The New Zealand government is expanding the use of social investment to improve life outcomes for New Zealanders and reduce future costs to government. The collection and use of evidence in decision-making is essential to the success of the social investment approach.
Depending on your level of experience, the collection and use of evidence to inform decision-making may sound complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Here (in response to sector demand) you will find a simple, but useful collection of resources.
Regardless of whether you are a funder (government or philanthropist) or a service provider, we have found that the principles and practices (and the lessons learned) for the effective use of evidence and evaluation are quite similar. Many of the standards, guidance and tools that have been developed (with the help of funders and providers) are generic and can be modified to suit your situation or abilities. You’ll also find other useful national and international resources.
To get started, click on the stage of this simple evidence cycle that is of most interest to you. Note you may also find useful information in the other stages.
The evidence cycle
We have been working with community and voluntary organisations, peer reviewers and colleagues for some time on our handbook - Making sense of evaluation.
This penguin-inspired introduction to the theory and concepts of evaluation is available to download. Join our penguin friends and take a journey from considering the right type of evaluation for your circumstances, designing a logic model to help determine objectives and outcomes, understanding ways of measuring and finally planning, commissioning and managing an actual evaluation.
Social investment seeks to maximise the benefits of social services to New Zealanders in relation to the money and effort spent. In reality this often translates to investing resources upfront to enable target groups to thrive in the long-term. It includes smarter use of data to understand people’s needs, systematic measurement of service effectiveness (in responding to these needs) and delivering on long-term outcomes, as well as an understanding of the fiscal implications of better outcomes.
You can read more about social investment on the Social Investment Agency's website.
A body of facts or information that can be presented to inform judgement. Evidence can be quantitative or qualitative, and may come from various sources including performance monitoring, research, evaluation, statistics and expert opinion.
Evaluation can help to improve delivery, and the findings can encourage others to adopt the successful elements of your initiative. Evaluation is about systematically and rigorously assessing the value of a programme, service or organisation. Evaluation helps provide accountability to funders, but it also helps all stakeholders to understand what works, what has been less successful, and why.