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Determining key attributes of social capital and social impact: the case of surf life saving australia

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 14:00 authored by Darcy, S, Onyx, J, M Edwards, Hazel MaxwellHazel Maxwell, Bullen, P, Sherker, S

Surf Life Saving Australia is an Australian icon from both a sporting and a volunteer perspective. Sport organisations and the third sector generally need to understand the social impact they have on society generally and their specific constituencies. Do they make a difference to their constituency or to the social life of a community? If they do make a difference, what kind of difference are they making? Most organisations measure the economic impact they have but more often it would be beneficial for an organisation to understand the contribution they make to the social lives of their members and to civil society. This paper is part of a larger study investigating the development of social impact measures for third sector organisations. Specifically this paper seeks to understand how to measure the social capital of an organisation and the social impact that the organisation has on civil society.

The research design used a two stage process: 1. The first stage involved a qualitative interpretive approach through focus group discussions with a variety of SLSA stakeholders. Data was collected from eight focus groups with key SLSA staff, board members and 'toes in the sand' volunteers, nationally {a total of 61 participants). The analysis produced a hypothesised model of social capital and social impact; 2. The second stage involved the development of an online questionnaire to test the hypothesised theoretical model where 2,500 usable responses were collected from the membership via e-mail contact. The questionnaire developed 71 items from the focus group data together with an additional five questions for those in a governance role concerning the organisation as a whole. An additional 20 demographic items were included together with open ended questions regarding examples of social impact, cultural diversity and their description of the social contribution of the organisation. The paper presents the analysis of the findings through the use of a logic model. The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical implications for understanding social capital and social impact in a sporting context. This includes the organisational activities regarded as having lower and higher orders of impact The model suggests a logic path that progresses from events inside the organisation with immediate benefits to individuals through to the wider community with networks extending from the organisation to provide a series of social impacts and benefits to civil society.





School of Health Sciences

Event title

SMANZ 2012

Event Venue

Sydney, Australia

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Date of Event (End Date)


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Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in human society

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