«Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability Working Paper Series MEASURING PERFORMANCE: A STORY OF ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ THROUGH INDIGENOUS ...»
Network and Institutional Legitimacy The final core perspective of Lee and Nowell’s integrated framework adopts an ecological view of nonprofits, conceptualizing them as “embedded in a complex array of stakeholder relationships” (2014: 11). As opposed to for-profit businesses, network and institutional legitimacy is a critical component of a nonprofit’s performance. This core perspective measures performance in terms of stakeholder relations and whether the nonprofit has “established a reputation for trustworthiness and excellence within this broader network” (Lee and Nowell 2014: 10). An important strategy for nonprofits to meet their mission statements is to collaborate or partner with other organizations with similar goals, or as is the case with Nuwul, have resources that they can borrow (Moore 2003; Lee and Nowell 2014). We can thus gauge the accomplishment of this dimension by evaluating the success of Nuwul’s partnerships with stakeholders, but also through Nuwul’s capacity to borrow resources from other local stakeholders.
Nuwul has a number of existing contracts demonstrating its capacity for collaboration and partnership. For example, partnerships with East Arnhem Shire Council for weed management and Yirrkala oval maintanence, and Nhulunbuy Corporation for garden maintenance. Miwatj Employment Program and NT Department of Correctional Services indicate the strongest partnerships with Nuwul. The MEP partnership is primarily the delivery of RJCP activities. Nuwul collaborates with NT Department of Correctional Services to provide supervised work for prisoners on community service duties. Nuwul has developed its social capital and relies on the strong relationships it has built for free local advertising of its nursery sales and environmental services from local media providers such as the Nhulunbuy radio stations Gove FM and Yolŋu Radio and the local newspaper Arafura Times.
New partnerships are currently being negotiated with Dhimurru to assist in the land management and environmental services of the Indigenous Protected Areas. Negotiations are also underway with Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service for services relating to coastal management and Rio Tinto Alcan to assist with administration. The partnership with MEP has been so successful that Nuwul is proposing to adopt the model to expand RJCP services through MEP to Homelands based on a co-operative farming venture between Nuwul and Homelands East Arnhem.
vehicles to Nuwul when their own vehicle has been out of use or there has been a need for an extra vehicle to help get contracts done. East Arnhem Shire Council provides storage for Nuwul’s vehicles and equipment. A vehicle was donated to Nuwul by a local Nhulunbuy stakeholder. For MEP providing support to Nuwul in this way means they do “not try and recreate a wheel but strengthen a wheel that is already there and [assisting Nuwul] strengthened it to a point where it could create jobs that never existed twelve months ago” (MEP).
The increase in nursery sales and long-term contracts for landscaping and environmental services indicates that Nuwul has established legitimacy with the general public for its role as both an employer of Yolŋu and a horticultural business. Nuwul has established relations with government agencies such as NT Department of Correctional Services and continues to build relation with other government agencies such as Northern Territories Department of Housing and Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services. Another dimension that speaks to Nuwul’s legitimacy is its reputation in the media. Nuwul has enjoyed nationwide coverage from the Remote Indigenous Gardening Network, ABC radio programs and Gardening Australia television program each interested in the model of Nuwul as an Indigenous social enterprise in a very remote part of Australia.
Discussion “Profoundly disappointing” is how the Prime Minister (Prime Minister of Australia 2015) described the report card on Indigenous disadvantage in the seventh Closing the Gap report (Australian Government 2015a) tabled in February 2015. Many of the key indicators, such as improving Indigenous employment and health, are stagnating or getting worse. The statistics reveal there has been no progress in halving the gap in Indigenous employment opportunities.
The annual Closing the Gap report presents national averages and cannot take into account the localised nature of differences in culture, geography, and history for all Indigenous communities across Australia. But while Indigenous employment figures across Australia on average have worsened, Nuwul represents a localised example of increased Indigenous economic participation through employment of Yolŋu and Indigenous enterprise development, demonstrated here through an integrated performance measurement framework.
