Outcomes and outcome measures: levels and processes
As described in the principles, the impact of program outcomes needs to be recognised as being present at three different levels, each of which links directly to the other. These levels are:
- the total population benefiting from services funded by the program
- the defined groups of individuals and families receiving services from a funded organisation
- the individual and family receiving services.
At each of these levels, the nature of the intended outcomes, the outcome measures used, and how this information is collected will vary.
Population outcomes and outcome measures
The outcome measurement co-design process has contributed to the development of a final suite of program level outcomes against the three investment domains:
- capable investment
- improved social connectedness
- improved ability to access appropriate services
- improved cultural identity/connectedness
- improved capability
- resilient investment
- improved quality of life
- improved life skills
- improved family interactions/connectedness
- safe investment
- improved safety and/or protection from harm
- reduced use of domestic and family violence.
Detailed definitions for each outcome are presented in Appendix B.
Combined with a clear knowledge of community need, investment decisions and targeted program design are used to focus on achieving selected outcomes relevant to particular circumstances.
When it comes to outcome measurement at a population level it is the combined achievements of multiple initiatives, delivered by a range of providers that are important. Such outcomes are reflected in population level measures relevant to specific program goals that are available from local, state and national data sets and research agencies. These include agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Commonwealth Department of Social Services.
Groups of individuals receiving services from a funded organisation
Contributing to population level outcomes are the outcomes achieved by each organisation contracted to deliver a particular funded program.
Each organisation is to provide aggregated data on the extent to which clients accessing the activities their service has been contracted to provide has demonstrated improvement against the outcomes and targets specified in the service agreement between the organisation and DCCSDS. This data is dependent upon effective measurement of individual and family outcomes, as described below.
Individual and family outcomes and outcome measures
The first step in establishing a context in which outcomes for individuals or families can be measured is to work with service users to determine their needs and goals that are personally meaningful as well as relevant to the program intent. From here, a baseline can be established, against which outcomes can ultimately be measured. At this level in the process, the perspective of the individual or family needs to be given appropriate priority.
There are a number of approaches and tools that can support this process, such as client surveys and interviews, wellbeing indexes.