Measuring the unmeasurable: Complex evaluations in the Northern Territory

Measuring the unmeasurable: Complex evaluations in the Northern Territory Conference Paper

NARU Seminar Series

  • Author(s): Guenther, J, Arnott, A, WIlliams, E
  • Published: 2009
  • Publisher:

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to offer a counter to the argument that changes emerging from social programs are often unmeasurable. We offer a critique of the kinds of indicators used to evaluate outcomes of different types of programs and ask the question: ‘Are these indicators a true reflection of outcomes?’ The critique is based on a number of evaluations carried out by members of Charles Darwin University’s Social Partnerships in Learning consortium over recent years. These evaluations have included a range of social programs funded by several government and non-government organisations. Many of the programs were designed to address health and well-being, community safety, family function, education and community capacity issues. The paper commences with a review of relevant literature related to evaluation methodologies. It then goes on to consider traditional approaches to measurement of ‘performance’. Examples are drawn from four recent Northern Territory Government departmental annual reports. Some of SPiL’s recent evaluation work is then described as a backdrop to a discussion about the use of appropriate tools and indicators for complex evaluations. We conclude by suggesting that, provided outcomes are ascertained through culturally informed processes and correctly attributed to program activities, there is no reason why outcomes should be unmeasurable.

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Suggested Citation
Guenther, J, Arnott, A, WIlliams, E, 2009, Measuring the unmeasurable: Complex evaluations in the Northern Territory, Conference Paper, viewed 03 December 2023,

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