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AES Blog

This is the AES Blog, where we regularly post articles by the Australasian evaluation community on the subjects that matter to us. If you have an idea, please contact us at . Blog guidelines can be found here.

 

Welcome to the AES Blog

Australasia has some excellent evaluators. More than that, we have an evaluation community full of ideas and a willingness to share. The AES has long provided a place for us to come together, at regional events and the annual conference, to develop our community together. Now we’re taking it online! The new AES blog will be a space for AES members – both new and experienced – to share their perspectives, reflecting on their theory... If you have an idea, please contact us on . Please also view our blog guidelines.

Greater than the sum of the parts: Evaluating the collective impact of complex programs

by Brianna Page and Mateja Hawley

Public policy seeks to address a wide array of issues, so it cannot rely only on one policy lever. Instead, tackling knotty problems or capitalising on big opportunities requires all the tools in a policymaker's toolkit. But this means evaluators must also consider our own toolkits, in order to be able to provide robust evidence on multi-faceted initiatives aimed at diverse stakeholders and changes in systems and practices. This was the challenge we at Nous faced when evaluating the Queensland Government's Advance Queensland (AQ) Initiative, a $755 million flagship initiative designed to foster innovation, build Queensland's knowledge economy, and create jobs now and for the future. 

AQ has all the hallmarks of complexity. It comprises about 140 programs and activities delivered by 9 government departments, coordinated by the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport (DTIS). It includes programs aimed at a diverse range of stakeholders – innovators, businesses, researchers, investors and industry – and includes three priority groups – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women, and regional and remote innovators. 
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Working with lived experience researchers: a practical framework

by Jade Maloney, Sharon-Marra Brown, Alexandra Lorigan and Rosie Dale

At AES22, ARTD Consultants' Jade Maloney, Sharon Marra-Brown, Alexandra Lorigan and Holly Kovak presented on a panel with peer researchers, Kirsty Rosie and Rosie Dale, on the practicalities of co-evaluating with lived and living experience (LLE) researchers.

Co-evaluation like co-design is informed by the principle of 'nothing about us, without us.' While co-design recognises the rights of people with lived experience to shape the policies and programs that affect their lives and the way this strengthens policy, co-evaluation recognises the expertise that people with lived experience bring to designing measures of success, collecting data and making sense of findings and the way this can strengthen evaluation. 

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Evaluation Capacity Building in Primary Prevention: Lifting our gaze to the conditions for success in primary prevention

by Kate Baker

When it comes to improving the health and wellbeing of our communities, there's quite a lot of peddling going on. Needless to say we've been peddling even harder through these recent times of COVID-19. We are working hard to manage the increasing load on our mental health services system. We are working hard to respond to the impacts of racism, gender inequity, poor diet and our increasingly sedentary lives. We are working hard to manage 'the loneliness epidemic' and its associated health effects, and not to mention a struggling aged care system. There's a lot going on and I can't help but feel like there's quite a bit of bumping around in the dark as we work hard to build happy, healthy communities. I'm not really sure we are getting to the bottom of things.  
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Systems Thinking in the Sunshine State

by AES QLD Committee Members

Evaluators in the AES network are increasingly being challenged to apply evaluative thinking, methods and tools to innovative, emergent, place-based or otherwise complex initiatives. These initiatives often seek to achieve improvements not only in individuals and institutions, but in the systems that hold 'wicked' societal problems in place. The desired systems-level outcomes are often difficult to define, predict and measure and can change and evolve as the implementing organisations learn which strategies are most effective in reaching their goal.

In response, a recent issue of the AES QLD regional committee's newsletter focussed on resources, methods and mindsets to support members to in evaluating  complex systems change initiatives. Here are the take-outs.

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Evaluator Career Pathways

by Charlie Tulloch

As we move into 2021 after an interrupted 2020, it is a good time to reflect on the place of evaluators in the working world. It is clear that many sectors and vocations have been forced to significantly upscale, downscale or adapt to changing economic and global circumstances.

Fortunately for us, there remains a central role for evaluation to play in the face of increasing challenges, demanding an ongoing need for analysis of policy and program successes and failures. Indeed, evaluators now face an increasingly diverse set of choices when it comes to defining their career directions.

The final Australian Evaluation Society's Victorian seminar of 2020 explored this topic in depth, drawing on the wisdom and experiences of six fantastic evaluators of different ages, genders, study backgrounds and vocational sectors (academia, private, government, international development, philanthropy). This article reflects on the insights from this session.

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The animal farm and a postal worker: A fable about evaluators and evaluation champions

by Alison Rogers

Once upon a time there was a diverse range of animals working hard to run a productive farm. Among the committed and dedicated team there were five dogs. In addition to retrieving, herding, and sniffing for wild produce, their role was to guard the premises. The dogs were friendly to the milkmaid and grocer, but for some reason, they growled and barked at the postal worker.

One day, when the postal worker was due to deliver mail, four of the dogs were distracted by a commotion on the other side of the farm. No one was watching the mailbox except for the dog known as Champ. He stayed by the gate, as he was meant to do. He observed the postal worker walk closer, and when she made no attempt to enter the premises, he stayed quietly vigilant and let her get on with her job. Champ even started wagging his tail.

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Ethical practice in evaluation is everyone’s business

by Keren Winterford

Applying ethical principles in evaluation is about making fair and just choices relevant to the context, culture of participants and evaluation purpose. In fact, whenever we speak to a person – a participant or stakeholder - as part of an evaluation, we need to think about ethics.

Why? Because this type of thinking ensures that our practice, at a bare minimum, is risk management, and adheres to the fundamental principle of ‘do no harm.’ It also shapes your relationships with participants and stakeholders as one of trust, mutual responsibility and ethical equality.

It is only through such practice that evaluation provides an important contribution to effective policy and change.

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A return to the farm: Lessons from evaluation advocates

by Alison Rogers

In 2020 I wrote a fable about a dog called Champ. This fable was illustrative of anecdotes I heard from evaluators when they talked about non-evaluators on their teams who helped generate momentum for change. Champ from the fable represented the participants from my doctoral research – non-evaluators who were able to effectively persuade their reluctant peers to incorporate evaluation into their routine operations. This follow-up blog shares some the research findings to help answer the question:

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Behind the data: A First Nations’ organisation’s experience of a social and economic impact assessment

Social and Economic Impact Assessment of Community First Development (2021)


by Lea Gage and Sharon Babyack, Community First Development

In the second half of 2021, Community First Development took a journey with ACIL Allen (https://acilallen.com.au/) to undertake a significant assessment on the effectiveness of the work we do in partnership with First Nations' communities on their community projects. 

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Evaluation in the COVID-19-shaped “new normal”

by Eleanor Williams

COVID-19 has, for many, been a time of adaptation and creation of a new sense of normality.  As we move away, gratefully, from local crisis management, we have the opportunity to reflect on not only our own resilience through this time, but what we have learned and how we have adapted through adversity. 

Eleanor Williams from the Centre for Evaluation and Research Evidence, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Australian Public Sector Evaluation Network shares her reflections on Evaluation Adaptation through COVID-19.

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