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AIFS' performance

This section provides an overall assessment of the Institute’s performance in terms of outputs, outcomes and impact.

AIFS outputs

A key function of the Institute is to undertake and communicate research on the issues affecting families to improve the understanding of policy makers, service providers and the broader community. We do this by providing:

  • robust, credible research on issues facing Australian families
  • access to high quality research and information
  • platforms and opportunities for cross-sector dialogue and collaboration
  • practices, processes and culture that ensure sustainability.

Table 3.2 details AIFS outputs against these domains for 2019/20. Output measures for the previous year are provided for comparison.

Robust, credible research on issues facing Australian families. AIFS is a leading national provider of research and evaluation into the factors that impact on wellbeing, and what interventions can improve outcomes for families. In 2019/20, researchers were working on a total of 31 research projects. Of these, 27 were commissioned projects. This is a positive reflection of our value, relevance and competitiveness as a research agency.

Compared to 2018/19, there are fewer unique agencies we have been commissioned by (21 in 2018/19 compared to 14 in 2019/20).

Factors that may have influenced this metric include:

  • fewer agencies seeking research and evaluation services relevant to AIFS’ work
  • a range of shorter-term commissions being finalised in 2019/20 while several long-term projects commissioned in previous years continued. This may have resulted in fewer commissioning agencies overall.

Access to high quality research and information. In addition to undertaking research, the Institute is also committed to making this research accessible to a range of stakeholders. We do this through the production of publications, resources and webinars. The number of publications and products released this year remained relatively steady at 58. Given the travel and face-to-face restrictions associated with COVID-19, and the cancellation of a number of conferences that we were due to present at (including our own), AIFS’ researchers nevertheless maintained a high number of external presentations (57 compared to 68 in 18/19). These are a key mechanism for sharing and communicating our research to diverse audiences.

Complementing this external communication of AIFS’ research, we also delivered 18 webinars over the reporting period, up from 14 in 2018/19. This includes six webinars in the Families in Focus series, showcasing five presentations by selected keynote speakers originally scheduled to speak at the 2020 Conference, which has been postponed due to COVID-19. The Families in Focus case study provides more information about the value this series provided stakeholders.

Platforms and opportunities for cross-sector dialogue and collaboration. AIFS not only produces research but also aims to bring policy, practice and research communities together in conversation about the factors impacting families and what works to support them. We do this through the AIFS conference and other cross-sector events, collaborative partnerships, and through advisory group participation.

Partnerships and collaborations are important mechanisms to foster and leverage cross-sector expertise and skills. AIFS’ partnerships include Memoranda of Understanding, formal project consortia and less formal collaborations. In 2019/20 AIFS held 24 such partnerships, similar to 2018/19.

Participation in advisory groups is another key mechanism through which cross-sector dialogue occurs. We have not reported on this in previous years but think it is helpful to start doing so. In 2019/20 AIFS was represented on 38 advisory groups convened by other organisations.

Practices, processes and culture that ensure sustainability. Strengthening AIFS’ internal practices, processes, staff capability and organisational culture underpin our overall performance and is a key area of organisational investment. This measure is focused on how AIFS invests in the capability and wellbeing of its people. We do this through learning and development training, wellbeing sessions and comprehensive inductions for incoming staff.

There were 12 face-to-face Learning and Development programs delivered. Some of these programs consisted of two days training, such as the Plain English Writing Skills program. Seven wellbeing sessions were held and nine new starter induction training packages were delivered (one additional module included in 2019/20 for all new starters, Privacy training).

Table 3.2: Output performance 2019/20

Measure and metric

2018/19

2019/20

Robust, credible research on issues facing Australian families

Total number of projects (total)

33

31

Number of commissioned

29

27

Number of commissioning bodies

21

14

Access to high quality research and information

Number of publications and products released

66

57

Number of external presentations

68

55

Number of AIFS webinars

14

18

Platforms and opportunities for cross-sector dialogue and collaboration

Number of AIFS events

5

1a

Number of event attendees

1,237

70a

Number of partnerships

33

24

Number of advisory group representation

N/A

38

Practices, processes and culture that ensure sustainability

Learning and Development sessions

7

17

Wellbeing sessions

9

7

Number of APS new starter induction training

8

9

Note: a AIFS cancelled multiple events in 2019/20 due to COVID-19 and postponed the AIFS 2020 Conference until 2021.

