A framework for measuring social outcomes
2016 New Zealand Budget
Budget 2016 provides $652.1 million of extra funding over four years for wider adoption of the social investment approach.
Today’s announcements which includes system-wide reform of services and support for vulnerable children, reducing barriers to employment for people with complex health conditions, new prison Out-of-Gate reintegration services and funding to improve data quality and build infrastructure for secure data distribution is welcome. We believe that social investment needs to become a more mainstream way of working in the social sector (see our recent report in partnership with NZIER entitled State of the State New Zealand 2016: Social investment for our future .
If the social investment approach becomes mainstream, we need to think carefully about how we measure the desired outcomes of these types of interventions.
We collect a lot of data in New Zealand, especially relating to the country’s economic performance and wellbeing. But it is clear that economic performance is not the only measure of a country’s pulse. We know there is more to New Zealand than productivity and gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
So, how do we measure the kind of society we want to be? And how do we measure how well the government is performing in terms of the services it funds and assets it invests in?
Existing frameworks have drawbacks. In New Zealand, the government reports regularly against the Better Public Services (BPS) targets – 10 domains of reporting on important aspects of New Zealand life, eight of which relate to the social sector. The BPS targets are a great asset and the framework is being added to over time, and provide a clear sense of the government’s priorities. But they can’t, and don’t, cover everything that's important.
It’s also possible to look internationally for comparisons. For example, Deloitte has been supporting the development of one of these, the Social Progress Index (SPI), for some time. The SPI offers a framework for measuring multiple dimensions of social progress – basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity – and benchmarking success on a global scale.
But though the BPS results, SPI scores and other similar frameworks tell us a story, they seem partial in their scope. Measuring the long-term success of the investments the government makes to help vulnerable people into a positive reality is more difficult.
In the adoption of any outcomes framework to measure the success of the government’s social investment activities we think New Zealand would be richer for exploring a range of measurements in each of the three categories below. At a minimum the measurement should be broken down by region and population group.
- Fewer people with risk factors – A reduction of the number of people displaying factors associated with poor life outcomes is an obvious indicator of success
- More people with success factors – An increase in the number of people displaying factors associated with avoiding poor life outcomes can show we are chasing success
- More resilience - People who succeed despite their circumstances
Success across these measurement areas should be evaluated over a long period of time, with milestone targets along the way, and they should be added or amended as richer data becomes available. It is pleasing to see funding to raise the quality of data.
For us, resilience is the ultimate measure because it counts not only the impact of the state, but also those of the individuals themselves, of their community, of their peers and their economic and physical environment. When all the elements line up to help people succeed despite their circumstances we know social investment, and perhaps society more generally, is working.
 State of the State New Zealand 2016: Social investment for our future - http://www.deloitte.com/nz/stateofthestate