WESTIR Limited attended the Australasian Evaluation Society’s (AES) seminar called NGOs and Evaluation on a Shoestring in August 2018. Organised by the NSW Regional Network Committee of the AES and hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the seminar invited speakers from Hepatitis NSW, specifically CEO Stuart Loveday and Programs Manager for Education and Community Support Sandra Davidson, to share the organisation’s approach to undertaking evaluation within a tight budget.

Stuart provided a rundown of the operational costs involved in the organisation’s work. There are particular costs, such as Quality Improvement Council accreditation for example, that cannot be avoided. Hepatitis NSW has a strong culture of evaluation and quality improvement, some of which involves external auditing of its operations and activities.

Sandy Davidson elaborated on the services provided by Hepatitis NSW and the evaluation practices it engages in and how they are conducted in a cost-effective manner. For Hepatitis NSW this involved conducting surveys and facilitating client-led feedback on the organisation’s services. Surveys were led by staff, with the assistance of volunteers, who assisted with survey administration and responsible for data entry. Involving volunteers and clients is a highly effective strategy for minimising the costs involved in evaluating an organisation’s activities.

An engaging group discussion closed off proceedings, with attendees from a variety of organisations exchanging questions and providing their own advice on ‘shoestring’ evaluation. What emerged from the discussion was that the key to effective evaluation, especially when cost is a primary factor, is identifying what you want to measure and tailoring the review process accordingly. Time and resources can easily be wasted if the evaluation process and tools, such as surveys, do not focus on the questions the organisation really want to ask.

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