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«Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability Working Paper Series MEASURING PERFORMANCE: A STORY OF ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ THROUGH INDIGENOUS ...»

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The increase in community works projects is so large because Nuwul started with one RJCP participant and at the time of writing (Feb 2015) there are 40 RJCP participants. Overall that is a 191.21% increase in revenue. With regard to diversifying revenue streams, Nuwul is doing this by securing private and commercial landscaping and maintenance contracts and through the training of its staff, thereby building staff qualifications and Nuwul’s capacity to take on more contractual work. Training is central to the work Nuwul undertakes and can therefore be utilised as a performance metric. Training is also a way through which Nuwul can increase the capacity of its staff to diversify its revenue stream. Nuwul is involved in training of both senior secondary students and Nuwul staff in Certificate II Conservation and Land Management. Nuwul staff also receive training in the day-to-day operations of the nursery, contractual environmental services, and in the use and maintenance of equipment.

Lee and Nowell (2014) identify the acquisition of facilities and equipment as nonprofit performance measures posed by several scholars (Berman 2006; Median-Borja and Triantis 2007). In the case of Nuwul, quantifying the acquisition of facilities and equipment as an indicator of performance would not tell the entire story. Having developed strong relationships with other local organizations, Nuwul often borrows facilities and equipment;

effectively building its capacity despite not investing in the acquisition of all the facilities and equipment utilised. For example, MEP and Laynhapuy have loaned facilities, equipment and vehicles to Nuwul to carry out its operations and services in Yirrkala, Nhulunbuy and even in the homelands. This is perhaps a better indicator of another performance measure - the strength of Nuwul’s relationship with funders, staff and local partners. By having developed strong relationships with other community stakeholders Nuwul addresses the constraints of budget and resources (Moxham 2009b) that it experiences as an Indigenous social enterprise in a remote community. The strength of Nuwul’s relationship with staff is a strong indicator of performance particularly when considering its mission to provide employment for local Yolŋu. Yarns with staff and observing the rapport the General Manager has with his staff highlight that he invests in building relationships with them. One male staff member

expressed his appreciation and respect he has for the manager:

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The second approach under inputs focuses on nonprofit organization expenditure. The literature highlights that expenditure is a common method for examining nonprofit performance at the end of a program or at the end of a funding tranche where nonprofits are required to report on their expenditure against outputs (Lee and Nowell 2014; Cutt and Mirray 2000; Moxham 2009b; Newcomer 1997). Typically when a nonprofit has secured external funding to deliver a specific service or implement a particular program, it will put in place a monitoring and evaluation system for the purpose of reporting back to the funding body about how it spent the funds. The GM must report to the Nuwul Board and it reports to its partners such as the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services and Miwatj Employment Program regarding the attendance of staff. However its financial reporting is a performance metric that requires improvement. Due to the lack of management capacity, it is clear that Nuwul needs to develop improved systems and processes for financial record Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 9 keeping. Kaplan (2001: 369) signals that expenditure is not the emphasis of nonprofit organizations that instead elevate “the role of the mission and customer to the top of the hierarchy of perspectives, recognizing that nonprofits should be accountable for how well they meet a need in society rather than how well they raise funds or control expenses”. This relational ethos segues into the next core perspective, that of organizational capacity.

Organizational Capacity According to Lee and Nowell (2014: 4) organizational capacity “consists of human and structural features that facilitate an organization’s ability to offer programs and services” and they state, that in the literature this core perspective correlates strongly with input (2014: 7).

Its focus, however, is more directed at developing the capacity to successfully generate

outcomes and outputs (2014: 7):

That is to say, this perspective is about evaluating how well a nonprofit has constructed effective internal processes and structures to use the resources efficiently and effectively toward the advancement of the organization’s mission. It also includes developing the requisite capacity to deliver the services, adopt necessary innovations, and expand/alter programs and operations to meet changing needs (Kaplan 2001).

With this in mind, a close reading of Nuwul’s mission statement sheds light on what it sees as its fundamental mandate; to preserve the land and culture of local Yolŋu while providing them with skills and employment. We can therefore begin analyzing the internal processes

and structures for how effectively the resources such as staff are utilised:

The operation is seen as a multi-functional one covering many of the necessary aspects of sustainable environmental and community-based services necessary to maintain and protect the local area, including its people into the future. Our aim is to preserve the land and culture of our people in a manner, which benefits all of our community. Our goal is to be autonomous, sustainable, respectful and ethical in all of our actions.





We are aiming to function as a not-for-profit organization, which is wholly independent of other commercial interests. We provide employment for the local Yolŋu population, reinforcing a sense of personal and community pride, which have undergone many challenges over the previous decades. We see ourselves as a skills provider, which will enhance the employment potentials for Yolŋu people, so that they can participate more broadly in the wider community (Nuwul Mission Statement).

Talking to the General Manager of Nuwul reveals the importance of Nuwul’s capacity to work between two cultures.

