There is finally a nice crispness to the air in Toowoomba. With that, and the ticking over into a new financial year, it tells us that the year is half over! It is a calm across the RD&E sector in Australia. The projects commissioned to be finished in June are now in and paid for and the ramp up into the new year has not reached full momentum.
It is a good time to reflect on the state of play with evaluation. What I have observed is a much greater interest in impact evaluation from RD&E organisations – a desire to effectively “tell their story” – communicating what value they are delivering to their stakeholder communities in a meaningful way. The 2011 Productivity Commission review of Rural Development Corporations in 2011 recommended that all RDCs are required to continue to participate in a regular, transparent and comprehensive program-wide project evaluation process – and this has been taken to heart. From another direction, both in Australia and New Zealand, Levy payers have an increasing say in whether they wish to continue to fund RD&E through the current arrangements – another reason to be able to clearly demonstrate the returns from the collective investment. The day of completing hypothetical benefit-cost analyses going into the future without being grounded in real evaluation data is past.
It’s been about providing clarity in the expectations of funders, deliverers and benefiting stakeholders – ensuring that all are in agreement and on the ‘same page’ when it comes to capturing and reporting those benefits – and issues that need addressing to fuller realise those benefits. At a recent meeting across RDC representatives, it was also pointed out that RDCs all contribute towards some common outcomes – such as environmental and social indicators – that, if they had a common way of categorising, capturing and reporting on these, the collective impact across RDCs could be demonstrated. And that is a phase I am looking forward to!
In the meantime, Robyn and I have been fortunate to have been back to London (with the odd side trip – including Berlin, Paris and Monet’s Garden) to meet our 3rd grandchild – and first granddaughter – Evie Rose! Amy (Evie’s mother) has been working for Coutts J&R for many years – in between stints in London working in evaluation of PR campaigns and programs – and is now on maternity leave. The family grows!