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How data puts wellbeing at centre of recovery

RESET 2020 Research Project - what we learnt and where to next.


In a PAF that I’ve advised for many years, about three years ago we provided a small but impactful ‘Wellbeing Capacity Grant’ to the leaders of our four charity partners. It enabled the four CEOs (three founders) to access support across compassion fatigue for themselves and their teams. The impact of that small gesture is one of the many reasons that wellbeing and resilience is core to the mission of the Collective, and it is also very much reflected in what we have learned from the RESET 2020 Research Project and where we are going next.

While RESET 2020 National Impact + Need Research Study was designed and run by The Xfactor Collective, it was only made possible because of the breadth of cross-sector collaboration, involvement and support from 20-plus outreach partners. The funding provided by Equity Trustees Sector Capacity Building Fund was the key that unlocked our collective potential. Since day one, the project has been built by the sector, for the sector. The ongoing ripple effect and learnings around the notion of ‘Wellbeing Governance’ now provide us with both an opportunity, and indeed responsibility to take forward as we all lead, inspire and evolve the social purpose sector.


The holistic nature of the Research Study with its focus on employees and volunteers of social purpose organisations gave a voice to the hundreds of small organisations whose voice is not often heard. They have told us unequivocally - with 80% agreement - that it is pre-pandemic sector constraints and ways of working that are most contributing to the wide-scale burnout and fatigue. An overwhelming message that “we can’t go back” came through the responses. The September 2020 survey showed that 40% to 45% of the sector are now often or always in high levels of stress, exhaustion and overwhelm, and we know that the situation is certainly much worse now with rolling lockdowns, income impacts and exhausted workforces. The data has also been made available free through the Seer Data Platform and also been used in other forms of advocacy, including Social Ventures Australia’s work with Partners in Recovery. 


My sector peers and fellow directors know that I’ve long visioned a Sector Wellbeing Index that ensures we can track, measure, and monitor the wellbeing of the most precious resource in the sector, our people. We have been successful together to validate the need for this, with 100% of sector leaders earlier this year validating and encouraging us to continue the focus of our efforts on wellbeing and resilience. The sector consultations with 24 leaders across 16 organisations (many of whom were outreach partners with RESET 2020) confirmed the ongoing need for the sector to elevate organisational wellbeing, to as important as financial wellbeing.

The Xfactor Collective Foundation - with Sarah Davies AM and Dr Wendy Scaife as directors (alongside myself) - are taking carriage of this through our charity arm, and we are fortunate to have Annette Herschtal working in a Special Projects & Partnerships role to take forward this project, alongside our other focus of reducing the inequities that small to medium sized charities face in accessing skilled support and advice for their organisations.  


A vision for what’s possible, and what’s needed, has been gifted to us all through the voices of 350 organisations in the data. In the responses, there are stories of inspiration, survival and innovation that can now be elevated to understand how we can work together to resolve systemic burnout. The study also gave us the sector’s first set of pre-pandemic wellbeing indicators, which painted a picture of an already exhausted workforce - with 1 in 5 saying they were not taking good care of themselves always or often, and 1 in 10 felt their workload was unachievable often or always. We know anecdotally of visionary grantmakers who took the opportunity to adjust their grantmaking practice, and fund core costs for the first time in their grantmaking practice, as well as other simplifying the grants application process.


With the endorsement of Equity Trustees, our Foundation arm is able to offer the RESET 2020 methodology, expertise and team as an ‘outsourced research’ option for grantmakers and peak bodies who are wanting to delve deeper into the ongoing issues and impacts of COVID-19 on their communities. This provides small organisations especially with a professionally-run research and analytics team who understand the social purpose sector. For example, rural and regional study has been commissioned and run through the Foundation. In the case of grantmakers, it enables a tool to listen to the needs of their communities to design truly reflective funding programs. 


We now have a collective platform to talk openly about the practices and mindsets that do not serve us. I’m loosely calling this a movement of ‘Wellbeing Governance’, where every decision on what we do, say and develop is filtered through a wellbeing and resilience lens. Speaking at a conference recently helped me reflect further on the ‘more mentality’ that is prolific in our sector, and earlier this year I shared a piece on the correlation between core and capacity funding and systemic burnout.


We have just received a NSW Government grant in the Foundation to expand our video library as part of what we call our ‘Collective Access’ project that aims to address the inequities for small organisations to access professional expert advice and support. Wellbeing focussed content will be part of this expansion. Another way we are sharing expertise is with partner webinars, including last week’s webinar with Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) on the impact of the pandemic on our people, with three specialists sharing knowledge across leadership, culture, trauma and compassion fatigue.

Overall, RESET 2020 has helped to put a spotlight on the wellbeing of the 1.2 million employees and 3 million volunteers in our sector. The project illustrated that we must continue to advocate for the wellbeing, sustainability and viability of our sector and its most precious resource, our people.

The graphic below showing the pre-COVID and during COVID rates of burnout will continue to be our north star as we continue to practice collaboration, provide new solutions and advocate for a wellbeing-led recovery. If you’d like to join this journey with us, please reach out to us, myself or Annette at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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