«Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability Working Paper Series MEASURING PERFORMANCE: A STORY OF ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ THROUGH INDIGENOUS ...»
Within this core perspective, Lee and Nowell (2014) have found that there are three related concepts: internal processes; capacity for learning, innovation, and growth; management and program capacity. The General Manager is responsible for overseeing all operations, sourcing new business, training, technical maintenance for example. Without management support, it is difficult for internal processes to be improved, management capacity to be developed, and the adoption of innovations to take place. Making quality improvements to systems within the organization is very difficult when it all relies on one person. However, making quality improvements to the staff has been a strong focus of the GM and Board. Kaplan (2001: 357) refers to a series of indicators in his Balanced Scorecard for measuring such improvements, some not already mentioned including retention, capabilities, and alignment, as well as information system capabilities. Staff retention is an indicator that one might link closely to motivation and satisfaction but in the case of an Indigenous social enterprise, external pressures and cultural obligations can undermine retention of staff. Peer group pressure from outside Nuwul has on occasion impacted staff retention in terms of staff pulled into old behaviors by errant peers. One young male who took part in a Youth Corp program for example, was engaging well in the program but returned to heavy drinking and sitting around.
This can be attributed to a combination of factors including the completion of the intensive 10-week program coinciding with the Christmas holiday break and the return to Yirrkala of a young male from one of the homelands that instigated a spate of petrol sniffing in the community. Stakeholders in the community also recognise peer pressure as a constant
challenge for retaining staff in the Indigenous context:
Weighing up the positive effect we [Nuwul] have against the negative effect of external peer group pressure … we have one example where we had a young guy here who had never worked in his life. He got really into it and he was turning up all the time and was really solid. He got dragged back into old behavior patterns by those around him outside of the workplace. He’s locked up again in juvenile detention (Laynhapuy officer).
But despite peer pressures or cultural obligations like attending funerals, staff retention remains strong. Since Nuwul was incorporated it has had approximately 50 RJCP referrals, 25 of who have been consistent and 15 being placed on wages. Of the 15 staff on wages, three have left for various reasons including pregnancy, caring for a sick relative in Darwin, and one on a court allocated Alcohol Prohibition Order that expired and he immediately began drinking again and hence stopped coming to work.
In terms of capabilities as an indicator from Kaplan’s (2001) balanced scorecard, Nuwul staff are developing their capacities and learning new skills. One female staff member describes learning new skills as good for the brain and good for the head. As we sat under a large tree in the nursery with the female staff, they talked about the nature of their job mowing in the community, planting, weeding, watering the gardens. Gareth arrived and on overhearing the conversation, stated emphatically they designed it themselves referring to the gardens around the Arnhem Club in Nhulunbuy. He proudly explained, I asked the ladies ‘how do you want Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 13 to do it, to make the gardens’? I just made sure that the cold water kept coming! The women further explained they have been learning new mechanical skills for maintaining the buggy and other gardening equipment, we know how to like pop the tyre, change the tyre, we know how to fix lawnmowers and we know how to fix the whipper snipper. Yarning with the women revealed they can do maintenance on the blower and chainsaw as well, and they had been learning new propagation skills, using sprays and chemicals, spraying, weeding, gardening, and wearing the correct safety gear to work each day. Over the duration of each field visit we observed Nuwul staff participating in these daily activities.
In terms of alignment as a performance measurement for organizational capacity proposed by Kaplan (2001), the activities and the development of capabilities discussed here align well with Nuwul’s mission statement. It states that Nuwul sees itself as a “skills provider, which will enhance the employment potentials for Yolŋu people”. The kinds of activities and business Nuwul staff undertake involve maintaining and protecting the local environment and areas of cultural significance. In these ways, the business activities of Nuwul align with its mission statement: “…. to maintain and protect the local area…”. Nuwul employs local Yolŋu, training them and developing their skills that involve learning about both ‘balanda’ and Yolŋu plants and ways of working with the environment. This too aligns directly with its mission: “We provide employment for the local Yolŋu population, reinforcing a sense of personal and community pride … we see ourselves as a skills provider, which will enhance the employment potentials for Yolŋu people”. The business activities undertaken by Nuwul and the training and skills development of Nuwul staff fit with its core mission and strategy that focuses on the key constituent group: local unemployed Yolŋu.
Outputs The purpose of measuring outputs of a social enterprise is to determine whether the nonprofit activities realise the goals of its mission (Moxham 2009). Typically outputs are quantitative measurements such as the number of clients served and the number of services delivered (Moxham 2010). The output perspective for a social enterprise emphasises its activities as they support the mission (Sawhill and Williamson 2001). In all organizations, output measures are easy and inexpensive to collect compared with outcomes, but they are also harder to interpret (Kendall and Knapp 2000) and more difficult to identify a causal relation between a service and an outcome (Moxham 2010). This is especially appealing to social enterprises as nonprofit entities but also for assisting them to demonstrate both, value for money and accountability when reporting back to funding bodies.
