When Te Pou Matakana conference key note speaker Jeremy Nicholls arrived in New Zealand, he knew little about Māori culture and even less about Whānau Ora.
But “measuring what matters”, the underpinning theme of the Whānau ora two-day conference, is an international language and a subject Jeremy is a world authority on.
The former economist and accountant has been at the forefront of change – social change – and how it is measured.
“I arrived in New Zealand not knowing what Whānau Ora was,” Jeremy admitted.
“My understanding was Whānau Ora was a voice of the people, getting what they believed mattered into policy.
“And the community’s voice must be at the heart of decision making – and that is what Whānau Ora is. It is empowering people to take ownership.”
Jeremy said the trip to New Zealand and the opportunity to meet with Whānau Ora providers delivering services at the frontline was “inspiring.
“The energy and enthusiasm from organisations dealing with families to get under the bonnet of how we manage and measure what we are doing was fantastic,” he said.
“Our approach as an international network is always about putting the decisions back in the hands of the people whose lives are being effected. That is an international issue and is being driven in New Zealand by organisations like Te Pou Matakana. It’s been a privilege for me to see what is happening in New Zealand.”
The Social Value International network was launched only 8 years ago when Jeremy needed to find something to focus in his life.
“I started life as an economist then an accountant and during that time I stayed at home to be a house parent,” Jeremy said.
“When my son grew up and started school, I got involved in social enterprise and sustainability.
“There came a time when I decided that I was doing a bunch of things and needed to focus, so I ended up concentrating on this – how much value are we actually creating – which was a step back to my accounting mind set.”
Social Value International has 8 national member bodies world-wide. Social Value Aotearoa is the New Zealand member network. Waipareira CEO John Tamihere is the New Zealand representative on the international board. There are also 6 other countries whose networks are currently affiliated members of Social Value International.
“The way policy is being developed and driven in New Zealand is in line with our international focus of empowerment and giving people a voice through the way in which we measure impact,” Jeremy said.
“Being accountable for spending money is being accountable to the people whose lives you change and making sure that change is relevant to them – It has to be.
He said it was difficult to compare what is happening in the UK or anywhere else with what is starting to make change in New Zealand.
“It is difficult to compare countries and where they are at with social values because you only see the best bits. To compare solely on that slice is unfair,” he said.
“But everyone is moving faster. The sense I got from the conference was you had a group of people who were a long way ahead in terms of sharing.
“Our role as an international body is to facilitate that and make sure the learnings are shared throughout the world.”
He said New Zealand was in a unique position and to hear the views of Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, gave him confidence that New Zealand was on the right track.
“What is unique to New Zealand is your history and cultural drivers behind change,” he said.
“It was interesting listening to Hankie talking about Native American (Indian) affairs in the US because we have always thought this (Social Value) approach was people get power to make decisions for their communities.”
Jeremy acknowledged understanding measurements that mattered was often misunderstood.
“People have always believed that measurements had to be done by technical experts and that measurement was a political tool. But it’s about power, it’s about change, it’s about voice,” he said.
“But who decides what is measured, how and what is important, has to be decided by and with those whose lives can and will be effected.”
“You can’t make meaningful social change unless you measure what is meaningful to the people.”