Outcomes

consequence of our activities and outputs: that 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.

The table below provides detail of outcome metrics across three measures:

  • end users seek out AIFS’ research, resources and expertise
  • end users and stakeholders find AIFS’ research and resources relevant to their work
  • we maintain the organisational capability that enables us to achieve impact.

These are discussed in turn.

End users seek out AIFS’ research, resources and expertise. To demonstrate this measure, we consider a range of metrics that tell us about reach (number of e-News subscribers); end users actively seeking out AIFS’ research, resources and expertise (seeking out publications, attending webinars, and access by media); and frequency of engagement with AIFS’ research and resources.

The number of e-News subscribers increased by 20%, with the majority of these being CFCA News subscribers followed by AIFS News subscribers. The intended target for 2020/21 is set at equal to or greater than 2019/20. At the end of 2020/21, we will review the data from the previous two years to help determine future targets.

The number of webinar attendees increased from 8,930 in 2018/19 to 11,447 in 2019/20, an increase of 28%. This is likely the result of the increase in the number of webinars delivered, the Families in Focus webinar program, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a largely online setting for information sharing. Results from the stakeholder feedback survey show that 63% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that AIFS webinars were relevant and targeted to their work. Qualitative feedback indicated that end users find the webinars informative and helpful to their work.

While the number of AIFS’ publications accessed in 2019/20 appears to suggest a 19% reduction compared to 2018/19, this is not the case. The decrease is the result of efforts to improve user experience. Prior to 2019/20, most AIFS publications spanned more than one webpage; a user had to click through multiple pages to read a publication. In 2019/20, we converted publications from a multi-page to a single-page format, making it easier to read publications online. The resulting decline in page views is due to that conversion, not to fewer publications being viewed.

On media engagement with AIFS’ research, we have elected to report on both media citations, as well as direct approaches for comment (e.g. media interviews). The intention is to provide greater detail about how media engage with our research, with requests for comment suggesting more active engagement. Compared to 2018/19, the results for the current reporting period are somewhat lower. This is attributed to fewer research reports being released, which are often accompanied by media releases.

In this year’s stakeholder survey, respondents were asked how frequently they engaged with our research and resources (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, other). Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) reported seeking out AIFS’ research and resources on at least a monthly basis. A third of these stated that they did so on a daily basis, indicating a high frequency of engagement.

End users and stakeholders find AIFS’ research and resources relevant to their work. This measure aims to track (and improve) AIFS’ performance in ensuring products are:

  • easy to find
  • accessible and relevant to end users’ work
  • useful to end users in their work.

The results from the 2019/20 survey are consistent with those of the previous year. Almost 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘It is easy to locate the information, research or resources I am looking for on AIFS websites.’ In addition, 86% of respondents agreed that ‘AIFS’ publications and resources are written in plain, accessible language.’

Compared to 2018/19, a higher proportion of respondents stated that they had used AIFS’ research and resources in the last 12 months (86% in 2019/20 compared to 74% in the previous year). Respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the following products were useful and relevant to their work:

  • AIFS website: 85%
  • In-depth reports: 83%
  • Research summaries: 90%
  • Fact sheets: 90%
  • E-News: 80%.

Together, these results indicate that AIFS is performing well in our key functions of producing and communicating research, and in making this research easy to find, accessible and relevant to our key stakeholders.

Organisational capability enables AIFS to achieve impact. This measure tracks our performance in building organisational capability to achieve research and communication objectives. We use the results from the APS Employee Census on staff engagement, staff wellbeing and innovation as our key metric. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the employee census has been postponed until October 2020. We are, therefore, unable to report on this metric.

We did, however, run two surveys with staff to understand the impacts that COVID-19 working from home arrangements were having, how effectively AIFS supported the transition to remote working and what tools and ideas would help staff to feel connected and productive. Key results from these surveys are reported in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3: Results from staff survey on COVID-19 transition

Positive rating

26 Mar–1 April

11–19 May

How well has AIFS supported your transition to home-based work?