In the case of Nuwul we can consider four types of outputs: nursery sales, environmental and landscaping services, educational and training services, and government partnerships. Nursery sales are indicative of customers served. The number of organizations and individuals purchasing plants from Nuwul has steadily increased by 40% in the first half of the 2014-15 financial year (French 2014). This is despite the nursery only being open to the public on Saturday mornings, the mothballing of the Rio Tinto alumina refinery in late 2013, and the subsequent loss of residents in Nhulunbuy throughout 2014. As such, the increase in nursery sales indicates strong growth during a period when other businesses in Nhulunbuy suffered financially and even closed. Typically customers are drawn from Nhulunbuy, but more recently local Yirrkala residents are purchasing plants from the nursery to support their family members who work at the nursery. Customers benefit from access to a large selection of plants and inexpensive stock compared with competitors in Nhulunbuy (20km away) and Gunyangara (referred to locally as Ski Beach 29km away). Exotic plants regularly imported by cargo vessel from Darwin (approximately 500 nautical miles/1000 kilometers), incur a more expensive price tag, while Nuwul produces a similar variety of plants at a much-reduced Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 14 cost. An extensive range of native plants for ongoing remediation and re-vegetation work of public and mining sites is also propagated. Since 2009, Nuwul has developed a seed bank for conservation purposes, seed sales, and nursery production. This allows Nuwul to propagate, maintain variety, manage the quality and quantity of its plant stock to some degree. It has also meant that staff are trained in seed collection and storage techniques thereby responding to the mission: “plant propagation and production services are founded on technical and traditional knowledge”. Training in these skill areas also aligns with the business strategy, which aims to “develop culturally appropriate plant species for the regional market using a local nursery to generate locally grown products” (French 2014: 6). The strategy fosters local interest and ownership as staff learn about traditional botanical knowledge.
During fieldtrips to Yirrkala in 2013 and 2014 we observed an increase in the number of corporate clients Nuwul had secured for landscaping and garden maintenance. We also observed that the nature of landscaping business has shifted from one-off landscaping jobs to more long-term contracts, indicating that Nuwul staff are building capacity to deliver services that respond to market demands such as quality and competitive pricing while at the same time providing more regular income and work experience for staff. As part of the environmental services Nuwul undertakes, the nursery has also produced plants with local geno-types and chemo-types suitable for native re-vegetation and land management for the two large Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) located near Yirrkala (French 2014) and remediation of public sites like Shady Beach. The diversity of the client base for Nuwul’s environmental and landscaping services indicates that this part of the business has developed and is supporting the capacity of Nuwul. The current client profile for the landscaping and environmental contract services consists of three government agencies (NT Department of Housing, NT Department of Education, East Arnhem Regional Council) and one under negotiation (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services); four nonprofit corporations (Nhulunbuy Corporation Limited, Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, Bunuwal Investments’ Malpi Village, Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation); two private sector businesses (Rio Tinto and Arnhem Club); and four homelands currently establishing cooperative farming ventures that will require horticultural advice and plant stock. Nuwul’s expanding government and corporate client base indicates growing recognition that Yolŋu people are well placed in the delivery of environmental services in northeast Arnhem Land.
Another output is the number of participants in RJCP and Youth Corp activities as well as the number of placements from NT Department of Correctional Services through the government partnerships Nuwul has established. Currently Nuwul supervises and trains 40 RJCP participants generating $16,933.34 (AUD)3 per month. The government funded RJCP contract is scheduled to complete in June 2018 indicating a stable income stream for Nuwul for several years. Thus far, two groups of Youth Corp have completed training in a Certificate II CLM.
This amounts to 16 participants and gives them qualifications to seek work in the environmental and horticulture services industry and to continue on with Nuwul if they choose. According to the General Manager, there have been approximately 50 placements by NT Department of Correctional Services since 2009 with only 4 cases of recidivism. The Corrections Officer interviewed in 2014 said of all the placements this is the best success rate across the “Top End” and indicated they are very happy with the supervision and support the clients receive from being placed in Nuwul.
The final output by which Nuwul can measure its performance is by the educational and training services that Nuwul delivers for staff and senior secondary students. Along with All figures cited are shown in Australian dollars Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 15 CLM training, Nuwul also trains all staff in Small Engine Operations and Maintenance. Staff also receive regular mentoring in money management and life skills. For example, various organizations have hosted barbecues at the nursery coupled with community development messaging such as hygiene and health, good eating and wellbeing, and money management workshops. Local Aboriginal corporations based in Yirrkala have partnered with Nuwul to deliver training and capacity building in a social and informal manner, where other Yolŋu workers come and support Nuwul staff. For example, one barbecue was cohosted with local Aboriginal health provider Miwatj Health, Miwatj came and did health checks with all of our staff, which is great (GM, Nuwul). He also tells us we had one with shire. Shire actually brought the barbeque down and all the meat and provided everything. We did all the cooking and that was to build this partnership between us working together. The relationship is working pretty well.
Outcome: Behavioral and Environmental Changes An outcome based perspective differs from the output approach in that it looks beyond organizational activities and seeks to discern the impact of these activities on the targeted setting or population. This perspective highlights that while organizations may be highly productive in the number of people served or projects implemented, it is a different issue whether organizations made substantial changes in behavior or
environmental conditions through these services (Lee and Nowell 2014:
Therefore measuring outcomes allows nonprofit organizations to evaluate the impacts of their activities (Bagnoli and Megali 2011) and demonstrate the effects of their services (Moxham
2009) in tackling social problems (Kendall and Knapp 2000) and how well they align with their mission in the case of reporting back to funding bodies and board members. Outcomes focusing on behavioral and environmental changes are conceptualised as internal (Bagnoli and Megali 2011: 157). In the case of Nuwul, internal outcomes can be measured against changes in the target group in terms of increased skills and knowledge; improved economic conditions; and perhaps even modified attitudes and behaviors that might for instance be demonstrated through reduced incidence of criminal activity in Yirrkala.
Increasing skills is key to employment of local Yolŋu in Yirrkala. The Northern Territory Government (NTG) conducted an employment profile of Yirrkala and published the results in