This evaluation at the end of 2008 followed on from a mid-term review in 2007. It used a Bennett’s Hierarchy framework to look at the impacts of the project funded by AWI and undertaken by the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR). This was an extension based project faced with a state wool industry severely affected by drought. It used grower groups, workshops, field days and a newsletter to provide support, information and foster changes in management. The evaluation used a mixture of surveys – growers involved in groups, those that participated in some events, and those who only received the newsletter; interviews with informed persons; participant observation at project events; and analysis of secondary data. The evaluation reported a high level of practice change as a direct result of project activities – in relation to the comparative level of involvement in the project.
Jeff and his team at Coutts J&R has provided leadership in the development of intervention and evaluation approaches across Australia and beyond in rural and regional development, Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) and education. The projects listed in this section are examples of those undertaken in recent years – ranging from individual project evaluations to working with national funding bodies to developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks to guide investments and reporting.Read More
Program and Project Evaluations (45 projects)
The evaluation was undertaken in 2008 to see how well it met its objectives and also ‘how has exposure to the information and activities of the initiative impacted on people’s awareness and (re)thinking about Natural Resource Management issues relevant to the cotton industry and its catchment communities.’ The project aimed to establish collaborative partnerships between Regional NRM bodies and the Australian Cotton industry; facilitate the delivery of NRM outcomes; develop and promote resources for capacity building; and increase the adoption of good NRM practice. The evaluation used: secondary data; and informed persons survey; case studies; and collated participant feedback from project activities. Among other conclusions, the evaluation found that there was good evidence that the project stimulated interest and fuelled the conversation about how NRM management is best incorporated into farm and catchment management.
This project aimed to encourage dairy farmers to take on a business culture – including improving strategic decision-making concerning pasture management. The evaluation was undertaken in 2008 near the completion of the project and used: surveys of participants and non-participants in the program; interviews with informed persons; a ‘structured debrief’ of project insiders; case studies and secondary data. The evaluation indicated a high level of impact on at least 20% of the industry, a benefit cost exceeding 10/1 and suggested that non participation was related more to an issue of perceived immediate relevance to specific activities and difficulty in getting away from their enterprise rather than a reluctance to learn.
This project was commissioned by Burdekin Dry Tropics Natural Resource Management Regional Body in North Queensland and is a comprehensive study of the use of on-ground incentives/market based instruments (MBIs) to bring about improvements in natural resource management. The study looked at attitudes, processes and impacts and included a survey of: landholders who tool up incentives; those that applied and failed to receive funds; those that chose not to apply; and those who were unaware of the availability. It also interviewed informed persons around Australia with extensive experience in such programs as well as reviewing available reports and studies on the use of incentives/MBIs in other areas. A key outcome is a table drawing together the lessons learnt at each stage of the process providing guidelines to those planning or administering such programs. You can see the report at http://www.bdtnrm.org.au/projects/lsaincentives.html
The 8×5 Wool Profit Program was an extension program to assist Tasmanian wool producers to achieve an 8% annual return on assets managed within 5 years through access to benchmarking, best practice information, group improvement initiatives and a State-wide wool profit awards program.
Coutts J&R’s evaluation of the 8×5 WPP was a mid term review of Phase 2 of the Tasmanian project. Phase 1 focused on raising awareness understanding and skills to facilitate practice change in the Tasmanian sheep and wool industry through workshops, field days and information dissemination.
Phase 2 maintained many of the processes of Phase 1 but added the establishment of small groups with producer clients and importantly used the Continuous Improvement and Innovation (CI&I) model to take producers through a process of needs identification, planning and action and review.
The Burdekin, Herbert and Plane Creek CPIs were initiated by a 2001 study by McKinsey and Associates on developing the future of the Sugar Industry in the CSR mill regions. One of the strong recommendations from that study was an extension initiative based around geographically-centred grower groups using adult learning principles. Several other sugar producing regions; including Mackay, Mulgrave, and Bundaberg, have used similar principles in their own ‘productivity initiatives’.
This review was about looking forward to the next five years and developing strategies to take the initiative into the future.
Jeff Coutts worked with Gordon Stone (Toowoomba) to develop and coordinate the on-going evaluation of a number of related projects in North West Tasmania. The projects are aimed at increasing the participation in post-compulsory education in the general community and work across schools, the University of Tasmania, TAFE Tasmania industry and other parties to encourage participation.
One of the interesting areas of work is that of evaluation mentoring. In the case of Leading Sheep – a Queensland based project looking to provide stronger support to the wool industry – I had the opportunity to review their evaluation plan with the key players and make suggestions how to strengthen and streamline the evaluation. This is interesting and a growing area of work.
Coutts J&R revisited the evaluation of BESTWOOL 2010 – a project which provided facilitation to groups to seek their own training needs. This project was reviewed in 2002 at the end of the first phase, and this second evaluation was undertaken in 2005 to see how much progress has been made in the second phase.
BestWool 2010 is a project aimed at improving the capacity of managers within the wool industry in Victoria. The project provides funds to groups of growers to employ a facilitator to assist them to determine and access training and information needs they require to better manage their businesses – profitability and sustainability focused. Both evaluations used a modified Bennett’s Hierarchy as a framework to look at changes since the project started and the impact that it had made.
The evaluations show a strongly dynamic project bringing significant benefits to the participants and the broader industry.
Jeff Coutts undertook a review of the project entitled: “Accelerating the impacts of participatory research and extension on shifting cultivation farming systems in Laos” (AIRP) for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
The project supported the FLSP- Forages and Livestock Systems Project (funded by AusAid, managed by CIAT from Laos – selected forages introduced to villages in Laos (2 provinces) using participatory research and extension methods). The combined projects demonstrated the value of participatory approaches and the “scaling out” extension processes used. It also showed the high degree of farmer innovation in using and adapting technologies and commercial opportunities.