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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.

Pictures, storytelling & play – tools for evaluation capacity building and change management


By Samantha Abbato and Kate Sunners

Pictures, storytelling and fun are essential in the evaluator's change management toolbox and for evaluation capacity building. In this blog, Samantha Abbato (Visual Insights People) and Kate Sunners (ARTD) unpack why this is and provide some ideas for your engagement toolbox through a case study. 

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The ten success factors for building evaluation capabilities in the public sector

by Andrew Benoy and Kale Dyer

With government finances tight, it is more important than ever for agencies to demonstrate that every dollar being spent is generating value.

So it makes sense that monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) is in the spotlight, and that many agencies are looking to build their internal MEL capabilities.

But building that MEL capability is no easy task. Drawing on our experience working with government agencies across Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, we are pleased to share some key things you should consider when investing in and growing MEL capabilities in the public sector. 
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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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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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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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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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