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Value of Neighbourhood Houses

Did you know that the Neighbourhood Houses in Hepburn Shire Council deliver more than eight times the impact that they are funded to achieve? There is a reason for that. Need is high and up close in rural communities and when faced with need, people can be ingenious about finding ways to get things done.

In innovative communities like Clunes, the 'there has to be a way' mind-set is just part of getting on with the job of living. It's not something often thought about. But when you break down the figures, the real community value of Neighbourhood Houses (and that approach) is mind blowing – especially in Hepburn Shire.

A Third Higher than the Central Highlands Average

Based on a 2021 study of Victorian Neighbourhood Houses, the Hepburn Shire Neighbourhood Houses in Clunes, Creswick, Daylesford and Trentham deliver $295.91 worth of community value (improved quality of life, volunteer contributions, improved health, emergency relief or services) every hour they are open. That is nearly $100 more than Houses in the wider Central Highlands region.

What it means on the Ground?

Thanks to Deloitte Access Economics the monetary value of the role Neighbourhood Houses play in communities can now be readily, and comparatively, calculated. In August 2021, in the early days of the ‘Delta Outbreak’, data was gathered over a period of just four days via the Neighbourhood House Survey demonstrating that even in times of restriction, the impact of a Neighbourhood House in a local community can be significant. $49,205 worth of significant.

Across Hepburn Shire, this figure translated on the ground into:

- 207 hours worth of volunteering

- 89 meals delivered

- 395 kgs of food relief provided… to name just a few outcomes!

When you consider that Neighbourhood Houses are often small organisations with limited resources (part-time staff, led by local citizens giving their time to govern, using shared facilities) these outcomes are staggering.

Measuring Results

Logically Houses know they are having an impact. They can see the results of tangible activities; or receive feedback from people who they work with directly. Organisationally they measure performance against their strategic plan and like Clunes has recently, Neighbourhood Houses are getting better at celebrating wins along the way.

As part of our end of year reflections we recently pulled together our own version of a Christmas advent calendar to reflect on just a few of these outcomes that were top of mind. But without the structure of a statewide study like this one, Houses don’t often calculate the value of what they do by the hour – or compare themselves to other like-minded organisations.

Volunteers are Vital

There is no way these outcomes could be delivered by paid staff alone. In Clunes it is only because of the contributions of many skilled and generous volunteers that we get our day to day (as well as our extra-special) business done. Across Hepburn Shire, during the four days of the study (one day was lock-down) volunteer contributions valued $10,850.

Doing Things Together

Notably, Hepburn Shire Houses recognise that collaboration is the key to increasing our impact, and are responsible for $73,264 worth of auspicing support to 38 other groups in Clunes, Creswick, Daylesford and Trentham. This constitutes more than two-thirds of the collaborations in operation across the entire Central Highlands region. These are smart connections that play an important role in helping strengthen the cohesion of communities in our Shire – as well as the innovation.

Whatever the reason, these figures acknowledge (in a very tangible, fiscal way) the value Neighbourhood Houses play in our shire; and the way each of the four Houses are leading in their own place-based way. #Lovewhereyoulive

AUTHOR: Lana de Kort.

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