Community Colleges are important providers of education and job pathways for people with various barriers to learning and employment. They sit at the intersection of adult education and social impact, and government funders are increasingly looking to explore outcomes-based funding in this sector.
Latitude Network is working with the peak body Community Colleges Australia and five community colleges to run a collaborative data project with the NSW Department of Education. The aim is to develop a common set of data collection standards across multiple colleges to allow comparative data on outcomes and performance.
This is an exciting project that demonstrates how data systems, continuous improvement and innovation processes can be applied at a systems level in social and education sectors. The project is designing a system that works for multiple different organisations using different student management systems (databases), in a range of different geographies serving a wide range of student needs. The de-identified data can then be collated across multiple organisations in a consistent way to create dashboards and analysis covering different programs, locations, services and outcomes.
In the next phase Latitude Network will build common dashboards and conduct periodic ‘deep dives’, or data analytics reports, to generate insights that enable colleges to improve (optimise) services and social impact. Comparative data is very powerful because it allows individual colleges to anonymously see their performance in the context of the performance of other organisations delivering in different regions. This provides evidence to flag performance gaps and to learn from best practices with objective data (not just those who claim to have good practice).
This work is important for peak bodies to consider as a tool to improve system performance in any sector or sub-sector of the social services system. Watch this space for more information as the project moves to implementation. Feel free to reach out to us about lessons from this project if you are seeking to improve performance in multi-stakeholder or cross-organisation collaborations.
Latitude Network are thrilled to announce that we will be working with Reclink Australia and Vichealth on a unique outcomes challenge: to get 100,000 young Victorians to be more physically active and socially connected. In doing so, this project will tap into 160 different underutilised sites across Victoria to transform them into physical activity spaces for young people.
Funded by VicHealth and supported by a host of youth organisations and agencies, the project will be genuinely co-design and produced by young people, using open innovation thinking to ensure that physical activities and environments meet the needs and preferences of the young people who will use them.
Latitude Network will bring its expertise in open innovation and data-driven performance management to ensure that this project generates lasting, measurable outcomes for young Victorians, whilst building capability in Reclink (and partners) in its approach to data, program design, segmentation, outcomes and impact measurement.
More on the project here.
Prior to 2021, the South Australian homelessness funding, like most homelessness systems around the country, was divided between multiple different service providers who weren't incentivised to work together as one system.
The three key limitations of the system were:
The South Australian Housing Authority (SAHA) sought to redesign the homelessness system in order to reduce the number of those at-risk of entering homelessness and the length of time people are in the system. To do this, SAHA divided its jurisdiction into five discrete regions and called on social service providers to develop solutions.
In the Adelaide City and South region, Baptist Care SA, Lutheran Care, Mission Australia, The Salvation Army and Sonder came together to form the Toward Home Alliance.
The challenge for the Toward Home Alliance was to redesign the homelessness system so that service users received a tailored and individualised response. Resources, accommodation and services needed to be aligned to the outcomes for each of the service user groups
The challenge of service design was compounded by the prevalence of factors that contribute to homelessness such as mental health, physical health, disability, drug and alcohol and life trauma - requiring the intervention to holistically address these issues too.
THE ROLE LATITUDE NETWORK PLAYED
Latitude Network played a central role in supporting the Toward Home Alliance. The process involved uniting a diverse set of national, state, local and Aboriginal-run service providers toward a common goal of reducing homelessness in a defined geographical region. The key functions of the Latitude engagement included:
The first impact was that the innovative proposal was accepted by the South Australian Government with the Alliance winning the funding for Adelaide city and South. The funding changed on July 2021, and as with any significant system change, there are always lots of elements to work through. The team has formed well together and built a strong culture of collaboration, but it is still early days to work out how well the elements are working and how best to refine and iterate them. We will keep an eye out on the Toward Home progress and now doubt the challenges of making progress.
As we foreshadowed in our recent newsletter to you, the Victorian Dept of Treasury & Finance is now underway with its Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage (PAD) funding program. The PAD program was announced in this year's State Budget. A few key points:
As you consider your own programs, have a look at 5 elements that are key to social impact bonds.
You may also be interested in an article about what you need to be successful in developing a social impact bond.
Article first published on Pro Bono News 22 September 2021.
With the move to reporting on outcomes gaining pace, Dale Renner, director of Latitude Network, shares advice on what social organisations can do to build an outcomes-focused organisation.
Have you noticed that more and more philanthropic and government funders are asking for proposals to have an “outcomes focus”? Impact investors and service commissioners increasingly want evidence that a program makes a difference.
The move to report on “outcomes” is gathering momentum and for good reason. The purpose of social sector funding, whether in homelessness, mental health or child protection, is to improve the lives of people – to make a difference. That’s also the mission of every social sector organisation.
