Case Study


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Project Overview


Key Achievements

  • SIMNA Award 2022: Innovation in Social Impact Measurement (Runner-up)

Key Services
Theory of change | Evaluation | Social Return on Investment (SROI) | Impact reporting

Feature artwork by Rochelle Patten Snr (Qway), Gunnai, Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba, Dhudhuroa

Evaluating the social value generated by a Community controlled Culture + Kinship program

The Culture + Kinship pilot program – delivered by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACHHO) – focuses on connection to Community, Country and Culture as key drivers to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This innovative and human-centred approach was piloted to explore how these play a significant role in improving health behaviour and other important outcomes affecting people’s wellbeing.

As part of the pilot, VACCHO funded four Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to develop and implement programs focused on meaning, purpose, safety, connection, belonging and identity. Each ACCO determined their project aims and objectives without any specifically agreed outcomes. The intention was to change the relationship between funders and recipients, giving Communities involved in the program the chance to decide how their money would be used and to lead with their own solutions rather than being driven by funders’ prescribed outcomes.

For VACCHO, the Culture + Kinship program represents an extension of primary and secondary prevention aligned with existing health interventions, including cancer screening and smoking cessation. The ACCOs had the choice and flexibility to base their program on local priorities and were encouraged to focus on a range of topics encompassing holistic health and wellbeing.

Integrating ‘Yarning’ into evaluation

Think Impact and First Nations led consultancy Kowa Collaboration worked together to conduct a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis of the Culture + Kinship program.

Our approach to the evaluation sought to align with the objectives of the Culture + Kinship program, integrating SROI methodology with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing. This was achieved through extensive use of ‘Yarning’, a First Nations Cultural practice where information is exchanged through storytelling. Kowa Collaboration undertook ‘Impact Yarn’ and ‘Value Yarn’ processes drawing on this rich cultural history as a way of conversing with Aboriginal Communities about the impact of programs and initiatives.

Culture + Kinship visual Theory of Change
Culture + Kinship visual Theory of Change

Positive benefits for local Aboriginal Communities

SROI is an internationally recognised approach for understanding and measuring the social impacts of a program.

At its heart, SROI uses the voice of those who experience change (the stakeholders) to identify the outcomes created. Financial proxy values are placed on the outcomes so the story of change can also be told in financial terms by producing a ratio of the dollar value of impact generated for every dollar invested.

Overall, the SROI revealed that every $1 invested in the Culture + Kinship program produced $8.29 of social value – a very high return.

Table 1: Summary of value created for each stakeholder
Table 1: Summary of value created for each stakeholder

The evaluation also found that Culture + Kinship produced a range of positive benefits for local Aboriginal Communities. Value was experienced through reconnecting with Community, Culture and Country. The program created opportunities for participants to explore and celebrate their Aboriginal identity in a positive and affirming way, as opposed to racism and discrimination they may have experienced elsewhere. By being involved in this program, and connecting with Culture, participants gained:

  • pride in their Culture
  • a stronger sense of identity
  • the opportunity to acquire Cultural knowledge and skills.

By caring for Country and working together to collectively solve problems, Community members experience self-determination that leads to increased educational prospects and economic prosperity. By connecting with their Community in a cultural context, participants also reported experiencing increased mental health and increased self-confidence.

The evaluation produced several key recommendations that stressed the importance of:

  • Aboriginal leadership and self-determination
  • Centring Culture, Country, and Community
  • Place-based approaches
  • Creating Social Capital
  • Long-term flexible funding to drive self-determination
  • Empowering evaluation through Yarning
  • VACCHO as an enabler of First Nations’ data sovereignty

The SROI report received assurance by Social Value International and the project was runner up in the ‘Innovation’ category at the Social Impact Measurement Network of Australia awards in 2022. Read the full report here.

Our collaborators in impact