Corporate Citizenship

Using data to help turn youth suicide statistics around

Written by Stephen Bell, CEO of Youthline New Zealand

This post originally appeared in the Citizen IBM blog

New Zealand, based in the South Pacific, is a beautiful country – mountains, lakes, bush, birdlife, land of the long white cloud, land of milk and honey.

But beneath the breath-taking postcard scenery there is also some shameful statistics. To its horror, New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world and is ranked 38th out of 41 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries for the overall health and wellbeing of young people (OECD reports).

When people hear this, they are shocked. How can New Zealand have such terrible statistics in such a beautiful country which is relatively well off and developed?

Youthline is New Zealand’s most recognised youth support organisation, and has been changing the lives of young New Zealanders since 1970 through youth help and leadership development programmes. Youthline is very clear about what it can do to make a difference. As CEO, I lead an organisation that works with passion to ensure that all young people know where to go, can ask for and receive good help when needed, are able to help others through a hard time and are engaged in things that light their fire through being active in their communities.

But we need to do more. A recent IBM Business Value report, ‘Leap before you Lag’, says non-profit organisations that are more advanced in data and analytics practices are more effective in their outcomes, and achieving internal efficiencies.

Youthline needs data and analytics to see the impact of what we are doing. In turn, the only way for us to understand the impact of our work is to measure it, and the only way to measure it is to have consistent practices that enable the efficient collection of data. Data can then be analysed to demonstrate impact or lack of impact, and enable us to build wisdom and inform our decision-making about what really makes a difference.

Youthline is known and respected as an organisation that:

  • Partners effectively and is a sector leader in collective impact;
  • Has a depth of specialism with a range of youth and family related issues;
  • Creates great community spaces with an innovative approach to social enterprise.

It was in the spirit of partnership that Youthline was delighted to work with IBM recently to develop a roadmap to help guide us become a data-driven organisation. Over a four week period, IBM consultants worked with the Youthline leadership team to better understand our current capabilities and the opportunities for data and analytics. The work included self-evaluations, analysis of our strategic plan, identification of activities that can drive impact through data usage, and recommendations for ways to manage and collect data, as well as considerations for metrics to track improvements and results.

Many of the young people Youthline works with have broken or missing relationships in their lives. We need to be conscious not to replicate these gaps at a societal level. By working in partnership, and leveraging the strengths of different teams, we can achieve stronger outcomes, and help turn around the shameful statistics.

As CEO, I want to use data to help equip our organisation to ensure all young people reach their potential. Passion and good intentions is not enough. By using data and analytics to review our programmes and services, we will add a depth of wisdom and evidence that will enable us to be more skillful and impactful with our work.

Related resources

How do you quantify social impact?

Read the IBM Business Value report: Leap before you lag

Learn more about IBM impact grants

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