How does a large government department build its capacity for evaluation in a way that is strategic and makes the most of opportunities? And how can this be evaluated?
Chris Milne and Marita Merlene from ARTD, and Greg Bowen, who recently retired from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, described how to a large audience at the Australasian Evaluation Society International Conference in Melbourne.
The Department has led the way among Commonwealth agencies in building its evaluation capacity since 2010. Greg described how they took an organisational development approach and worked on both the demand for and supply of evaluation. The made use of an opportunity to design and expand online and face-to-face training in evaluation, and supported program managers through mentoring and advice from evaluation experts. A lot of work went into developing data systems, including work with the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Marita and Chris described how the evaluation of the strategy allowed for emerging opportunities and new barriers in a turbulent organisational and policy environment. They looked at the effectiveness of individual capacity building programs, then used a complexity model to design an initial organisational maturity matrix for evaluation that highlighted the intended outcomes and show progress to date. In situations like this, the evaluation itself was part of the management of organisational change.
You can access the slides from their presentation here.
We have been working in partnership with Weave Youth & Community Services to support them to evaluate their services over the last few years. Weave is a non-profit organisation that supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young women, children and families in the City of Sydney and South Sydney areas. Over 70 per cent of their clients are Aboriginal.
Our current evaluation aims to document and share learnings from Weave’s therapeutic relationships and models of support, which are designed to improve outcomes for people with mental illness. Consultations with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients and staff will help us build an understanding of what is most useful about Weave’s services, and what the sector might learn from Weave’s approach.
The evaluation is part of the wider ‘Stories of Lived Experience’ project for which Weave received a grant from the Inner West Sydney Partners in Recovery Program. ARTD is contributing in-kind resources to support the project. The evaluation will report to Weave in May 2016.
You can find more information about Weave’s services on their website.
ARTD has been working with the Department of Family and Community Services and Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation to evaluate the Aboriginal Women Leaving Custody Strategy. The Strategy was developed to inform policy and procedural changes to reduce homelessness that follows from incarceration, and to inform an effective service model that addresses the support needs of Aboriginal women in custody on short-notice release.
Sue Leahy and Alexandra Ellinson met with the Aboriginal reference group, which includes the Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation, on the 15th of September to gain an Aboriginal community perspective on the evaluation findings. This approach is part of our commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal communities in evaluation and research projects and feeding back findings to communities. The discussion provided significant insights into the context for the findings and helped to identify learnings and recommendations.
Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation was founded by five Aboriginal elders from Western Sydney. Their purpose is to connect with individuals and families in a welcoming environment, providing them supports and links to services that help them heal from the past and nurture their sense of confidence and pride in the future. The group has strong knowledge of the community and has built contacts within and outside the community. You can find out more about the corporation using this link.