Enterprise in Remote Northeast Arnhem Land: Nuwul Environmental Services In negotiation with elders from the Rirratjingu clan, we use the voices of the Yirrkala people (Yolŋu and white fellas) to ‘measure’ performance. The application of the integrated Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 6
framework tests the validity of the model through the northeast Arnhem Land empirical case:
the Indigenous social enterprise Nuwul Environmental Services. The theoretical validity of the framework will be elucidated for each core perspective. Nuwul grew from the former Yirrkala Landcare, which closed with the dismantling of the National Landcare Program in
2008. Nuwul is a community owned and run Indigenous social enterprise, which aims to cater to the needs of the local environment and its inhabitants. Its mission indicates that Nuwul focuses on the dual goals of environmental stewardship and the social needs of the local Yolŋu community by providing employment and training, improved literacy and numeracy skills, financial management and restoring personal and community pride.
Through their activities, Nuwul aims to support a large number of Yolŋu employees and to provide job readiness and life skills to an even greater number. The business plan clearly states “we will create a balance between traditional and western cultures in our approaches” (2010: 2) alluding to the flexibility that allows Yolŋu people to work and attend to cultural obligations. The business plan also claims “to recognise the needs of flexibility in our employment activities to accommodate traditional work ethics and social obligations, and this
provides the opportunity for job sharing as well as part-time and casual employment” (2010:
2). Nuwul is both a provider of the government Remote Jobs and Community Program (RJCP) activities for the currently unemployed and provides placement for those under a court community work order where they can carry out their obligations amongst their peers with positive community support. RJCP is a federal government program that started in 2013 to support unemployed people build skills to become ‘work ready’ or to participate in activities that contribute to the strength and sustainability of their community (Australian Government 2015b). Importantly, these activities allow Nuwul to maximise community input into the environmental management of the northeast Arnhem region both directly through activities and indirectly through the influence and gained understanding from teaching other life skills. “A recognition of the importance of traditional knowledge is paramount to what we are doing. Recording and passing on of this knowledge to future generations is a vital component of Nuwul activities. Rather than having Yolŋu people feeling lost between two cultures, we intend to demonstrate to them that they have a distinct advantage in having a hand in each” (Nuwul Environmental Services Business Plan 2010: 2). The nursery provides a hub for local Yolŋu men and women to participate in semi-formal economic activities that serve social, cultural, environmental and economic goals (Brueckner and Spencer 2014).
Nuwul is engaged in a variety of activities including contractual, commercial, community services, and training. Commercial activities include Saturday morning plant sales at the nursery to the local Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy communities, landscaping, lawn mowing and yard clearance, and irrigation and reticulation services. Over time Nuwul has been growing its contractual services with local organizations including weed management and grounds keeping contracts with East Arnhem Shire Council in Yirrkala and the Arnhem Club in Nhulunbuy and contractual agreements have previously existed with the Yirrkala School for grounds maintenance. Nuwul is contracted by Miwatj Employment Services (MEP) to provide RJCP placements for local Yolŋu and contracted by the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services to provide work placements for offenders on a community work order. As part of their operations as a social enterprise, Nuwul has a mandate for environmental stewardship and restoring community pride. In doing so, they regularly clear rubbish and mow around Beach Camp cemetery and Shady Beach as an ongoing community service. Training is also an integral part of Nuwul operations with staff having completed a Certificate II in Small Engine Operations and Maintenance (certified through Charles Darwin University), money management (via Laynhapuy), and studying a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management (CLM - certified through Batchelor College). Yolŋu youth who are out-of-school and under 24 years of age are currently being Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 7 engaged as part of the government’s Remote Youth Leadership and Development Corps Program (referred to as Youth Corp). The 12 month program aims to provide a pathway into employment by building skills necessary for sustainable employment in a locally-relevant industry and as such at Nuwul the participants are being trained in CLM and apply their knowledge through Nuwul activities; they are then required to continue on RJCP after the intensive 10-week training until the end of the twelve month period. Nuwul has a history of teaching gardening programs at Yirrkala School with grades four, five and six drawing on primary school curriculum and since 2013, senior secondary students are enrolled in a pilot Learning on Country program in association with Dhimurru with regular field trips ‘on country’ for Yolŋu students to learn from Yolŋu traditional owners about local cultural and environmental knowledge. Nuwul’s General Manager (GM), an ethnobotanist, teaches the Certificate content as part of the Learning on Country program.
Results: Application of the Integrated Framework In adopting an integrated framework for both conceptualizing and measuring performance of nonprofits, Lee and Nowell (2014) refer to seven core perspectives of nonprofit performance that are interconnected: inputs, organizational capacity, outputs, outcomes (behavioral changes and customer satisfaction), public value accomplishment, and network/institutional legitimacy. We apply each of the core perspectives within the framework to Nuwul Environmental Services to craft an understanding of how Nuwul is fairing as an Indigenous social enterprise.
Inputs Two key approaches listed under the inputs core perspective include 1) resource acquisition and utilization and 2) expenditure. The first approach focuses on how successfully resources (both financial and nonfinancial) are acquired in order to generate value, growth and sustainability (Lee and Nowell 2014). Resources include funding, facilities, equipment, staffing and training (Berman 2006; Median-Borja and Triantis 2007; Lee and Nowell 2014).
In the case of Nuwul, resource performance metrics in this social audit include the ability to acquire and manage human resources. For example, the number of staff on paid wages, the increase in RJCP staff, the increase in Youth Corp participants, the number of Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services placements and the appointment of middle management. Currently Nuwul has two facilitators, two supervisors, but the General Manager continues to find his time stretched across all activities of the organization: managing staff, contracts, training, nursery purchases and sales, and sourcing new business, as he builds the capacity of his staff. The number of RJCP staff is gradually increasing. The first Youth Corp participants started in October 2014. By January 2015, the first Youth Corp Group had completed a Certificate II in CLM. In February 2015, a second group has completed the same training. As of October 2014, there were three people on a placement by NT Department of Correctional Services.
Another resource performance metric is the increase in revenue from year to year, and importantly for a nonprofit, the diversity of revenue streams. Currently Nuwul operations are completely self-funded. As it grows its business through the contracts rather than one-off services, it has been able to increase the number of staff on paid wages. As of October 2014, Nuwul employs 14 staff on paid wages that have transitioned from RJCP funding. Miwatj Employment Program (MEP) has a government contract to provide RJCP until 2018, allowing Nuwul to be a host organization for employing local Yolŋu. The earnings from the nursery sales are projected to increase by 40% in 2014-15 according to a Business Overview conducted by consultants in 2014 (French, 2014). Environmental and civil contracts are Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 8 projected to increase by 94% for the same period and community works projects by 1,180%.