Vulnerability Mapping – NFPs are using data to better target their efforts in a COVID-19 world

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Perpetual Private Insights

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The Coronavirus pandemic is damaging already vulnerable communities and creating new pockets of vulnerability. Perpetual partner, Seer Data, gives NFPs and philanthropists the data they need to target their response.

“For the community sector the COVID-19 crisis is a double hammer blow,” says Caitriona Fay, Perpetual’s Managing Partner for Community and Social Investment.

“It places more demands on NFPs already stretched by the bushfire crisis. It also hits society’s ability to support NFPs. Governments are already funding massive health and economic compensation measures. The ability of philanthropists and corporate and public donors to fill the gap is also weakened by falling asset prices and investment returns, job losses and falling business revenue.”

In this environment you need to get the available resources to the right places as soon as possible. That’s where data – specific and usable data – is vital.

Like to know more about how NFPs are using Seer’s data on the ground in their communities? Our Data, Insights, Action piece features three real-life case studies.

The most vulnerable

Seer’s most recent analysis highlights some of the communities who are at most risk during the COVID-19 crisis.

Kristi Mansfield, Seer co-founder and CEO, says areas such as Ashcroft, Canley Vale, Fairfield and Cabramatta in western Sydney, already amongst the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, are likely to suffer even more as the lockdown’s effect on employment and incomes hits home.

seer dataMap 1. For people living in South Western Sydney, access to economic resources is a major challenge. Source: Seer Data & Analytics, May 2020.

“These are areas where small business is a big employer and as many as 1 in 5 people are employed in vulnerable industries such as accommodation and food services, retail trade, arts and recreation services,” says Ms Mansfield. “In these areas, people have fewer economic resources available to help weather this shock. The crisis is deepening already existing disadvantage – and that’s something government, philanthropists and NFPs need to factor into their response.”

According to Perpetual’s Caitriona Fay, it is important to understand the broader damage COVID-19 is doing. “The shutdown and social distancing could exacerbate existing problems – including mental health issues, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse.”

New vulnerabilities

Seer’s analysis finds similar large pockets of disadvantage in Victoria (in areas such as Broadmeadows and Roxburgh Park, St Albans and Braybrook) and Queensland – particularly around the Gold Coast.

Queensland’s Southport, for example has both a significant homelessness problem and many people dealing with mortgage and rental stress. The big new challenge faced by these Gold Coast suburbs is how the COVID-19 crisis affects local and international tourism, retail and recreation.

Seer Data financial vulnerability mapMap 2. Communities in the Gold Coast are among the most at risk of unemployment. Source: Seer Data & Analytics, May 2020.

“These communities are struggling due to the “cancelled economy” says Kristi Mansfield, “They are in the top 3% of communities across Australia when it comes to employment in vulnerable industries. With shops shuttered, entertainment venues closed and restaurants reduced to trickling out takeaways, these communities face a grim future unless resources and services can be targeted to help them adjust”.

Not so secure anymore

With the help of data from organisations like Seer, NFPs, philanthropists and government can target their response at existing areas of disadvantage and on those likely to bear the brunt of COVID-19’s economic aftermath.

Seer has compiled a list of the 50 Australian communities (classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as SA2s – about the size of a suburb) likely to be hardest hit by the effects of COVID-19 due to their reliance on vulnerable industries. It includes many communities not previously regarded as vulnerable – including Acton in the ACT, Port Douglas and Cairns City in Queensland and Jindabyne in NSW.

Another looming issue is rental and mortgage stress. By some measures, Australia already has the world’s second highest level of household debt. The toxic combination of high debt and the job losses and business closures caused by COVID-19 could push some of these communities into decline and distress.

The right response?

The question for the community sector is how to respond to the COVID-19 challenge – now and over the long-term. Caitriona Fay says, “Access to Open data means we can target resources more effectively in the right geographical areas. But the data also gives us better insights into what types of support NFPs should provide and what philanthropists could fund. In the short-term there are clear immediate needs – ensuring access to mental health support, providing food security and crisis accommodation. In the longer term we need to fund organisations that can help with retraining, job support, housing. We have better access to data than ever before – now we need to be smart and flexible in how we use it.”

How Perpetual is working with NFPs and philanthropists to support communities through COVID-19

  • Perpetual has a partnership with Seer Data and Seer is offering NFPs free access to its Standard Plan for the rest of 2020. The Plan includes interactive vulnerability mapping and an insights package to help NFPs respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Access Seer insights here.
  • The Perpetual Philanthropy team is working with philanthropists to make their giving more effective in a COVID-19 world. Learn how here.
  • Perpetual can also assist NFPs who need to adapt their investment or governance strategies to the current environment. NFPs should contact Perpetual via Scott Hawker, National Manager, Not-for-Profit Endowments at or 02 9229 9319.


Visit our COVID-19 Insights Hub for economic and market updates to keep you informed as the situation evolves.

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To find out how we can help with investments, governance, effective giving and more during challenging times, get in touch with our NFP and philanthropy specialists.

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