Blak Impact has arrived. And it is here that the yarn begins; of a First Nations organisation stepping in to the landscape of defining, articulating and measuring success and impact for First Nations peoples.

Blak Impact is a small but dynamic team writing the beginning of a new chapter in First Nations social impact. Skye Trudgett is three months ‘old’ as the inaugural Social Impact Lead at Blak Impact. Indu Balachandran is four years ‘old’ at NCIE and the Director of Impact. Indu was previously NCIE’s Chief Operating Officer.

Skye Trudgett is a Gamilaroi woman with mixed heritage whose life purpose is to meaningfully contribute to change making ‘as’ First Nations peoples. Skye joined Blak Impact to learn, share and be immersed in culturally grounded, First Nations driven approaches to creating social justice for our current and future generations.

Indu Balachandran is a Tamil-Indian Australian woman. Indu joined NCIE to work for Aboriginal issues at an Aboriginal organisation. It has been the ride of her life – to be amongst an extraordinary Aboriginal community in Redfern and nationally, to have been a part of the place and people that are NCIE, and to develop new ventures and strengthen existing ones alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues.

The Dreaming
Blak Impact began as a seed around the question on why Aboriginal people and organisations seek external expertise on impact assessment and measurement relating to First Nations outcomes, rather than build this knowledge ourselves.

NCIE and ILSC Directors, and the NCIE Executive team believed the intellectual property and evidence base would serve communities and the ILSC family differently if held by First Nations organisations and peoples. We went to work to develop a model and plan that we could test. Blak Impact is a venture that brings to life ideas, shapes and stories of dynamic First Nations leaders of Australia.

NCIE has been travelling along the stream of social impact design and measurement for some years now. We recognise it as an area of deep interest and value for First Nations peoples; and a space First Nations people want to influence, work in, support, implement and assess. We also know that it is a critical space to occupy to drive self-determination in a world that is increasingly driven by performance on outcomes. That being said, First Nations people are yet to hold agency in this space.

NCIE would now develop a new service that would address the need for First Nations agency in impact, complement naturally our community-based services and national reach; and pioneer new ways founded on ancient wisdom.

The Vision

“It is vital that our people’s voices are embedded in how success in First Nations communities is framed and articulated. After more than a decade of reforms designed to close the gap on health inequality and other social and economic measures, there has never been a more critical time for First Nations expertise to be at the centre of finding solutions to the challenges we face”.

NCIE CEO, Clare McHugh

Blak Impact’s Theory of Change
Blak Impact is founded on self-determination and excellence – that First Nations communities, organisations and people articulate, drive and measure their own success. Our three domains of change are systems, narrative and process. We will do this by:

  • Centering and amplifying the ancient impact and evaluation wisdom of First Nations peoples
  • Leading impactful projects with valued clients and partners
  • Contributing to shifting systemic elements and write a new narrative for First Nations impact and evaluation

Our Ecosystem
Our work builds outwards, centered on the experiences and voices of First Nations peoples on the ground, coming together to disrupt the system. Our networks will be First Nations led and inclusive of all – to strengthen and sustain self-determined economic pathways for First Nations peoples; developers of tools and resources, storytellers, suppliers, consultants, stakeholders, partners and peers who engage in the impact landscape.

Blak Impact has started up in one of the most challenging moments of modern society – during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the people and organisations who have reached out to us to connect and partner, has made for an exciting beginning. We are building an excellent and growing team of First Nations employees and have decided to develop a model that will enable people to work from anywhere. There is no better way to ensure our people, projects and communities are aligned.

Our Early Successes
We started with a bang and are delivering projects with sound results and feedback – in philanthropy design, in community-led data mapping, in Aboriginal organisation monitoring and evaluation – and anticipate that it will be a busy time ahead, COVID or not.

“A living theory of change – now that is something special”

Blak Impact is committed to sharing through compelling visualisations and rich media; this approach is central to amplifying the stories and voices of First Nations communities. Check out how we incorporated a digital storyscape into our work on understanding the effects of COVID-19 on the NCIE Community.

We have a deadly First Nations team, with skills in evaluation, social enterprise development, strategy, design, facilitation and community engagement.

NCIE is a melting pot for old and new ways of knowing, doing and being. This sees us leading innovative and culturally grounded initiatives such as the pioneering methods implemented at IDX’s virtual retreat held during COVID-19; First Nations peoples across the country could stay connected even during lockdown. We are further exploring and working closely on First Nations-led digital innovation in impact and evaluation.

We are excited about the early chapters of Blak Impact and invite you to join our journey over the next few weeks, months or years!

By Indu Balachandran and Skye Trudgett