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Lee and Nowell (2014) found in their meta analysis of the literature that example performance metrics for organizational capacity include staff motivation, staff satisfaction, staff education, staff and executive perspectives on the operational capacities, and capacity of the nonprofit to innovate. When we asked the female staff about their motivation for working at Nuwul they talked about their feelings of personal responsibility: at work we’re feeling different. When we knock off from work and go home, we feel different, feeling better. They enthusiastically describe Nuwul as a happy workplace. Yarning to the men about what motivates them to work at Nuwul one said It’s all about encouraging our little ones, so they can look forward;

it’s not about just sitting down. So they can look up to us and they can think of how can they work for a living instead of just sitting down and doing nothing. For the men, recognition is a motivation for working at Nuwul: some just want to be like us; want to work here [Nuwul].

Also young kids will do that when they grow up here [Yirrkala]. They want to be working here. Homeland people look up at us too. We see from these comments that people are motivated by a desire to shift from sitting down and doing nothing to role modeling, particularly for their children and receiving respect and recognition from other Yolŋu for being employed.

Community pride emerged as a theme during the yarns. This speaks to staff satisfaction as a

performance metric. Nuwul staff talk about the satisfaction of working in their community:

it’s good work… sometimes we go out and we are in the community cleaning up (female staff member). One of the male staff members explains, we have a big nursery that has been part of life since we were young. This area, this nursery it’s not about us, it’s about community and helping our community. A fellow worker responds to this, and it’s a Yolŋu business; it’s a family business. The women also speak about family in relation to Nuwul, we are having our buddies with us, our friends, sisters and brothers; working here we are a family. Overall, satisfaction among the staff is a strong indicator of Nuwul’s organizational capacity and is expressed across many domains including their working relationship with the General Manager, working alongside their peers, working for their community and in their community, role modeling to their children and being more independent financially. Some spoke of sitting at home, doing nothing before working at Nuwul and relying on mum and dad or the family for money. The increase of staff over time and the return of those who may have left briefly is an indicator that staff are satisfied with their roles in the organization given they are not obliged to participate (with the exception of those on work orders from the Department of Correctional Services, which at the time of writing was three staff members).

Certainly the data from the focus groups with Nuwul staff (male and female) indicates high levels of satisfaction: for all of us it’s a happy workplace … we’ve got a nice boss working here.

Staff and executive viewpoints on operational capacities vary between those on the ground doing the work, those managing, and those on the Board. For one Board member, she would like to see faster transitions from RJCP to paid wages, I am tired of RJCP and CDEP programmes. There should be money found to employ people properly and with that employment comes training on site. But for the GM, who takes a cautious and steady approach to building Nuwul’s workforce, transitioning people from RJCP arrangements takes time to introduce new staff to the workplace in terms of expectations, responsibilities, processes and systems, he explains he can't have a fixed timeframe because it is really dependent on how much we’re actually earning and our financial capabilities. That’s what determines timeframes … it is really determined by the market more than anything else. This Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 11 might be viewed as a sustainable approach to building the organizational capacity in terms of staffing.

One board member felt that operational capacities are good due to the number of staff but felt that administrative capacity was wanting and this impacts the management of Nuwul activities. For example, while yarning in Nhulunbuy this Board member said he’s [GM] got enough people working there to help him do what he needs to do. They need an administrator that will take the paperwork load off him. He needs one or two people to help him with that.

Another Board member believes training would be beneficial for all members of the Board to be trained in order to help with the leadership and governance of Nuwul to improve its capacity: I think we need for the board to have the capacity and skills to know how to run board meetings and to run the board.

Moore (2003: 22) argues that the capacity to innovate as an indicator of organizational capacity of nonprofits depends on “the rate at which it can learn to improve its operations as well as continue to carry them out”. Perhaps one of the most significant innovations at Nuwul is the way it is being managed in culturally appropriate ways. Gareth has found an innovative way to achieve the strategic objectives of Nuwul in its daily operations through workforce flexibility. This means that he employs a number of Yolŋu staff via alternative means including paid wages, RJCP, Youth Core, and NT Department of Correctional Services (community work orders and parole). By growing his workforce he has been able to secure more contracts. What is important to note here is that not all of the people on his books turn up to work every day. There is a core number of folk who are there any one day, however, and this means there are always enough people to carry out the jobs each day, while at the same time, allowing Yolŋu staff to attend to cultural obligations. While some may need to be away from work for ‘sorry business’2, others can be called upon to come to work to get

specific tasks and jobs completed. Gareth tells us:

–  –  –

Workplace flexibility is not just about Yolŋu being able to meet cultural obligations and keep their job. It can also be about recognizing people’s capacity. Gareth describes recognizing

individual’s capacity and working with that in a way that encourages them:

Here’s someone with big alcohol issues, has regularly taken off at midday to get to the pub; that’s where he’s at his most comfortable. So having that realization that by about twelve or one o’clock, he’s going to want to take off. But he’s going to be at work every day if he’s not berated. The personal agreement we have is that he is turning up every day as opposed to not turning up at all for weeks on end and then Sorry business refers to mainland Aboriginal cultural practices and protocols for death, grief, or loss. Most often, sorry business ceremonies are conducted around the bereavement and funerals of deceased persons but sometimes sorry business might be to mourn the loss of connection to land, such as where an application for recognition of Native Title is lost.

Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 12 coming back … I encourage him to work a bit longer every day and sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t.

Likewise with those on community work orders from the court, Gareth tells us, most of the people that have come through on those end up staying on at Nuwul on RJCP… I take a more familial role, positive support and work them up towards maintaining their work after they are finished. Some have kept working and others have dropped off. Some of those will come back to work.



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