Stronger Communities for Children: Community involvement in Indigenous program evaluation

Content type
Practice guide

February 2017


Olivia Couch

The Stronger Communities for Children (SCfC) program is a place-based initiative that provides a suite of holistic integrated services for Aboriginal children, young people and families in their local community. Funded through the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the SCfC program is currently operating in Galiwinku, Wadeye, Ngukurr, Ntaria, Santa Teresa, Gunbalanya, Maningrida, Lajamanu, the Utopia Homelands and across the Plenty Highway communities of Atitjere, Bonya and Engawala. 

The design of the program recognises the importance of local community ownership of services. It aims to provide the services that children and families need, in order to achieve the community’s vision of a strong and safe community. "Facilitating Partner" organisations work with each community to facilitate the SCfC program under the advice of a local SCfC Board. Facilitating Partners collaborate with the SCfC Governance Boards to plan and deliver culturally appropriate services to meet prioritised community needs.

Assessing the impact of program activities enables SCfC Governance Boards to make informed decisions about whether or not to continue funding particular services or activities. The program uses impact assessment to measure the effectiveness of individual program activities and assess the significance of changes brought about by those activities1

Four principles to the approach

To develop an approach to impact assessment that would be workable and meet the expectations of the SCfC communities, Ninti One followed four principles.

Impact assessments need to be easy for non-specialists to understand

SCfC aims to have local participation in data collection and assessment, so the tasks need to be approachable and presented in a way that is appropriate for the context of the community involved.2

Data collection systems need to be simple but sophisticated

Data collection systems should balance simplicity of approach with sophistication of method. For example, a local team surveyed households with questions that were simple to answer, but which were designed to produce data on complex topics, such as household cooking patterns and food preparation choices.

SCfC operates within remote and isolated community contexts, which often experience limited access to internet and complex technologies for collecting, collating and manipulating data. Systems need to be easy to maintain given the limited resources across program locations.

Impact assessments need to produce useful information to help make decisions

Impact assessment frameworks should be orientated towards producing information that will enable SCfC Governance Boards to gauge progress and make effective decisions on future directions.

Data collection should foster community ownership

The process of collecting data should foster ownership and control by communities in a way that meets proper ethical, quality and privacy standards. We make use of the Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property Protocol, for example. 

Lessons learned

Throughout the process, Ninti One has learned that impact assessments need to be agile in order to match the pace of ongoing developments of the SCfC program in each location. They also need to enable local people to build their understanding and involvement over time. 

The program variance across sites has also highlighted that outcomes are varied. There is a need, therefore, for a large range of indicators and means of measurement to suit each situation. 

Using appropriate mechanisms to feedback data collected within activities, SCfC Boards have been able to strengthen their governance and are building a local evidence base to inform SCfC program direction in their communities. 

For more information, please contact Ninti One Stronger Communities for Children QSSP Team:

Phone: (08) 7905 5525



1 In our context, we refer to ‘impact assessment’ as the measurement of change for individual activities not the wider impacts upon the community. We refer to ‘evaluation’ as a broader measurement of the effectiveness of a program model and processes. 

2 What is appropriate to particular communities is complex, because it relates to multiple aspects of a community including local culture, language, remoteness, access to services, history, demographics and so forth. Several studies discuss these aspects in relation to remote Australian communities. See references provided under the further reading section for more information.

The feature image was supplied by the author.