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Evaluating systems change and place-based approaches – Online Course – November, 2019

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  • Jen
  • Zazie
  • Ellise
  • Anna
  • Jess
Lesson 8, Topic 97
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Story selection activity Copy

During your next virtual session, you will be conducting a selection process together. You tried this out earlier in the course with the Osi Tanata stories, but now that you’re more familiar with the MSC process and your options in terms of story collection methods, you should be able to approach selecting the most significant of a new set of stories in a more targeted way.

We’ll use stories collected from the Logan Together project that we told you about earlier. Remind yourself about their project and have a look at their website to get some context.

Bringing community together

I’ve been working in employment services for the past 20 years in various roles. I’ve got to know Logan Together through a program I work within and have attended some Logan Together meetings. I thought the meetings were a good opportunity to network and get that support from Logan Together for our program. I’ve been attending these meetings for 12 months now. 

My most significant change is Logan Together bringing other community services and our program/network together behind the scenes. When I attended Logan Together meetings for the program, I found they were good for provoking thought and giving us feedback based on the data Logan Together was collecting that related to our program and target audience. Feedback would include what the clients are facing or experiencing, and their challenges, though not through formal reporting. The benefit I got out of it is understanding how others in the network deliver their service and having the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas in an open forum. Logan Together definitely brought that out. Whoever led those was good at leading those discussions about what’s working well and what’s not working so well. Logan Together also influenced my ability to build relationships with community because when I came to Logan I was new in this space. I’ve lived in Logan my whole life but have not worked in the region, so they’ve definitely influenced and enabled me to connect with other organisations. 

Logan Together has the capacity to bring community together. This is important in a place like Logan. 

A linked up approach

I’ve been working in Logan since 2012. I was a community action leader and worked closely with the government action leader on the “Better Futures, Local Solutions” project. We took a very active collective impact approach to this work and I guess this could be seen as the pre-cursor to Logan Together. I am now a program manager for a large organisation and our involvement with Logan Together is as a facilitating partner, not as a service provider. I have been involved with Logan Together since its inception, have a close relationship with the backbone, have been involved in a number of Logan Together projects, have provided some funding for some Logan Together projects and I’m currently a member of the Cross Sector Leadership Table (CSLT).

One significant change from my perspective, is the success of Logan Together working across all three levels of government. This has been largely due to Matthew (CEO, Logan Together) being freed up to work strategically and do the high-level negotiating required. He’s done this at the highest of levels and across several election cycles, resulting in a significant investment of funds for Logan Together. This has provided a big profile for Logan Together and the collective impact approach. Logan could be described as a “pilot capital” of Australia. There is a lot of funding, and it is siloed and competitive. Previously funding was not well linked up between levels of government and funding cycles were not in sync. This led to quite a degree of competitiveness and organisations being inward looking and seeing themselves alone as the solution.

The linking up of the three levels of government has helped change people’s focus and their view of Logan, so that we’re now more outward looking, and considering where the gaps in service delivery may be and who can best meet them, and how we can work together.

New ways of working

My background is as a social worker and I’ve had a long career in community services and in the public service, including as CEO of a large Child Protection agency. I’m part of the Cross-Sector Leadership Table (CSLT). 

There have been several areas of change through Logan Together but the most visible, are the community maternity hubs. We recognised that at Logan Hospital there was a small number of women coming to deliver babies that had no or little antenatal inputs from any service. We knew that evidence suggests that poor antenatal care correlates with poor outcomes for mothers and babies and a higher rate of delivery by caesarean section. There was a push from community to do something different. About 25% of the women who deliver at the hospital are of Maori or Pasifika descent and the hospital building itself is not welcoming (Brutalist architecture). Through a working party that included medical practitioners, midwives, community members and others, we have devised outpatient, mid-wife lead services (clinics) in the community including case-led midwifery, where the mother sees the same midwife through her pregnancy and birth. This means a relationship develops and the midwife can help address any other issues, such as smoking cessation for example. Now, against all odds, we have a commitment for six community maternity hubs. Three are up and running in community centres and a fourth that will operate from a Maori church in Logan. These hubs have been operating for only four months and they’ve already had 60 babies and previous rates of caesarean sections in this cohort has halved! The significance of this is, besides the outcomes just mentioned, is that it is our first visible symbol of something where we have applied the collective impact model. We consulted widely with the community, with women who had given birth, those who intended to have children, and with those who had not had a voice. It was a very difficult project as there were a lot of entrenched interests from all parties and it was a complex process. However, we have achieved it. 

