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AES Blog

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 blog@aes.asn.au. Please also view our blog guidelines.

How to run your MEL program digitally using free tools

By David Watters, Founder at Simple and Engaging
 
I was recently talking with a non-profit client of ours at the end of one of our regular meetings. We'd strayed from our automated maturity assessment project to talk about some of the other projects they were working on. They walked me through one of their social impact programs and the processes involved in gathering, analysing, and improving data. One thing immediately stood out to me: the processes were very manual, time consuming, and generally diverted their attention away from the more important work of understanding what the data was telling them and how they could improve.
 

It made me wonder if there wasn't a more automated and digital way to do this work. While doing some basic research, I discovered a number of platforms that usually came with a very high price tag, far out of my client's reach. Our organisation's goal is to use our natural curiosity and focus on effectively using technology to simplify and solve complex problems in order to assist organisations in reaching their full potential. So, I collaborated with leading social innovation guru, Tracy Collier to learn about the typical steps in a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Program and to identify some free tools that can be used at each stage. 

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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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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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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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Australia’s Indigenous Evaluation Strategy: Making good on the promise of centring Indigenous experience

by Danielle Campbell, Marlkirdi Rose Napaljarri and Linda Kelly

Indigenous people in Australia and internationally are increasingly calling for monitoring and evaluation that supports self-determination, decolonisation and better outcomes for their communities.

In this blog, we share some of what we have learned together – as Indigenous and non-Indigenous community development advocates and evaluators – from our work in the Tanami Desert in Central Australia. We hope that by sharing some of our key lessons, from 10 years of trials, successes and failures, we can contribute to the discussion about whether and how genuinely co-created Indigenous evaluation can be done in Australia.

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Reflections on FestEVAL21: advancing evaluation

by Sarah Oxford

The Australian Evaluation Society recently held FestEVAL21, a week of online activities to celebrate evaluation. This year’s event included more than 1,100 registrants with attendance of about 3,000 people across 23 sessions. The engaging session topics ranged from themes addressing practical application such as capability and capacity building in evaluation to encouraging evaluator reflection and behaviour change. FestEVAL gave us ample opportunities to begin this work by platforming experts with diverse life experiences in evaluation.

The topics that caught my interest were the ones that made me look inwards and ask, what can I do to lead evaluations with inclusive and anti-racist practices? As evaluators a lot of our work involves exploring human behaviour change. But what happens when our behaviour and the systems that we work in and through need to change? How can we improve ourselves, our evaluation practices and the systems at large?

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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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Shoestring evaluations – 5 tips to tie them up

By Ruby Fischer

Evaluations are like diets – you know they’re good for you, you always start off with good intentions and desperate optimism, but eventually you slip back into your old habits. So how do you stick to them? Here are 5 tips from AES NSW’s latest seminar on how NGOs can stick with evaluation in our do-more-with-less world.

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Evaluating in a pandemic: why and how and when?

Covid-19

by Jade Maloney

Over the last couple of months, evaluators around the world have been grappling with the question of whether and how we evaluate in the COVID-19 context. What can and should be done now, and what should wait? How can we be most useful?

For a recent online session with AES members, which Keren Winterford, Greg Masters and I hosted on behalf of the NSW Committee, I rounded up a range of reflections on these questions to prompt discussion.

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