The Morwell Neighbourhood House sits on a working-class street surrounded by ageing brick and weatherboard homes. It’s not much too look at. Driving by you could easily mistake it for a suburban doctors surgery—if you noticed it at all.
But behind the neat native garden and unassuming exterior is a bustling engine-room of community health, resilience and wellbeing.
The Morwell Neighbourhood House has been operating since 1982, with a mission to support individuals, bring people together and develop the community’s capacity to solve local challenges. Most recently, the centre played a pivotal role after the destructive Morwell Mine Fire of 2014.
Last year the Neighbourhood House set itself a challenge. They knew their centre was productive and much-loved, but they wanted to actually measure its true social impact. Knowing its value to the community would help enormously when planning future operations, and dealing with funders and stakeholders.
Morwell Neighbourhood House engaged prominent consulting firm Deloitte Access Economics to provide an estimate of the social impact of the Neighbourhood House over one calendar year.
The Social impact study of Morwell Neighbourhood House final report found that in 2017, from a total income of just $134,039, Morwell Neighbourhood House provided more than $600,000 in value to the local community. That is a 350% return on investment.
As well as this outstanding financial return, the report also found that Morwell Neighbourhood House provided significant community benefit by building individual and community resilience.
The report analysed social impacts of the services provided by Morwell Neighbourhood House in a number of areas, including:
- Health and wellbeing
According to the report, a range of services offered by the Neighbourhood House—including social groups, community lunches, and community meeting and support groups—all contributed to resilient and sustainable relationships, personal wellbeing and confidence.
In addition, weekly activities provided an inclusive environment for people with a disability, leading to stronger community relationships and improved social connectedness.
The promotion of the Neighbourhood House and its activities in local media, the free lawnmower program and the leadership offered to other community organisations all contributed to greater community pride of place and empowerment.
The role of volunteers in the Neighbourhood House, and the courses that were run in general education, life skills, craft and computer programs, all assisted local people to acquire valuable skills. The food bank, Gippsland period project and direct financial aid provided access to resources for people in need. These helped to build the resilience of the local community by ensuring better access to essential resources and crisis support.
Neighbourhood Houses help Victorians make friends, get involved in their community and become economically engaged.
The report stated that Morwell Neighbourhood House’s ‘true impact on the community is likely to be much greater,’ and that ‘the reader should keep in mind that the true impact of such a vibrant and responsive organisation on a community like Morwell and its surrounds is likely to be much greater’.
Deloitte Access Economics noted that there is scope for further research, in particular in relation to how much government money is saved through grassroots prevention activities like those taken by Morwell Neighbourhood House.
Neighbourhood Houses help Victorians make friends, get involved in their community and become economically engaged. They create inclusive and welcoming environments where people of any ability, background or age can connect, learn and share. They are also a cost-effective way of combatting loneliness and social isolation, improving people’s wellbeing and reducing their reliance on acute and other government services.
With the increase in funding for Neighbourhood Houses in the recent Victorian Budget, the Victorian Government can be satisfied that this investment has a profound return.