Social return on investment: application for an indigenous rangelands context.
Social Return on Investment (SROI) is an internationally recognised methodology used to measure and value the economic impact of program outcomes. Like a traditional cost-benefit analysis, SROI examines economic outcomes, but also includes the social, environmental and cultural outcomes created by the investment. These outcomes are evaluated against their cost, using financial proxies to estimate their relative economic worth. SROI is particularly valuable in the indigenous natural resource management context, because of the strong 'value' or importance of non-economic (particularly cultural) costs and benefits. The Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources Management Board undertook a study of the economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts and benefits of the presence of large feral herbivores in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in the far north-west of South Australia. Camels, donkeys and horses present significant impacts for the community in terms of vehicle collisions, community health, damage to infrastructure and water pollution, as well as impacts on sites of cultural and spiritual significance to the local communities. With the annual cost impacts incurred by society caused by large feral herbivores in the APY lands valued at $4.2 million and possible dollar value of those animals valued at $140 000, the study found that there was a net cost impact of ~$4 million from not managing the impact of these animals. The study also found significant cultural impacts of large feral herbivores, such as the fouling of natural springs and other culturally sensitive sites, and further analysis would be required to determine the economic cost of these impacts. Investment models that consider a broad range of costs and benefits are considered necessary for Australian rangelands, particularly Indigenous-owned land. This paper presents a case study of the development of a ranger program that employs local community members to manage the impacts of large feral herbivores that will provide a net benefit to society of ~$3 million every year, aside from the additional benefits of employment and economic participation. The $3-million net benefit accrues from saving human lives and costs associated with vehicle accidents, and reduced management costs and increased income for pastoral areas of the APY Lands. APY community members, and the APY Pastoral business are core beneficiaries; however, there are several external beneficiaries that this SROI approach recognises including the Motor Accident Commission, Health Departments and South Australian Police. The strongly positive SROI in this case presents an excellent co-investment opportunity for agencies whose core focus is on road safety and health. Importantly, the SROI approach to creation of social value can be implemented in a way that is consistent with stated community aspirations for development.