COO of Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency (WOCA), Awerangi Tamihere, has outlined WOCA’s blueprint to help embed a “social impact ecosystem” in Aotearoa New Zealand and demonstrated how the commissioning agency is leading the way in social value.

Ms Tamihere was speaking at Social Value International’s first Asian conference on 4 & 5 December.
Hosted by Social Value Taiwan in Taipei, Social Value Matters 2019: Going Mainstream saw participants discussing how social value and social impact – referring to a quantifiable social contribution made by community projects, investments or mainstream businesses – is becoming increasingly significant around the world.

A key message from the event was that to tackle the global challenges of rising inequality, climate change and social wellbeing issues, society must integrate social impact into mainstream thinking and change the way it makes decisions.

Ms Tamihere described how WOCA creates social value through the Whānau Ora approach. When this wellbeing initiative emerged, there was a significant challenge confronting Aotearoa: growing inequality between Māori and non-Māori combined with the state delivery model, which focused on identifying and fixing ‘the problem’ rather than enabling wellbeing.

With the rise of Whānau Ora, Māori providers began to deliver to their communities, and aspirational approaches started to form the basis of sustained wellbeing outcomes for Māori.

“At the heart of our commissioning approach is the belief that outcomes for and with whānau are much more likely to be sustained in the long term when whānau have identified their own ambitions,” Ms Tamihere said. “Whānau then have a strong sense of ownership of the outcomes and the resulting transformation for them and their whānau.”

Measuring the story of change

A critical part of social impact is measuring the change resulting from any programme or investment, so WOCA ensures that it leads the way when it comes to outcomes measurement and supports Whānau Ora partners to develop their own outcomes frameworks.

“What gets measured, gets valued,” Ms Tamihere asserted.

WOCA uses the Social Return on Investment (SROI) method to quantify its impact. SROI identifies, measures and then captures in monetised form the value of a wide range of outcomes. The overall dollar value is then compared to the investment required, indicating cost-effectiveness or social return on investment.

WOCA has expertise in this approach as one of its researchers, Dr Sneha Lakhotia, is New Zealand’s first SROI accredited practitioner. Dr Lakhotia recently authored a groundbreaking social impact report on a parenting programme ran by one of WOCA’s partners.

WOCA is also at the forefront of using technology to capture its social impact. The commissioning agency has integrated capabilities and tools to track and measure whānau progress and its own internationally accredited software solution. WOCA’s information system also supports co-investment, with 140 different services across 20 funders.

Furthermore, WOCA has facilitated the establishment of Social Value Aotearoa, a New Zealand Social Impact Network that provides a platform for like-minded organisations seeking to understand their social impact.

WOCA’s approach has won support from other social value organisations and after Ms Tamihere’s presentation, many conference attendees took to social media to endorse it.

“Hearing about your work is always powerful, moving, inspirational and encapsulates the Social Value International mission,” Chief Executive of Social Value UK, Ben Carpenter, wrote on Twitter.

In short, WOCA’s blueprint for social impact is a common wellbeing agenda and outcomes measurement programme combined with backbone infrastructure. Ms Tamihere argues that with these elements in place, it is possible to foster cross-sector collaboration and achieve systemic change.

However, as WOCA continues to support whānau on their self-determined pathway to success and wellbeing, social impact is more than the sum of its parts.

“Social Impact is no longer just a tool, a service, an assured SROI report or a research programme,” Ms Tamihere said. “Social Impact has become a movement – a movement within our communities for evidencing the change that matters most for our whānau.”

18 December 2019

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