Gateways for service delivery

I am involved (past and present) in several community service sector boards and I’m also part of the Cross Sector Leadership Table (CSLT). 

In terms of long-term impact I think it would be about Community Gateways. Over twenty agencies in Logan provide “soft entry” gateways towards prevention and early intervention across Logan City. This has the potential to transform the service delivery spectrum more profoundly and assist with the reallocation of services to the “front end”. This model provides a way, in places where families gather anyway, such as play groups/neighbourhood centres, schools and kindergartens, where families can ask questions about services. This may be regarding a universal service that they don’t know they are entitled to, or a particular service, or one that may only be required for a short time. We hear time and time again that making the first step and knowing who/how to contact is difficult. Community Gateways makes that first step easier and through this people can be engaged and assessed as to where their real needs are and who may assist with these needs. The agencies involved make “warm referrals”, sometimes taking the person/family involved to the service required or at least making the referral over the phone whilst the person is there. This model means that “issues” or needs are addressed at an earlier stage and are prevented from becoming unnecessarily bigger. This is significant because it is about prevention and helping people not drift needlessly through a system and access services at the wrong level. It is still at a very early stage, but this is an opportunity to reset how we move energy, effort and attention into the early stages of when people enter the system, whilst also enabling people to have more autonomy in the whole process. This model aims to get services matched at the right level and time to prevent further need. 

Using data and community voices to inform solutions

I work as a child protection practitioner across three services, including Family and Child Connect. My role involves providing advice and expertise as to what should sit at community level and what should be dealt with by the child protection system. It also involves bridging community and government services, and the promotion of the community sector to divert families away from the child protection system. A Local Level Alliance (LLA) exists in Browns Plains which is in the Logan local government catchment; Logan LLA was brought into a Logan Together Chapter with a coordinator and functions to bring services together to ensure there are no service level gaps and duplication. I support this role and this is where my link with Logan Together lives. 

Logan Together initially had a bad reputation and its purpose wasn’t well communicated. There was a degree of disconnect and frustration. For instance, Logan Together didn’t really have a big presence in Brown Plains when they started, and the LLA coordinator had identified this as an area for connection to help address service gaps. Brown Plains also had their own agenda and specific community needs, and they were annoyed about being lumped in with Logan Together. Matthew from Logan Together came in to speak and share what the collective was trying to achieve, and it became apparent that there was an opportunity to link Logan Together and the LLA. Logan Together had some initial weaknesses; for instance, they were airy-fairy in what they were trying to achieve. This didn’t really become concrete until I believe Sherena Oxley came on the scene and tightened up in a succinct way the outcomes they were trying to achieve in an easy to understand format. When Sherena started, she was very active and brought people together and communicated the purpose of Logan Together well. She had the ability to help us focus on local issues but with strategic influence and links. This was done by strengthening the gathering and sharing of strategic data between us, so that we could consider the data before jumping into solutions. Previously, when issues arose, people would automatically jump into finding solutions very quickly, without always consulting with community or other stakeholders. Also involving the community and gaining data at this level was put back into focus again, which was relevant and needed. Together, this was a change compared to just coming up with best guess solutions straight away. 

Now the LLA does not just focus on one issue and its solution, but considers the bigger picture and uses data to inform a solution. Data comes from different sources such as national statistics, and Logan Together has asset mapping and community profiles. An example to highlight this is the way in which relevant groups of stakeholders were linked and coordinated, with some initial analysis of community voices and solid data to pitch to the government for funds for a community building to establish the Yarrabilba Hub. It was approved in record time and is currently being built. 

The change is about better-informed solutions. This is possible when we work together, consider community voice and use the relevant data. Ultimately, it means we are making a difference to vulnerable families. 

Trialling solutions based on evidence

I work for a Logan community agency that works with Logan children, families, homelessness, violence and financial counsellors. 

Before, case management was the vehicle that services used for families, and people assumed that’s what had to happen. There were pretty rigid methodologies of how we worked from our agency’s perspective. Change happened because people looked at other models around the world on how we can trial something different. There is some evidence that what we’re doing now to assist families to stabilise their housing in the long term is not working. 

