Measuring the good

Measuring the good

For many impact organisations, there’s no question that they are doing good work. The challenge is how to quantify it.

Ki te Tihi – The Loft Charitable Trust Social Emergency Response Service (The Loft) is essentially a one-stop-shop social emergency department in Ōtautahi Christchurch. They connect people and whānau facing a social and/or wellbeing crisis to the social services they need when they need it most on issues such as poor mental health, domestic violence, housing and financial hardship.

It’s a free, confidential, immediate and multidisciplinary response that is having a positive impact on people’s lives. Yet it’s also facing its own crisis, with funding ceased as of last year. While the organisation’s doors are still open, Kaiwhakahaere (Manager) Kate O’Grady says “we’re operating as usual, but this means utilising our limited reserves which won’t last forever”.

“Our key focus is removing the barriers when people are at absolute stress needing to navigate complex social service government agencies and not knowing where to start. For example, someone might come in asking for support with housing, but when they meet with us, we find out it is due to a domestic violence incident. So they actually need emergency housing, family violence support, tamariki support and basic needs support.

“They only need to tell their story once, so they don’t need to repeat that trauma, and we can manage multiple appointments between various agencies either at the same time or back-to-back. That’s what we do – provide a wraparound service to help them navigate the support landscape.”

And the need is there. Since opening the doors, The Loft has grown from one part-time to three full-time Kaitūhono Hapori (Community Connectors) and they’re helping up to 1,000 tāngata whaiora (clients) a year. The shared office space in Eastgate Shopping Centre is also home to agencies including Aviva, Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law, Problem Gambling and Plunket with a key focus on inter-agency collaboration to best support whaiora and provide ongoing and training and networking to Kaitūhono Hapori.

With the end of their government funding fast approaching, The Loft engaged ImpactLab to create a GoodMeasure Report to measure their social value – that is to put a dollar amount on the social impact that the programme achieves for participants over their lifetime.

Working with The Loft team over a period of six months, ImpactLab utilised a standardised methodology to draw on academic evidence, publicly available data, and The Loft team’s own data to estimate a social return on investment (SROI). The result? Every $1 invested in the service, results in $3.80 returned to New Zealand.

“We wanted something really tangible to be able to show people that while we think we do great work, we had evidence that what we were doing was making a difference. We are meant to be innovatively and proactively changing our social services, and this research shows that we are succeeding.

“The funding was always going to be temporary, so we knew it was on the cards and have been planning for it financially. Our big struggle is securing long-term sustainable funding in place, which is why being able to put a dollar value on the impact of our service was so important.”

ImpactLab’s Innovation Lead on the project Mari Tanioka says as well as demonstrating SROI, quantifying the impact of for-purpose organisations also has other benefits.

“As well as being able to communicate their value, this exercise helps organisations to ‘do good better’ – to think strategically about the future, and see exactly where and how they are making the most impact to focus their resources. It also validates the team’s mahi, giving them self-confidence that they are making a difference.

“The Loft is a unique service. Undertaking this journey with them, you can see how challenging it could be to navigate the support systems out there. Their ability to make such a big difference in the life trajectories of the whaiora they help, and to do so with so much warmth and respect is admirable, which is reflected in their strong SROI.”

If you are able to assist The Loft with funding, or donations of grocery items, or would like The Loft to visit and provide an overview of their work and services available for your team, please contact Kate: kate.o’grady@theloftchristchurch.org.nz

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