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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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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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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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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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Practitioner Learnings in Creating a Culturally Safe Evaluation and Research Space

by Doyen Radcliffe, Donna-Maree Stephens and Sharon Babyack - Community First Development

Community First Development led an AES seminar on creating a culturally safe evaluation and research space in September 2021.Community First Development is a First Nations’ led organisation that works with First Nations’ communities by invitation only, every project we do is monitored throughout, using indicators designed and evaluated by communities themselves. Our vision is to see First Nations’ peoples and communities thriving.

At the seminar, we shared lessons learnt from a participatory action research project focused on gaining a better understanding of 11 communities with whom we had been working for three years on community development projects. We are pleased to be back to answer the questions from our AES seminar. Most importantly, we would like to thank attendees for the words of encouragement and support.

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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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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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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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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 AES Awards for Excellence are evolving!

by Ian Patrick, Wei Leng Kwok and Farida Fleming, Co-Chairs, Awards and Recognition Working Group

The AES Awards for Excellence in Evaluation have a long history of recognising and promoting outstanding contributions to the theory, practice and use of evaluation. The awards acknowledge and showcase excellence in terms of professionalism, ethical conduct and the actual evaluation work conducted. They are important in terms of highlighting quality standards and cutting-edge practice. Details of previous award recipients can be found here.

In 2021, the AES will introduce exciting changes to the awards including new award categories, and an increased emphasis on learning. The AES Awards and Recognition Working Group (ARWG) which has responsibility for the AES Awards on behalf of the AES Board has recently completed a review of the awards program. The review was timely and enabled assessment of whether the awards were still fit for purpose and how they aligned with the AES strategic focus. The year of 2020 also allowed space for the review, as during this year the awards were postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. The review involved assessment of recent award performance, examination of the practice of peer evaluation associations, and interviews with key stakeholders.

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