«Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability Working Paper Series MEASURING PERFORMANCE: A STORY OF ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ THROUGH INDIGENOUS ...»
2011. This is instructive because it reveals the status of Indigenous employment. At that time, Indigenous people held 46 per cent of jobs in Yirrkala (NTG 2011). Of the total 311 jobs in the community, 109 were public sector jobs with 38% filled by Yolŋu and 180 were private sector jobs with 49% filled by Yolŋu (NTG 2011). The NT Government has established the East Arnhem Development Corporation with the express purpose to build local economic capacity and support development of Indigenous social enterprises in order that local contracts and tenders benefit local people (French 2014). Nuwul is a social enterprise whose business model focuses on employment of Yolŋu to deliver environmental, economic and social benefits. In doing so, Nuwul integrates applied education to the daily activities to increase the knowledge and skills of local Yolŋu (both Nuwul staff and Yirrkala school students). “By being hands on, the kids really lap that up … they have the opportunity to actually cook things from the garden … they made a fantastic rosella jam [a type of hibiscus]” (GM). In recent years, Nuwul has delivered educational projects with Yirrkala School called the EduGrow Community Garden project. Once a week, the Nuwul General
Manager delivers an hour and a half of gardening with years 4, 5, and 6 classes, explaining:
Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 16 there is a lot of curriculum in gardening, English, math, science, music, multimedia, geography. There are a couple of weeks on soil, growing healthy food; the hands-on learning is very successful … The kids created a book, song, and video clip about their gardening experience.
They map, graph and measure the beds, scales and legends and all of those sorts of things. Geography you know finding on the map where the plants all came from, basic botany, parts of the plant, propagation of the plants, plant families like tomatoes and capsicums and eggplants and potatoes are in one family and mint and rosemary are in another family and parallel that with the Yolŋu kinship system so I use their kingship system to explain it.
For those on Community Work Orders from the Department of Correctional Services, skills inculcated include the “discipline of turning up to work and staying at work and not just taking off at lunch time to go to town and those sorts of things” (GM). Nuwul staff are also actively creating processes that build capacity and training into their work, “the crew is helping build their own checklists for things so our machines aren't breaking down and things like that … A lot of these things are coming from them. They want to make training videos so everyone knows what to do; they’re already thinking that way” (GM). One of the strategies for building skills is around leadership training of two facilitators and two supervisors. The GM tells us “I think we’ve developed some good supervisors. I think that we need to pay more attention to developing those skills of the supervisors; they’re natural leaders … we haven't given enough time to developing that into proper leadership skills. I recognise that and that is something that we need to build on and will build on” (GM).
Much of the training being undertaken at Nuwul is funded by MEP, “they have the funding to get our training happening in a certified manner, so we’d be silly not to take that up. It is quite comprehensive and our guys take it on really well” (GM). The training is more than just about carrying out tasks; it is embedded in Yolŋu cultural knowledge. The GM informed by his Board says “I’ve found it really important to tie in their own culture and kinship and stories and things like that, so it becomes part of their lore. It’s not a separate entity from that point of view. It’s totally cohesive with everything else that’s a part of their life” (GM).
Nuwul has been a stepping-stone for some Yolŋu into other jobs by preparing them to be work ready. The Yolŋu staff at Bunuwul are ex staff of Nuwul, “we’ve definitely been a stepping stone for people” to find employment (Board member). This speaks to the organizational mission and provides evidence that Nuwul is achieving its goal.
A rigorous performance measurement of Nuwul could measure whether the economic condition of Nuwul staff has improved. Based on the number of employees we can make some initial observations. Currently Nuwul has developed training and employment for 40 local Yolŋu people. Thus there has been an injection of labour and associated wages into the local Yirrkala community. In the financial year 2013-2014, $47,000 was paid in wages.
Projections for the current financial year based on current contracts and work undertaken are that wages will increase to $425,900 with the volunteers being paid because there will be an increase in long-term contracts being secured in landscaping and environmental services and an increase in small civil contracts such as garden maintenance and tree lopping. The recent Business Overview (French 2014: 22) states that “a major organizational achievement for Nuwul in the first half of the 2014-2015 years has been to generate sufficient income and future contracts to ensure all staff will be paid full wages by the 30th June 2015”. The sustainability of the business of Nuwul depends on its ability to generate income that not only covers essential expenses but also the wages of Nuwul staff. From these figures we can assume that the economic conditions have improved for Nuwul as a business, and Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 17 importantly, for the families of Nuwul staff. Further research would allow a longitudinal audit to measure this kind of impact at the household level over time.
Measuring modified attitudes and behaviors as an indicator of performance of an Indigenous social enterprise, is an indicator for which we have initial evidence. Nuwul has a core group who attend work on a daily basis and we can surmise that this evidences a change in attitudes and behavior regarding work among local Yolŋu. One female staff member explains that she came to work at Nuwul because her sister and cousin work there, demonstrating there might be a flow on effect when people see their relatives working and enjoying the work and earning a wage. It is clearly appealing to work within ones own community amongst friends and relatives and perhaps this contributes to a culturally safe work environment. I’m working here because my husband is working here. That is why, he asked me my husband. He asked me to work here. And there is a long tradition of family members working at Landcare before it became Nuwul, there are plants here from our grandmothers and grandfathers, they were working here. Another female staff member explains how work makes her feel better, indicating a change in attitude towards work, I come to work with my friends and my life and what I think and feelings change. At work we’re feeling different. When we knock off from work and go home we feel different, feeling better. One of the male staff tells us about his life having changed since working at Nuwul, what is better is we can be somebody else, you are a normal person to be out working. A young male staff member whose grandmother had worked at the nursery and encouraged him to work there too explains the importance of incorporating Yolŋu and Balanda (white) ways of living where work and school are considered Balanda. Us mob, northeast Arnhem Land, we keep our culture strong by living the Yolŋu way. We don’t want to end up like the others. We want to be strong and we want to live both ways. We want to live our lives like Yolŋu and like Balanda. Like learning the Balanda way.