93%

98%

Satisfaction with communication provided by AIFS

97%

92%

Satisfaction with IT/Technology support

89%

94%

Satisfaction with support from manager (satisfied/very satisfied)

Not asked

84%

As described in the performance statement against the strategic initiatives and in the case studies on the Pivot to COVID-19 and the Families in Focus webinar series, the Institute, in 2019/20, ably demonstrated the organisational capability required to ensure we can deliver high quality, impactful research.

Table 3.4: Outcomes performance 2019/20

Previous

Actual

Targets

Measure and metric

18/19

19/20

20/21

21/22

22/23

23/24

End users seek out AIFS’ research, resources and expertise

Number of e-News subscribers

24,137

28,982

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Accessing publications (number of page views)

4.2M

3.4Ma

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Number of webinar attendees

8,930

11,447

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Number of media citations

4,255

3,661

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Number of media comment

Not reported

107

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Stakeholder feedback survey

Frequency of engagement – minimum monthly (new question)

N/A

78%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Notes: a Prior to 2019/20, most AIFS publications spanned more than one webpage. To read a publication a user had to click through multiple pages. In 2019/20, to improve the user experience, publications were converted from a multi page to a single-page format. The resulting decline in page views is due to that conversion, not to fewer publications being viewed.

Prev

Target

Actual

Targets

Measure and metric

18/19

19/20

19/20

20/21

21/22

22/23

23/24

End users seek out AIFS’ research, resources and expertise

Stakeholder feedback survey

Relevance

AIFS’ resources are easy to find

80%

>80%

79%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

AIFS’ resources are accessible & easy to understand

89%

>89%

86%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Whether used AIFS’ resources

74%

74%

86%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Case study

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

Organisational capability enables AIFS to achieve impact

APS employee census scoresb

Staff engagement

77%

>75%

N/A

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Staff wellbeing

78%

>75%

N/A

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Innovation

72%

>70%

N/Ac

>18/19

TBD

TBD

TBD

Case study

0

1

2

1

1

1

1

Notes: b The APS Census is held in May each year. Due to COVID-19 it has been postponed to October, hence there are no data available for the 2019/20 actuals. c Innovation will not be asked in the next Employee Census.

Impacts

Impacts are what occur as a consequence of end users and stakeholders seeking out and using our research and resources. The identified consequences are:

  • better understanding among stakeholders of issues affecting families
  • improved capacity to use research
  • deeper insights about what works in policy and practice to support families.

Two sources are used to demonstrate AIFS’ impact: data from the Stakeholder Feedback Survey and the impact case studies.

Based on the survey results, there has been a significant increase across all metrics.

Better understanding among stakeholders about issues facing Australian families. Stakeholder responses indicate that a very high proportion (95%) agreed or strongly agreed that AIFS’ resources had helped them to know what was occurring in their field of work or expand their knowledge base.

Improved capacity of stakeholders to use research to inform policy and service design. Respondents to the survey indicated that AIFS’ research and resources had improved their capacity to use evidence to inform policy and service design:

  • 84% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they incorporated AIFS’ resources into their work practice
  • 85% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that AIFS’ resources were used to help make evidence-based decisions.

Deeper insight into outcomes and impacts of policy and service design on children and families. We want AIFS’ research and resources to provide policy and service sectors with greater insight and understanding about how different policy and program decisions might impact on children and families. Stakeholder survey respondents were asked about the extent to which they agreed with the following: ‘AIFS’ resources are used to debate and discuss different options for action’. Eighty-four per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

The case studies provide greater detail about how AIFS’ research achieves these impacts.

Table 3.5: Impact performance 2019/20

Prev

Target

Actual

Targets

Measure and metric

18/19

19/20

19/20

20/21

21/22

22/23

23/24

Better understanding among stakeholders about issues facing Australian families

Stakeholder feedback survey

AIFS’ resources expand my knowledge

72%

>70%

95%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Impact case studies

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

Improved capacity of stakeholders to use research to inform policy and service design

Stakeholder feedback survey

AIFS’ resources are incorporated into work practice

58%

>55%

84%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

AIFS’ resources are used to make evidence‑based decisions

60%

>60%

85%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Impact case studies

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

Deeper insight into outcomes and impacts of policy and service design on children and families

Stakeholder feedback survey

AIFS’ resources are used to debate and discuss different options for action

60%

>60%

84%

>19/20

TBD

TBD

TBD

Impact case studies

0

1

1

1

1

1

1