Key lessons from the 2018 VCOSS Summit.

Delivering a good life for every Victorian.

While Victoria is a strong, prosperous and vibrant state, disadvantage is still widespread. Issues of housing affordability, mental health, violence in families, discrimination and unemployment were some of the key issues brought to light at the 2018 VCOSS Summit, bringing together the state’s social and community sector (the Victorian Council of Social Service or VCOSS is their peak body).

In the words of first political addresser, Premier Daniel Andrews, important work is never easy. So how can we, in pursuit of a good life, work together and ensure strong leadership to confront and overcome such challenges?

A memorable keynote presentation by Paralympic gold medallist, Dylan Alcott, and three engaging panel discussions revealed practical insights on how to operate from a base of shared value, behaviour change, and the leadership we need to deliver a good life to every Victorian.

Here we recap some of the key learnings.

We are stronger, together.

Collaboration is the basis for genuine, effective community innovation. The sector and community must work together in order to build political will and ensure the right voices are mobilised and heard. Barriers such as sector language and shared power struggles must be overcome so effective knowledge translation to rise above noisy public debates and realise significant change. It’s time to look at what we have in common, not how we are different.

A good policy is about addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged in the community. Having the right people at the table and engaging those with lived experience is essential to understanding the needs of the community. With immense challenges facing the social sector, it’s critical that we work together on a basis of shared value to strengthen voices.

Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. So what role does the government play in shared value? Governments are already at the table, creating innovative financial solutions to fund social and health interventions in the form of social impact bonds. Shared value frames the identification and assessment of new opportunities. Is this is the future of Australian governments?

Leadership is shifting

“We look to institutional leaders so much, but there are so many other forms of leadership in communities and in families that are more powerful.” Nayuka Gorrie, Aboriginal writer and activist.

Building trust through clearly communicated values. For all people to lead a good life, Victoria needs commitment, vision and communication from our political leaders. However, people are lacking confidence and expecting less from our elected representatives due to unfulfilled promises, bad policies and poor behaviour. As such, the notion of leadership is shifting in our society. People are redefining what they stand for, looking for leadership that represents their values that drive them, rather than a perception of right and wrong.

Supporting our fellow citizen is paramount to shaping a prosperous and inclusive society. Leadership is not confined to the walls of Parliament; more leaders are emerging from our community, stepping up to raise issues that otherwise may not have been heard. As Ombudsman Deborah Glass accurately put it, “leadership is the voice you have, the vision you represent”. We must move away from the notion of “us and them”, standing with our leaders and supporting others in their spaces to lead. Leadership is standing with – not standing for.

Creating a movement

Form allies outside of the communities in which you are seeking change. Perfectly put by Sally Rugg, Executive director of “when campaigning for social justice you need allies for the minority.” We need to move away from universalising problems and start humanising them. People hate problems but are inherently empathetic, so when we create movements and campaign for change we need to show that the solutions are achievable if we work together.

Empowering people is a key intermediary outcome. Particularly in health promotion and the disadvantaged, a focus on empowerment has been shown to improve health outcomes, and be a positive outcome in and of itself. Empowered people seek information about better health, adopt better health behaviours, manage their conditions better (both physically and emotionally), and have increased participation and compliance with behaviour change campaigns.

Use social media to amplify the message, increase engagement and create a two way conversation. In Australia, 8 out of every 10 people use social media. Of that group, nearly all (95%) use Facebook. As a nation, the number of people with a social media account is higher than it’s ever been. In panel discussions we heard from Nayuka Gorrie: “social media is not a replacement for integrity and real leadership or engagement” but when used in conjunction with strategic communication and engaging content it can change cultural perceptions and behaviour.

From these key takeaways we see that we live in a society where people are interdependent on one another and we, as Victorians and all Australians, are committed to living out the principles of justice and equality. More Australians now expect businesses to lead change than government. In these changing times, companies need more than just a clear purpose; they need to live it, measure it and communicate it. Ultimately building movements that inspire people to think, act and share, for good.

If you need help measuring social impact, framing for shared value or campaigning for behaviour change then talk to us.

Photo by Manki Kim.