Other stakeholders in the community see Nuwul as an opportunity for local Yolŋu to develop strong work ethic and work awareness (MEP). The GM says that changing behaviors towards work takes time, It really does take time to get people to a level of regularity and punctuality and things like that. That is one of the goals of RJCO, work readiness, and we are a workplace so obviously we want people to be ready at a certain time to get tasks done. One stakeholder from Laynhapuy believes that there is a wider community impact from the engagement of a core group of staff at Nuwul, It flows on. People can see it. As I say, other people want to join the team.
Many of the people we spoke to in Yirrkala talk about the issue of ‘sit down money’. It is identified as a serious social issue by both Yolŋu and Balanda alike. The GM talks about
shaping attitudes around sit down money:
Outcome: Client / customer satisfaction Outcomes can also be measured according to the satisfaction of clients and customers – referred to as external outcomes in the literature (Lee and Nowell 2014). Thus regardless of how many services are delivered or how much training is delivered, it is the quality of the service that is being measured here (Lee and Nowell 2014; Median-Borja and Triantis 2007;
Penna 2011; Poister 2003). Bagnoli and Megali (2011) refer to this performance measurement as the real impact of the social enterprise’s activities and services as they relate to its mission statement. In the case of Nuwul, the documented increase in nursery sales (a projected increase from $50,000 in 2013-2014 to $70,000 for the next financial year), in environmental and landscaping contracts (more than doubling in environmental and civil works contracts), and the increase in participants in RJCP, Youth Corp and NT Department of Correctional Services placements are strong indicators of not only customer and client satisfaction but also of partnership satisfaction with key stakeholders that support Nuwul activities such as MEP and NT Department of Correctional Services.
Public Value Accomplishment The public value perspective focuses on what public value Nuwul produces for its Yirrkala community and identifies whether there are broader benefits to society. This perspective is concerned with the global contribution of the nonprofit (Lee and Nowell 2014) focusing on community-centred outcomes (Lampkins, Winkler, Kerlin, Harry, Natenshon, Saul, Melkers, and Sheshadri 2006). This perspective allows a nonprofit to look at the ways in which it draws on its resources to affect community-wide values. In terms of which public values should be measured there appears to be little consensus in the literature. For the purposes of this social audit, we looked at Nuwul’s mission statement to gain an overview of the public value accomplishment and chose the most appropriate dimensions concerning Nuwul’s community-based goals. These dimensions include wellbeing and happiness; social capital and social inclusion; and tackling deprivation and social exclusion (Hill and Sullivan 2006).
Much of the public value accomplishment sits firmly around the organization’s mission to employ local Yolŋu and to provide sustainable community and environmental-based services to maintain and protect the local area.
The nursery acts as a hub for the inculcation of civic activities that support community life in Yirrkala. Nuwul has developed work and training activities in a mentoring environment to support a successful work culture where staff work in supervised teams in the nursery and in the delivery of small civil works contracts. We see for example, that Nuwul provides training and employment for over 40 Yolŋu as well as school students and that Nuwul undertakes sustainable management and remediation of important local areas such as the local cemetery and Shady Beach. In considering public value accomplishment as a performance measure, Nuwul incorporates technical and social strengths with environmental and social values in order to deliver economic outcomes. In the Business Overview, it states that Nuwul’s approach “creates local interest and ownership; it ensures the benefits are retained in the community; it builds social capital; and delivers a sustainable business legacy for the future” (French 2014: 6).
There are clear benefits for the community from the activities undertaken by Nuwul.
Enhancing the employment potential of Yolŋu people in Yirrkala speaks to the ‘tackling deprivation’ and ‘social exclusion’ dimensions of public value as a performance measurement. Educational and training in the local community for staff and students also speaks to these dimensions. The dimensions ‘wellbeing and happiness’ and ‘social capital and social inclusion’ can be inferred from a range of factors such as instilling a sense of pride in Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 19 the local community through the land management and remediation work and monitoring of sacred sites; creation and maintenance of organic community gardens, development of strong relations with local community-based stakeholders (MEP, Laynhapuy, East Arnhem Shire Council, NTG, DPI, Rio Tinto Alcan); and the promotion of cultural maintenance. When we asked the GM what wider community impact he thought Nuwul was having on Yirrkala he
“Well I like to think that people are seeing a larger Yolŋu presence in terms of workers in the community and not just white people coming in doing something -- Yolŋu doing things for themselves and actually making the community look better and seeing them [...] working alongside these other organisations. When Yolŋu are so disenfranchised, it gives them a sense that there are things out there, as does Dhimurru and Laynha you know? The Yolŋu are taking care of themselves and that is really important”.