Case Study

City of Melbourne

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The City of Melbourne engaged Think Impact to develop a shared measurement evaluation framework to enable greater understanding of the overall impact of the City of Melbourne's investment in Social Innovation Partnerships.

Shifting the culture of funding to support social impact

The Social Innovation Partnerships Grants (SIPs) were endorsed by the City of Melbourne in 2019 and represent a new approach to funding social investment through community led projects. The SIP grants form one of the major streams of investment out of the total $2.1M of grants available under the overarching Grants and Community Partnerships framework (G&CP).

This change in approach has been driven by a long-term vision to shift the culture of funding to support social impact organisations and businesses to improve their organisational management capacity, ability to measure and communicate impact and create a platform to broker new and sustainable funding and investment opportunities from philanthropy and social investors.

Shared measurement evaluation framework

The evaluation framework has created a model for shared measurement to capture the change being created for organisations, for people and for communities collectively across a diverse mix of projects.

Thirteen Social Innovation Partnership projects were selected in the first two-year funding round to receive a maximum of $80K funding per year.

Projects span a diverse range of initiatives; however, they share common ground in seeking to provide innovative solutions to tackle big social issues at a local level including entrenched disadvantage, disengagement and social exclusion.

Our work involved researching the Council’s current approaches to measuring social impact, desktop research of current strategic plans and developing a definition for innovation in the context of the SIP grants.

Funding innovation means funding with flexibility to measure impact. Through a series of stakeholder engagement workshops and interviews with core staff and representatives from funded projects, six shared outcome areas were identified.

Benefits of a broad indicator base for grant makers and funders

Working closely with members of the grants team, Think Impact guided the development of 30 indicators for the 6 shared outcome areas; highlighting the necessity for funders having a broad range of indicators to ensure there is breadth to capture the varied ways that multiple and diverse funded projects create change.

The broad set of indicators enable individual projects to contextualise how their diverse initiatives measure and report the change they are creating and contribute to a collective story of impact.

Identifying shared outcomes

Increased community empowerment and increased social cohesion were identified as the primary areas where the City of Melbourne most wants to affect community-wide change.

Improved access to learning, increased opportunity for economic participation and improved health and wellbeing were identified as the three shared outcome areas of anticipated change experienced by people as a result of the funded projects.

Think Impact developed the evaluation framework through an iterative process of discovery and refinement shaped by insights from the 13 funded projects, the Portfolio Lead and other key staff from the City of Melbourne’s Social Impact Investment team.

Although not a primary driver for the establishment of the grants, it was recognised that the investment of grants would also lead to a level of improved community organisation capacity for all funded projects.

The building blocks of the impact evaluation architecture included the development of a Theory of Change enabling the City of Melbourne to communicate a clear, coherent and transparent story of where the greatest impact is generated. This process involved identifying the enabling factors necessary to bring about the intended change leading to the development of the shared measurements framework.

Stakeholder engagement and capacity building

Think Impact’s approach to stakeholder engagement activities throughout the project focused on capacity building to improve evaluation literacy and ensure the framework would serve both the City of Melbourne and its funding recipients in a meaningful and practical way. As part of the final report an implementation plan was developed outlining the steps and considerations for implementation along with a series of recommendations to support data collection measures and methods.

Benefits for future investment

The shared measurement evaluation framework provides the City of Melbourne with the ability to invest in innovative community service delivery based on a clear evidence of ‘what works’ and ‘what delivers the greatest impact’. It provides Council with the opportunity to improve the overall impact of funded projects and learn from any unintended consequences.

The shared outcomes framework can be used not only to evidence and inform current investments in social innovation, but also or future investments made by The City of Melbourne to contribute to its ultimate goal of creating a more inclusive Melbourne.

“Think Impact were not only concerned with delivering a high-quality report, but also providing me with important professional development in areas including theory of change, impact narratives, outcomes and indicator selection. I would highly recommend working with Think Impact if you are interested to understand what you do, why you do it, and most importantly to measure and describe the impact of your work.”
Ariel Valent, Portfolio Lead, Social Impact & Investment City of Melbourne

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