Research undertaken by the University of South Australia in collaboration with Uniting Country SA and Centacare Catholic Country SA indicates every dollar spent by regionally based non-government organisations returns 2.3 times the dollar value to local communities.
The new study, titled “The Social and Economic Value of Country-based Community Service Organisations”, was led by Dr Catherine Mackenzie from UniSA’s Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, and found the benefits flowing from NGOs in regional areas extend well beyond the direct services they provide.
“The findings in this study suggest there are enormous social, civic and economic benefits of supporting country based non-government community service organisations and the significant role they play in underpinning and supporting local economies and vibrant communities,” Dr Mackenzie says.
The research aimed to determine the economic contribution organisations based in the country are making in their local communities, both directly through their own purchasing and indirectly through the wages spent by people they employ and suppliers they engage.
The study found regional NGOs play a significant role in reinvigorating local economies, directly and indirectly mitigating the decline caused by the economic, population and environmental challenges facing many regional centres.
“These service operations are anchor institutions, organisations that are considered stable and enduring,” Dr Mackenzie says. “As such they provide residents with something to build a community around and help to counter some of the problems associated with recent regional industrial and social change,” Dr Mackenzie says.
In addition to the economic boost flowing from regional NGOs, findings show this investment leads to increased volunteering in local communities, and Anthea Pavy CE, Uniting Country SA, notes this wider community engagement is a key goal for her organisation.
“Having our organisation based regionally not only provides valuable services to our clients, through our programs, but importantly, supports local communities through our spending,” Ms Pavy says.
Dr Jen Cleary, CEO Centacare Catholic Country SA, says wider recognition of the value country-based NGOs have to the regional areas could be key to ensuring there is a viable future for many of these communities.
“In the current South Australian policy space of regional development, the value of social service provision is often overlooked as an economic contributor,” Dr Cleary says.
“What this research highlights, is that local service delivery has benefits that cut across both social and economic domains. It is an important factor to consider in discussions about developing regional South Australia.”