#22 Purpose – even for golf!

Image of flag on golf course

As we move into the second half of 2016 I was most pleased to read in late July the words from Professor Paul Flatau commenting on the release of the latest findings of a five year research project – Support Development and Growth in the Community Sector in Western Australia. The report concluded:

The majority of community sector organisations have significantly increased their focus and effort on outcomes measurement in the last five years which is one of the most positive signals yet that the sector is undergoing a cultural shift towards measuring impact.

The report refers to the importance of accountability especially to funders and I wish to extend this aspiration to include funds only being spent on impact. In addition to only provide services that achieve impact and both funder and service delivery agent being accountable to the end user. It was also extremely encouraging to read that Paul was also supporting the need for an Australian Blueprint – an overarching outcomes framework.

The need for population level social outcomes, social indicators, benchmarks is the next important stage of the measuring agenda. This places the focus on the purpose and if I have one area of critique that appears in most of my Blog’s is that Australia has too many frameworks that operate at the process and performance level. Unfortunately the macro and more innovative agenda of purpose is often being forgotten. The reason this is important is that making measurement without a clear why or purpose becomes a limiting factor on its own – a little bit like having a golf course with too many holes!

Having called again for an overarching outcomes framework for Australia I continue to support the idea that the mapping at the macro level is best achieved in alignment with the Sustainability Development Goals (they are not just about climate change). In addition I am most pleased to be working on a project with Nola Turner-Jenson that is based on Australias’ first peoples ancient values and how these can be utilized to enable alignment at the macro level. As I ponder this thought I am reminded how healing such an action would be. This also leads me to consider what are some of the other key points in our history both past and present that can be drawn upon.

Pre the 2016 Federal election a powerful article was written by John Brogden (CEO AICD) who reflected on Australia’s best unknown speech. This speech was delivered by John Gorton, who later became Sir John Gorton – Australia’s 19th Prime Minister (1968-1971). The speech was given as part of a series of post war community events each with different speakers – the extracts below were words presented by Gorton and shared by John.

It is now in peace, that we must make our advances. I believe that the returned serviceman wishes us to secure for all men that economic freedom which we have never had, and to which all who are willing to work are surely entitled. We must remove from the minds of men the fear of poverty as the result of illness, or accident or old age. We must turn our schools into institutions, which will produce young men and women avid for further education and increased knowledge.
Unlike John I did not have the opportunity to meet Sir John Gorton but his leadership was during my formative years of growing up in Australia and his sentiments I am sure have had an impact on me.

“We bought your freedom with our lives. So take this freedom. Guard it as we have guarded it, use it as we can no longer use it, and with it as a foundation. Build a world in which meanness and poverty, tyranny and hate, have no existence. If you see and hear these men behind me – do not fail them”

I truly thank John for sharing this piece of Australia’s past history and when I combine this with the ever so important feedback from Paul (evidence of outcome measurement) I am keen to better understand what the future holds for Australia. For the future I didn’t have to look too far as most recently a collection of such works has been edited by Dr John Butcher (ANZSOG) and Professor David Gilchrist (Curtin University).

The collection of essays and the title of: The Three Sector Solution: Delivery Public Policy in Collaboration with Not-For-Profit and Business highlights some of the modern day challenges with delivering public policy via cross sector partnerships.

This again is an awesome effort and well facilitated by ANU Press in alignment with ANZSOG. The collection of essays has its origin from a one-day workshop that was held in August 2015. As I review the contents and see inserts from many I know (including my PhD Supervisor Dr Ann Neville). The contents cover such themes as cross sector working, across the three sectors and confirm Paul Flatau’s report of outcomes and social impact being important enough to warrant their own section. There is also a section about new tools for policy makers and practitioners and how to meet the challenges of change – but it is at this point I ask the obvious question – what about purpose?

This question is inline with the post war period where Gorton reminded Australia the importance of never loosing sight of the why. No matter how good the Not-For-Profit sector gets at measuring outcomes or how the three sector make stronger commitments to work better together it is without a clear purpose that we are at risk of becoming noninnovative – the opposite to innovation!

I offer a metaphor to assist with this conundrum picking up the earlier alignment with that of a golf course! (Not that I play golf.)

Australia at this current point in time is like a golf course with too many holes. The golf course owner (aka Prime minister) loudly states that more innovation is needed but it is not clear whether this is to have more holes or create better co-ordination of the existing holes. There is not one group that has the course design, golf technical skills and or ability for total oversight. There is much need for collaboration with clarity of purpose ie overarching blueprint to bring the holes into some form of alignment. There is plenty of work for those involved in the golf course BUT its owner is and always will be that of the Prime Minister. The most effective solution is for a very clear blueprint identifying the 18 holes with co-ordinated efforts being as independent as creativity allows but always coming back to the same 18 holes.

I use this simple metaphor to give rise to the importance of purpose. Purpose is needed to mobilise the great news from Paul about social measurement being on the increase Purpose was the essence of the reminder from Sir John Horton how this great country has previously grasped opportunities. Purpose underpins the willingness to work collectively because without it the aspirations of the collective essays will stay as aspirations.

Clarity of purpose must be a precedent before any acts of process, performance and innovation can be effective. Australia must agree what is the why preferably in some form of outcomes Blueprint across the lifecycle – it is from this that innovation can be achieved – without purpose it is simply another hole on the golf course!





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