Evaluation supports evidence-based service design and resource allocation decision making. The main types of evaluation, which inform different types of decisions, are:
Good evaluation evidence informs efficient and effective use of financial and other resources, and for this reason may be mandated by funders for large programs. In New South Wales, government agencies are expected to evaluate their programs to inform key program, policy and funding decisions [see Further Reading below].
Evaluations can provide information about how programs have been implemented, barriers encountered, as well as unexpected or unintended outcomes. A well-designed evaluation can comment on what works for whom in what circumstances, the evidence of which can inform the sustainability of the program in alternative contexts.
The evaluation of legal assistance services can be challenging because of the complex settings in which services are delivered. To maximise the usefulness and trustworthiness of evaluations it is vital to ensure that they are both realistic and rigorous.
Evaluation can be resource intensive, so evaluation resources should be directed at larger programs (or service models) and/or those at greater risk of unintended outcomes.
Evaluations require an understanding of how inputs link to outputs and outcomes. A program logic describes in diagram form the relationship between activities and the intended aim of the program. Developing a program logic is best done in partnership with all program stakeholders, and can therefore provide a shared articulation of the agreed aim of program and how the inputs are intended to achieve this/these aims.
Given the many potential pitfalls of conducting evaluations, it is recommended that professional researchers are consulted early in the program development.
Watch Maria Karras, a Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation, talk about evaluation in the legal assistance sector and how we can make it both more rigorous and realistic
The Law and Justice Foundation has written about the challenges of measuring effectiveness in the legal assistance sector: Effectiveness of public legal assistance services (Justice issues 16, 2012)
The National Health and Medical Research Council has guidance on conducting research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The Productivity Commission's Indigenous Evaluation Strategy (2020)
Links are provided as a resource but are not an endorsement
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