Develop a realistic and effective process for the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes and performance of the MTSC and the processes used. Appropriate monitoring and evaluation methods need to be built into the everyday work of the centre. An action research approach or the use methods that include the active collaboration and participation of staff and clients in the evaluation process are very effective in the community development context (see Boxes A12 and A13 below). The aim of this approach is to develop a culture based on service excellence, continuous learning and improvement.
Box A12: Resources for collaborative evaluation
EvaluateIT. An Online Resource Kit for Evaluating Community Projects
This easy to follow site provides four steps to collaboratively evaluating community IT projects which are useful for evaluating any community-based project. The site includes links to case studies and other evaluation resources and information.
Evaluating Collaboratives: Reaching the Potential
This comprehensive manual provides information on evaluating practice, self interest, feasibility, process and outcomes in collaborative initiatives, and suggests methods and techniques for doing so. It also includes useful checklists for assessing community organisations and the success of collaboratives.
Successful collaborations focus on jointly agreed outcomes and effective ways to assess progress towards those outcomes. It is effective to include reflections on process, planning and implementation in regular meeting agendas. Lack of attention to process often causes collaborative arrangements to falter. Factors such as clarity of goals, quality of leadership, and satisfaction with what has been achieved can be assessed through methods such as quarterly reviews, feedback forms, and informal discussion at the end of each meeting.
Documenting the explicit objectives that consortia want to achieve and revisiting them at each meeting to ensure progress can be very effective.
Box A13: The value of taking an action research approach
The strength of action research is that the research is defined by the participants and conducted by those who want to improve their own situation. In undertaking action research, colleagues work together to find their own solutions to problems, contribute to the solution and feel ownership. Participants are ‘doing’ their own research which means that they are taking action and collecting information about that action for their own purposes and to improve their own situation.
The advantage of incorporating an action research approach into the development of Child Care and Family Support Hubs is that it provides support to communities and key stakeholders who are coordinating the development of the hub by providing a systematic and practical way of ensuring continuous development. Action research:
- fosters self renewal
- promotes planned change
- offers a structured process for observing a range of perspectives
- provides problem solving strategies to increase local effectiveness.
Many service providers may find that although they are not familiar with the action research process they are already using similar processes in their professional practice. The action research phases of planning, acting, observing and reflecting are probably not unlike the phases that an organisation would use when a new service is being developed. The action research approach makes these phases more explicit and challenges groups to be committed to a process of constantly learning from experiences and sharing these experiences with others.
Incorporating an action research approach into developing hubs will allow service providers to investigate their own model for developing a hub in a systematic and planned way while taking account of the factors that are of particular interest in their situation and context.
Extract from: Office of Child Care (2001). Hub Action Research Project. Project Brief. Office of Child Care, Department of Families, Queensland Government.
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