It first started when we wrote a letter to the Minister of Housing that what we’re doing for families with housing problems was not working, which planted a seed for them wanting to trial. We started to talk to Matthew [from Logan Together] around Jan/Feb 2017 or end of 2016, knowing there was a Logan Together agenda and that the department was interested in funding. There was also the Better Neighbourhoods Logan Together initiative being discussed. We were interested in how we can bring together all of the things happening in Logan. We needed insights from Logan Together regarding outcomes we wanted to achieve for parents, children and service system. Initially we were going to use current money to trial something different, and link it to the Logan Together agenda. The Department of Housing was worried about what was going to happen to homeless families, so the department came up with the money so we could start something new. 

The most significant change was that the Department of Housing was prepared to focus on a project broader than homelessness and housing [by funding] Sure Steps. Due to the Logan Together agenda, the department was prepared to trial something new regarding tenancy problems and well-being of children and families who were the tenants. 

Sure Steps now has funding for another 2 years. In the first year, the department gave us $240k (mostly towards salaries and operational costs) and we put in $80k because we paid for the evaluation and overheads. Sure Steps works with families differently than the traditional way government usually funds. So that’s a change in that we’re trialling something new, using evidence (not just on a whim) and evaluating (for the first year). Matthew and the backbone staff from Logan Together have contributed to the reference group for Sure Steps, and inputted into our model in further refining it. 

Our Sure Steps outcomes are that we approach things differently, now it’s strengths based. How we approach the service system has also changed; even though case management is driven by family, it is very much driven by family (these families have significant problems; they’re public tenants, with violence and child safety issues). Our learnings from the pilot is about what motivates people: that art of engaging in a less ‘clinical’ way. 

This change is significant because it’s a new model to trial based on evidence. It took three months for the evaluation to commence because we had to get referrals from the department and the evaluation population is still small. We will be continuing this year. 

Which method should you choose?

When you are trying to decide between these options, think about whose voices you want to be represented in the selection process. If yours is a participatory program, you’ll want to reflect grassroots voices, for example.

Also, consider the volume of stories that you are likely to have. If you are working with many stories, a hierarchical process is a better choice to help you narrow down the selection. You will also need to think about the logistics of the process including who will be involved and how they can participate in the process if you are using MSC for monitoring.

Activity: Choose a method and select stories

  1. Use the in-course discussion area below to collectively settle on a method to use.
  2. Use the next virtual session to choose the most significant story from the stories above.
  3. Use the next virtual session to zoom out after selection.

We recommend that you read the stories first, individually, and make some notes about the outcomes. Agree which method you will use so that everyone can prepare.

Here’s how to approach the task:

  • Remind yourselves of each story. You can read them aloud if you want to but it will take less time if you have read them individually first.
  • Discuss the outcomes of each story as a group.
  • Write each outcome clearly, with the story number noted.
  • Once you have read all stories, select the one you feel is most significant, using your chosen method.
  • Record your reasons for selecting the story. You could use a Google Doc to make note of this information, for example.

Note: When it comes time to do this in-person with colleagues, writing each outcome with a thick pen on a post-it note and including the story number in the corner is the ideal way to do this, if you can.

Activity: After selection – Zooming out

Once you have chosen your most significant story, ask the following questions:

  • Are there any issues arising from a specific story?
  • Is there an action to be taken related to a specific story
  • What does this set of stories tell us about the extent to which the organisation is achieving its outcomes?
  • What stories are not being told?
  • What are the key learnings and general actions?

Your analysis can also include identifying key outcomes and facilitating factors from across all of the stories. You can group these outcomes and factors according to themes or objectives.

After the virtual session: Reflection

After you complete the story selection process and zooming out activity during the next virtual session, you’ll be provided an opportunity to reflect.

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Dr Jess Dart

CEO & Founder

Inventor of practical methodologies and highly demanded facilitator, Jess navigates complexity with comfort and helps her clients to become clear about their desired outcomes and how to get there.

Recipient of the 2018 AES Award for outstanding contribution to evaluation, Jess has over 25 years experience in evaluating and designing social change initiatives and strategies in Australia and overseas.

In October 2005, Jess founded Clear Horizon Consulting and is now CEO. She is also a board member of the Australasian Evaluation society.

Jess is passionate about developing and designing real world evaluation and strategy for social justice and sustainability. She particularly works with systems change interventions, large scale strategy and social innovation. After completing her PhD she co-authored the Most Significant Change (MSC) guide alongside Dr Rick Davies, which is now translated into 12 different languages.

MSC is well suited to evaluation in the complex emergent context. The latest innovation by Jess, Collaborative Outcomes Reporting (COR), is a collaborative form of impact evaluation.

Jess is also an active mum and has two teenage boys. In a quiet moment, she loves reading far-future science fiction and enjoys long distance running.

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