Improving life outcomes for children and families is a complex social and policy issue involving diverse actors and stakeholders. Additionally, translating ‘knowing’ into ‘doing’ is a long-term endeavour involving multiple pathways. Drawing a causal link between research and impact is therefore challenging; our ability to influence outcomes becomes less direct the further along the impact pathway we focus.
While the ultimate impacts of our work are about policies, legislation, programs and practices that improve outcomes for children and families, it is not possible to measure how directly we have enabled that impact.
Our performance framework focuses on AIFS’ direct and indirect spheres of influence.
Direct influence refers to those things AIFS can directly control or manage such as:
Inputs: resources, staff and assets
Activities: what we do on a day-to-day basis
Outputs: the products, resources and organisational practices produced as a consequence of these activities.
Indirect influence refers to the results, outcomes and impacts that should occur as a consequence of our work:
Outcomes: the results we wish to see as a consequence of our activities and outputs, namely: our research is sought out by our stakeholders; our research is seen as relevant by our stakeholders; and our organisational capabilities support our research activities.
Impact: to the consequences of stakeholders seeking out and valuing our work, namely: better understanding among stakeholders of issues affecting families; improved capacity to use research; and deeper insights about what works in policy and practice to support families.
We use a program logic model to link inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts against our Strategic Goals and Impact Pathway. Both quantitative and qualitative data are used to monitor and measure performance. Qualitative data are drawn from stakeholder feedback and from case studies. Figure 3.3 provides a high-level representation of AIFS’ Performance Framework.
Unlike previous years, we no longer set year‑on‑year targets for outputs. Small increases or decreases in output numbers (e.g. number of projects) are not particularly meaningful on their own. Instead we report on the previous year and the current year, and where necessary provide a narrative to explain any significant differences.
However, we consider targets for metrics related to outcome and impact measures to be meaningful to our theory of change. Increases in subscribers, webinar attendees or downloads provide information about AIFS' reach; increases in stakeholder access to, and use of, our research helps the development of policies and practices that support families. Year-on-year targets should be informed by previous trend data and represent feasible stretch targets. Data from the years 2019/20 and 2020/21 will be used to baseline and establish appropriate target increments for 2021/22 and 2022/23.
In addition to these improvements in performance measurement, we have also introduced research impact and organisational case studies that provide detailed information about what impacts were achieved and how this occurred. Six case studies are included in this Performance Statement. Table 3.1 outlines the key questions the case studies report on.
Table 3.1: Key reporting questions for case studies
Research impact case studies
What was the issue or problem to be addressed?
What was the broader context?
What does it aim to do? What are the research questions?
Who does it involve?
What were the results/findings/outcomes?
How does/did the project help to address this issue or problem?
Who benefits from this research and how?
What are the next steps to increase its utility or reach?
Elder Abuse research program
Families in Australia (COVID-19) Survey
CFCA Scoping Study
Families in Focus webinar series
Organisational capability case studies
What was the situation? What was the problem/issue to be addressed?
What did we do to address the issue? What were the aims or desired outcomes?
What’s been the result? What’s been achieved and what’s been the benefit?
What are the next steps? What will AIFS do to maintain or keep building on the achievements?