For any charitable organisation, social impact involves more than just helping people: it’s about driving community engagement and delivering measurable outcomes.

According to the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), social impact can be defined as “the net effect of an activity on a community and the well-being of individuals and families”. In general, the aim of social impact initiatives is to create positive, meaningful and sustainable change that benefits communities – particularly disadvantaged communities who have experienced long-term, systemic issues.

An interesting example of a joint social impact project is the Newpin Social Benefit Bond (SBB). The Newpin SBB saw a diverse group of organisations come together to support vulnerable families.

The NSW Government, UnitingCare Burnside and Social Ventures Australia agreed on a ‘payment by outcomes’ structure under which investors shared the financial benefits flowing from the social impact of the program.

In essence, investor returns were based on the number of children participating in the Newpin program who were restored to their families.

How we deliver social impact at Stepping Stone House

At Stepping Stone House, we are transitioning from a small not-for-profit to a scalable model, with the hope of expanding our model across Australia. Our aim is to deliver social impact by looking at the cycle of youth homelessness and addressing its root causes (domestic violence, alcoholism, child abuse, and so on).

Rather than simply providing short-term accommodation for young people at risk, we support young people in the long-term, sometimes for years. We achieve this through our ‘Stepping Stones to Success’ learning model, which involves a combination of rehabilitation, counselling, mentoring and life skills development. We also try to reconnect children and young people with their families where possible.

Steps to help your organisation deliver social impact

  1. Identify the positive outcomes.

    To become an organisation that delivers social impact, it’s crucial to understand how you are helping people and the contribution you are making to wider society.

    First, you need measurable metrics to understand what success looks like in your organisation. Then, to add social impact, you need to improve upon your current outcomes, positioning your charity as one that is independent and makes a positive difference in society.

    For example, at Stepping Stone House, we know that we help at-risk young people to build brighter futures (what we do) through a secure home, employment, education, life skills, wellbeing, happiness and fun (how we do it). Our unique learning model is based on the foundation that young people are less likely to end up homeless if they have these traits (contribution to wider society).

  2. Invest in scalability and impact.

    To build a scalable charity model, time and dollars must be invested in achieving impact. Charities that hardly spend any money limit their potential to expand.

    To grow your organisation, you need a visionary leader who thinks outside the box. It’s about ideas initially, but to create a robust and repeatable business model, there’s a certain skill set, knowledge and experience needed. You might need to bring in operational expertise to scale your business model.

    Marketing and branding is another key area of investment that will enhance scalability. Other areas to look at are empirical data, analysis and research that prove your organisation’s social impact.

  3. Measure long-term success.

    Long-term success is linked to the dollars. By keeping people out of particular circumstances, such as homelessness, money is saved by all stakeholders involved.

At Stepping Stone House, we have observed that young people who have experienced homelessness and mental health issues tend to be unhealthy and require more Medicare and welfare support.

Our long-term impact is to help these young people rehabilitate, improve mental health and wellbeing and learn good self-care, while at the same time reducing Medicare and welfare costs for the government.