Lee and Nowell (2014: 15) say “little is known about the extent to which nonprofits are adopting these more holistic performance measurement practices reviewed in our study. More importantly, we know almost nothing about the substantive value of adopting a more multidimensional approach”. This paper demonstrates the application of Lee and Nowell’s holistic performance measurement for a small Indigenous social enterprise in northeast Arnhem Land, Australia. In response to their question, what is the substantive value of having adopted a more multidimensional approach, we have demonstrated the complexity of measuring the performance of an Indigenous social enterprise when there are many elements to consider in a sensitive cultural environment. As foregrounded by Kaplan (2001), a multidimensional approach allows us to assess the organization’s capacity to secure resources (not only through fundraising) and, perhaps more significantly, an organization’s capacity to mobilise resources to meet its mission. Nuwul has clearly built strong relationships with key stakeholders that have allowed them to build their own capacity to operate as a successful Indigenous enterprise in the area of horticulture and environmental land care.
As stated by Bagnoli and Megali (2011:156), nonprofits must continue to consider the degree to which their activities have “contributed to the wellbeing of the intended beneficiaries and also have contributed to community wide goals”. Having spoken to a range of stakeholders, Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 21 including local service providers, Nuwul board members, staff, and clients, it is clear the activities undertaken by Nuwul are valued by the local community and are contributing to the national Closing the Gap goal of increased Indigenous employment. As Nuwul continues to increase employment and training opportunities for Yolŋu in Yirrkala, it improves the wellbeing of its staff and by extension their families. In this way Nuwul acts as a lever for behavioral change, where people begin to shift from the ‘sit down money’ mentality spoken of in Yirrkala to improved levels of economic participation. This article and the initiative it documents responds to Marcia Langton’s (2015: 18) call to record examples of Indigenous success when she writes “the ‘community-controlled’ sector has a role to play … their success should be noted – this is part of the future of Indigenous Australia”.
We have empirically operationalised Lee and Nowell’s integrated framework for the purposes of a pilot social audit of Nuwul and demonstrating an example that the growth of Indigenous entrepreneurial activities occurring outside the economic mainstream offer culturally safe and appropriate pathways to economic participation. This is perhaps especially significant in remote parts of Australia, where few mainstream employment opportunities are present and it is expected that Indigenous folk should move to find employment. Through the application of this integrated framework to the entrepreneurial activities of Nuwul, we can begin to conceptualise and measure its social effectiveness within the community of Yirrkala and thereby inform the practice of an Indigenous social enterprise.
We have investigated the role of social entrepreneurship within a local, Indigenous-run business to determine its influence on business success, understood here in terms of the creation of local employment and income as well as the generation of social capital. The study is based on the hypothesis that social entrepreneurship, that is community-orientated business models, provides an exemplar for Indigenous business success in both financial and social terms and offers a potential pathway for socio-economic improvements in Indigenous communities in Australia. Though Nuwul represents a localised example of increased Indigenous economic participation, perhaps one of the greatest challenges it faces in the context of the current policy climate is the incapacity of the Australian government to administer policies concerning Indigenous affairs. For example, the delay of the new ‘streamlined’ Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding outcomes that were to be announced in December 2014 but were not released before March 2015. This timing has serious ramifications for Indigenous service providers and employers reliant on State funding to deliver services and subsidise training and employment programs. Given Nuwul relies on RJCP funding for 40 of its staff to carry out its contractual obligations, this represents a significant threat to Nuwul’s success.
Conclusion Our empirical study makes a timely contribution to the existing body of literature on social enterprise and performance measurement by applying an integrated framework to measuring the performance of an Indigenous social enterprise. While this article provides important insights into the utility of a multidimensional performance measurement framework for a small Indigenous social enterprise in remote northeast Australia, does the social audit reveal anything about whether an Indigenous owned enterprise provides a pathway to Indigenous economic participation? Can an Indigenous social enterprise like Nuwul offer a solution for how to cut through the persisting pattern of disadvantage in Yirrkala? In the face of Forrest’s 2014 Creating Parity report that gives the federal government license to implement what some will call draconian welfare reforms, Nuwul represents employment opportunities at a local community-based scale that could be key to its success for increasing economic participation on Yolŋu terms rather than the paternalistic measures being proposed in the Creating Parity Closing the Gap Through Indigenous Social Enterprise 22 report. This social audit demonstrates the measured success thus far of an Indigenous social enterprise to grow slowly and develop the employment and training opportunities of Yolŋu in Yirrkala in the face of high Indigenous unemployment at the national level.
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