An outcome is a way of defining and measuring this important “difference” made in someone’s life – between dropping out of school and finishing school, between being employed or not employed, between mental distress and a sense of wellbeing. By defining and measuring the right outcomes, organisations and funders can focus efforts on what matters most to the service recipient, and therefore make the most social impact.
As we approach the next round of outcomes-based funding contracting in Victoria, we asked some of our recent Social Impact Bond* clients from across Australia to share their ‘top three’ reflections on how to approach and navigate an outcomes-based contract. Each of these organisations has been through the PAD/SIB process and so have first-hand knowledge of what you can expect. Our thanks to those who contributed.
* Also known as 'Partnerships Addressing Disadvantage' in Victoria and Social Impact Investments in some states
Innovating your solution
One client reflected on the ‘innovation’ aspect of PADs/SIBs suggesting that learning or borrowing from other models is a good way to augment your proposed solution. While PADs give us a chance to trial new approaches ‘...that doesn't mean reinventing the wheel necessarily - look around for what is being done in another place or with a similar cohort and talk to the organisations delivering the program.’
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of an outcomes contract is the need for us to zero-in on lived experience. One client reflected that ‘when including people from the front line, or those with lived experience, prepare and encourage them to bring their experience and knowledge to the table…’
Indeed, the process may be uncomfortable for staff, ‘...they may feel outside their comfort zone [but should be encouraged] to think about how they go about their work in a different way.’
Cohort and outcomes clarity
At the heart of a PAD is ‘being clear on your cohort and outcomes. Make sure you confirm this in the initial part of the project because you don’t want to get 6 months in and find you're not 100% clear on who and what.’
There is a flip-side to this outcome journey in all PADs and that is the service system journey for clients currently - what we can loosely call the ‘counterfactual’. ‘Make sure you understand the extent to which your clients currently use the service system and ideally understand how much this reduces through your program financially - savings are critical to government.’
Flexibility and new learning
One organisation suggested that ‘patience and a flexible approach is probably the most important’ thing in outcomes contracting. ‘Don’t expect it to be quick or straightforward.’ Another said to ‘be prepared for discomfort as you grapple with an intense and unfamiliar process, lots of workshopping, many unknowns and wondering how it will all come together.’
"Own the innovation space"
This excellent phrase was shared by one of our clients and nicely captures the way that PADS are trying to harness the relative strengths of each of the parties involved. ‘Don’t be afraid to tell the Government they are wrong. It's BAU for them to be conservative, NGOs should own the innovation space in front of Governments and be persistent’.
PADs really do alter the dynamics between Government and service provider. One of our clients put it this way: ‘You’ll need a thick skin and a strong commitment to what you know works. The Government’s needs aren’t necessarily your or the program’s needs and so you need to know what is non-negotiable.’
PADs also highlight the value of complementary skillsets. ‘You will be negotiating with numbers people… brilliant numbers people who have a limited understanding about the client group or how to do community development. They are great at what they do but so are you so don’t let them have it all their way!’
One of the benefits of an outcomes focus is that everyone is, effectively, a problem-solver. While Treasury officials are focused on the value-for-money challenges, officials from the line agencies will bring a practice-based focus: ‘Get other departments in the room. The line agencies will better know the sector people and programs - let them fight some of the programmatic battles for you.’
The outcomes contracting process is nothing if not intensive. It needs resourcing internally. One client advised that you will ‘need to have at least one person dedicated to developing this. Most NGOs will fund this internally, however, this should be seen as a valuable investment, even if you don’t get the program up.’
As for the mix of the team engaged in the process, you will need ‘a mixture of ideas people and do-ers who can buckle down and progress the hard yards of research, seeking out answers and project management.’
Good technical advisors
Some of the elements of an outcomes-based contract are highly-technical and specialised. One of our clients suggested that you will need ‘bloody good guides who have been there before and who can tell you when you are focusing on the wrong question’.
Build new data capabilities in the organisation
The process of negotiating a PAD, while intensive, can bring enormous benefits to the organisation itself. Becoming literate with data and how it can be used to check and adjust performance was seen as critical.
“Start with data… get literate about how numbers and data work because, at times, the process will become about the numbers ... Become an expert at it really fast and get your team used to measuring and counting at least something.’
Creating a culture of measurement and the gathering and use of evidence is seen as key to success: ‘Having a culture of using measurement and evaluation to improve the services you provide to clients really helps with structuring and implementing a SIB/PAD/SII’. And even where data might be scarce, start with a hypothesis and ‘...use external sources including public data sets (ABS, AIHW etc), research and evaluations …’ to try to confirm your hypothesis.
The journey of negotiating an outcomes-based contract can be revolutionary for an organisation, giving it the tools, confidence, funding and time to re-imagine the way that services are delivered for a specific cohort of people.
If you are interested in applying for the upcoming Victorian PAD, it's best to start preparing your model now. Get in touch with us if you want to learn more about the process and how to benefit your clients and your organisation.