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Monday, September 16 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
Contribution analysis: Evaluating the impact of intensive family services, applying theory in a real-world context.

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Jane Howard (Department of Health and Human Services), Ms Gina Mancuso (Department of Health and Human Services)

It can be a challenge to demonstrate causality between intervention activities and desired outcomes, especially when multiple factors, contexts and players influence outcomes. Traditionally, causality is determined using experimental approaches. However, for many interventions it is not practical, feasible or ethical to conduct this research to measure an intervention's societal level impacts. Contribution Analysis (CA) is an alternate methodology evaluators can use to build credible and plausible evidence-based arguments to demonstrate whether intervention activities contribute to observed outcomes when there are limitations for available data.

The Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) model is widely used to improve family functioning, to reduce children's entry into Out of Home Care and to facilitate family reunification. The Centre for Evaluation and Research conducted an evaluation of the 200 Hours Intense Family Support Service, an example of the IFPS model.

The program's evaluation sought to examine the impact of the program in terms of family functioning, and rates of family preservation and reunification. Using a quasi-experimental design, families receiving the intervention were compared with those who did not. To improve the credibility and quality of the data collected to judge the extent to which the program contributed to its desired outcomes, CA theory was applied. The evaluators developed a theory of change identifying the program's aims and underlying assumptions.
Appropriate application of theory to practice is an important skill for evaluators. This paper will discuss why CA was chosen and how:
  • CA was integral to articulating key research questions and a reasoned theory of change
  • CA informed the analytical and data collection process - what data was collected, and methods used
  • The process of applying theory to support evaluative conclusions is valuable when working with a small sample size to determine impact
  • CA complemented the evaluation methods and explore lessons learnt
  • To apply evaluative theory in a real-world setting, acknowledging that this process can be challenging.

avatar for Squirrel Main

Squirrel Main

Research and Evaluation Manager, The Ian Potter Foundation
Dr Squirrel Main is The Ian Potter Foundation's first Research and Evaluation Manager and she co-chairs the Philanthropic Evaluation and Data Analysis network. Squirrel completed her Masters at Stanford University in Evaluation and Policy Analysis (with David Fetterman--hello David... Read More →

avatar for Jane Howard

Jane Howard

Evaluation and Research Officer, Department of Health and Human Services
I have a passion for advancing evidence based best practice so that we learn from the past and avoid re-inventing the wheel. By producing high quality qualitative and quantitative data management, evaluation makes a significant contribution to inform program funding opportunities... Read More →

Monday September 16, 2019 11:30am - 12:00pm AEST