Are you measuring, and doing, what matters?

Think about Australia’s future for a second. What kind of society are we becoming? What kind of society would you like it to become?  

They’re not arbitrary questions. Collectively, the answers we rally around will shape our professional and personal lives for decades to come.  

And no, that’s not hyperbole. When Treasurer Jim Chalmers released the government’s Measuring What Matters framework in July it triggered a wave of articles, blogs and self-reflection as our collective wellbeing took centre stage.  

 “I think one of the frustrations we have had for some time is people have thought our social objectives and our economic objectives must be in conflict,” said Chalmers in an ABC report. “I think that they can be in concert.” 

 The Australian Financial Review is also paying attention, duly noting in its summary of Measuring What Matters that the 50 indicators straddle health, the environment, the economy, community safety and cohesion.  

 Venerable SMH columnist Ross Gittins gets the bigger picture. He argued we need to “take more notice” of this report because economists, bureaucrats and politicians are realising GDP alone isn’t an adequate measure of what matters to we, the people. That is, the system is broken. 

 Warwick Smith, research economist at The University of Melbourne was on the same page, noting in The Conversation that the housing crisis, climate change, biodiversity losses, financial stress and mental illness were just a few reasons why we need “different economic thinking.” 

 But for me, the most constructive comment came from Dr Katherine Trebeck, keynote speaker at our inaugural Social Impact Summit last month, who wrote on LinkedIn: 

 “It isn’t a “wellbeing budget” as some folks are declaring – that would require the measures to be used to frame and direct spending and taxes. We’ll have to wait to see that.” 

 The point, as many in social impact circles know all too well, is that we’re attempted to create a new future for Australia without knowing exactly where we’re going.  

 The framework‘s 50 economic and social indicators all worthy, and a step in the right direction.  

 But what are our collective goals? As Dr Trebeck says, will we use these indicators to investigate the root causes of social disadvantage, for example? 


Closer to home – your impact journey 

Practically speaking, Measuring What Matters is a useful reference point for any leader wrestling with the idea that business and social outcomes can coexist for greater good.  

 Just like the government, each organisation is on an impact journey. That is, what long-term positive outcomes do you expect your organisation’s purpose, mission and values will deliver? 

 The open secret is that it’s not a short, or easy, journey. But the evidence tells us change is possible when entire leadership teams commit to long-term programs of work.  

 So, what’s next? Here at ImpactInstitute, our impact advisory team uses a simple framework to take any organisation on the impact journey:  

  1. Plan.  
    Focus the entire organisation on the long-term goals, objectives and relevant impact framework that will define success.  
  2. Deliver.  
    Develop an impact program aligned to these goals, and critically, engage your stakeholders. For the government, a national conversation is sorely needed. Your organisation should actively collaborate with customers, communities and beneficiaries. 
  3. Evaluate. 
    Measure, report and iterate. It’s that simple and that hard. Critically, commit your organisation to ongoing transformation in response to the data. 
  4. Communicate. 
    Tell your impact story. ESG reporting, impact storytelling, case studies and other organisational wins should be infused with evidence of impact and progress towards measurable goals.  

 Just like Measuring What Matters, this journey will always be a work in progress. That’s how it works.  

 The real question is how engaged are you and your colleagues in this big question about the future of Australian society? It’s your turn to join the conversation. 

Looking to lead with impact 

You’re invited to join us for the first Social Impact Summit Quarterly, a FREE virtual event series for social impact leaders on the journey towards the wellbeing economy. Register now for our first event, From purpose to impact, happening on 17 August.