Thought Leadership:

Is government innovation even making a difference?

Impact measurement might be the missing piece to getting real value from social policy innovation

The Family Safety Hub is a completely new approach to domestic and family violence in the ACT. One that works with the community to make real changes for the better.

Lessons learned along the way

We have had experience in developing innovation evaluation frameworks for our clients and understand the challenges that come with trying to evaluate something that is inherently different.

Most recently, we have provided support in developing the ACT Government’s Family Safety Hub, an innovation hub intended to develop innovative, integrated and user-centred approaches to tackling domestic and family violence in the ACT.

The Hub does this through specific innovation Challenges, which focus on a key topic, group or barrier to improve existing services, supports and policies. Developing an Evaluation Framework for this model presented a core challenge – how to develop a consistent, replicable and robust framework that could be meaningfully applied to assess very different challenges, approaches and potential solutions?

We wanted to look at the evidence of what the Hub was doing, but in a way that could let us tell different, equally meaningful stories about the ideas, actions and impacts created by this important initiative. Addressing this challenge meant balancing methodologies as well as elements we looked to assess.

The Hub’s process, it’s overarching principles and the social impacts created through specific Challenges, each formed a component of the evaluation model. The process and principles components could be consistently assessed across each Challenge, while the Challenge impacts assessed against alignment with a Program Logic, which would be developed for each Challenge.

So, what can you do? 

There will always be challenges when evaluating innovation, particularly in comparing the outcomes or impacts of different innovation topics, approaches or initiatives. However, this doesn’t mean that measuring impacts can, or should, be placed at a lower priority. While it’s essential to ‘get things done’ when innovating in government, without measuring impact how can we really know what we have actually achieved?

There are ways to balance robust, comparable and evidence-based understanding of innovation programs with the complexity, adaptability and nuance required to understand the impacts of innovation on Government:

  • Adopt a continuous evaluation or impact measurement approach that allows for real-time insights
  • Ensure that you collaborate with key stakeholders to turn data into meaningful insights and actions – the So What? And What Now?
  • Where possible, adopt flexible and adaptable program and policy guidelines
  • Consider utilising principles-led evaluation for complex social policy
  • Understand how what you are doing on the ground supports your vision – through Outcomes Mapping
  • Share your findings, insights and what you are doing with them – to maintain public support

We believe that this holistic, agile approach to measure social innovation impact is key to successful innovation and ensuring best use of public monies. Here at Reason Group, we have helped many organisations adopt more useful, valuable approaches.