Evaluation and Research
The Children’s Ground approach is underpinned by research and experience and is tracked through a 25-year longitudinal evaluation.
Extreme inequity is a global challenge. There is a widening gap of
income inequality and increasing entrenched and complex disadvantage in
There is insufficient evidence for approaches to address complex
inequity particularly in relation to First Nations communities.
Children’s Ground is designed to redress extreme inequity –
working with communities facing the greatest exclusion and economic
disadvantage. Children’s Ground is committed to building an evidence base to inform
national and global practice and policy.
With a comprehensive First Nations led research and evaluation
strategy, Children’s Ground aims to evidence the impact of the Children’s
Ground Approach in creating change with children, families and communities and informing
national systems and policy change.
A 25-year longitudinal evaluation
The Children's Ground approach is seeking to change the status for children, families and communities, services and systems. We are guided - but not limited
by - global Western leading practice. Each Children’s Ground principle,
integrated service platform area and systems reform is also informed by First
Nations cultural knowledge systems and practices. In design, practice and
evaluation, we bring the best of the old and new together.
longitudinal evaluation and strategic and community level research agendas, we
are monitoring and measuring change in education, health and wellbeing,
economic, social and cultural outcomes – over the short, medium and long-term.
Our evaluation has Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval
and is guided and overseen by a national Research Advisory Group, consisting of
experts in child development, health and wellbeing, family wellbeing, systems
research and community-led research and development.
culturally responsive and strength-based
Aboriginal people have been the subjects of research and
evaluation in different forms since colonisation. Almost always, this research
involved collecting data from people and taking it away to be analysed, with no
direct benefit for the individuals or communities involved and no feedback on
the outcomes of the research.
Children’s Ground’s monitoring, evaluation and research is
governed by First Nations people. It is the community who co-designs, executes,
analyses and reports on the outcomes for their community.
Children’s Ground is guided by Participatory Action Research
(PAR) as a ‘systematic investigation, with the collaboration of those affected
by the issue being studied, for the purposes of education and taking action or
effecting social change. PAR centres on community strengths and issues and
explicitly engages those who live in the community in the research process.’
Children’s Ground also recognises that traditional outcome
measures relating to users are often deficit, disease and death focussed. While
these indicators are important, they can undermine or fail to recognise
strength-based indicators critical to shifting ultimate wellbeing when assessed
on their own.
Children’s Ground defines key indicators with the community
to ensure both culture and strength are embedded and recognised in progress
measures and outcomes indicators.
Children’s Ground evaluation
framework in action
We want to
evidence the Children’s Ground Approach; we want to learn as we go, and we want
to build an evidence base for transformative systems change over 25 years.
The Children’s Ground Approach is
broken into five yearly strategic development plans and annual progress
indicators that are tracked annually. These inform a comprehensive evaluation
report every three years. Over time, we are evaluating the quality and
impact of our work across outcomes for children, families and communities, as
well as processes in system, service and practice reform and change.
Our evaluation framework (see below) consists of nine
long-term outcomes for children, their families and the community. Each of
these has short and medium-term indicators that are the building blocks of long-term
change. This will allow us to report back to the community, our investors
and partners, and to build an evidence base for an approach to achieving
equity, inclusion and addressing extreme disadvantage over the long-term.
A high degree of innovation and responsiveness is embedded within
our evaluation approaches so that evidencing the Children’s Ground Approach is
shaped by each community for their children, families and local context. We
draw on both Western and First Nations approaches to monitoring
Monitoring and Evaluation includes the
- Daily monitoring against key progress
indicators for each outcome for children, families and community
- Quantitative analysis of internal and
external administrative data
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis
- short and long form interviews and surveys
- Developmental evaluation (at
community and organisation level) of practice, delivery, system and environment
- Systems evaluation - quality,
integrity and standards, efficiency and effectiveness of the Children’s Ground
Decades of evidence confirms that the greatest return on
investment in social and economic terms is achieved by starting early with children
(before school age) and responding to all key social and cultural determinants
of health, wellbeing and life.
Our impact can only be truly understood over a generation - when
the generation of children growing up with Children’s Ground are young adults
and become the majority of families who have experienced positive education,
health and cultural learning and wellbeing from their earliest years; when they
have had a voice and agency over their own lives and have experienced lifelong inclusion and equity
in education, health, social and economic life.
Children’s Ground in Kakadu West Arnhem Final Evaluation – 2013 to 2017
Children’s Ground established ‘proof of concept’ over three
years of operations in Kakadu West Arnhem. Our key findings include:
- A new
population of children aged 0-5 years who had never participated in formal
early learning engaged in early years learning
critical mass (75%) of children aged 0-5 years across the region engaged with
formal early learning at Children’s Ground
- 100% of
children engaged with their first language and participated in cultural
learning alongside their family, and from cultural educators
- 86% of
families reported an improvement in children speaking their first language
- 100% of
children who were engaged in Children’s Ground formal learning increased
nutritional intake, health behaviours and health knowledge
ABS Census data supports the finding that
Children’s Ground has been associated with a large rise in engagement in early
childhood education in Kakadu.
- 100% of
children had family directly engaged in their learning, health and wellbeing
- 91% of family
members reported increased family engagement with children
were active in health and emotional wellbeing promotion - for themselves and
employment and retention of local Bininj (First Nations) families, with 87
local Bininj people employed, most of whom were previously long-term unemployed
This employment outcome is significant when
comparing against a national trend that has seen minimal improvement in
Aboriginal employment outcomes in 10 years of Closing the Gap.
people were involved in approximately 170 community governance meetings
throughout operations in KWA
cultural governance processes respected and enacted
- 80% of
families reported that Children’s Ground listened to what Bininj wanted.
of families reported ‘more’ or ‘a lot more’ activities for families/community
compared to before Children’s Ground.
of families interviewed reported Children’s Ground as a safe place for the
reported improved individual and community safety in relation to cultural,
emotional and environmental safety
Children’s Ground seeks to work with communities to create conditions
for a better life experience for the current and future generations of
children. Evaluation of operations in Kakadu has evidenced that over three and
a half years, Children’s Ground created a new reality for a critical mass of
children during the period of our operations.
Research and Development
There is an insufficient amount of rigorous research and
evaluation being undertaken in Australia in the area of complex inequity and
First Nations solutions. This is particularly true in relation to the long-term
impact of early childhood learning for First Nations children. Researchers,
services and governments in Australia continue to rely on overseas research
that is decades old and conducted in vastly different contexts.
Ground will undertake and engage in research agendas and projects nested within
and related to the Children’s Ground Approach and other First Nations led
approaches. We will support community-led research priorities and contribute to
national and international evidence bases.
The National Health Medical Research Council states that First
Nations people define research benefit as “the establishment or enhancement of
capabilities, opportunities or outcomes that advance the interests of First
Nations peoples and that are valued by them” (NHMRC 2003).
For Children’s Ground, reforming mainstream research methods and
practice in order to feature First Nations approaches and First Nations research
priorities is critical to First Nations aspirations of empowerment and
self-determination. Children’s Ground works with First Nations leaders and
researchers to contribute to the development of new tools and thinking about
what research benefit means for First Nations people and the impact of our
community and strategic research work.
Alongside our own research priorities, we partner with key research
institutions and organisations to contribute practical evidence about how we
redress complex and extreme disadvantage in Australia and globally. Our
research principles guide our research agreements to ensure all work aligns
with the rights of First Nations people and prioritises empowerment and
Children’s Ground Research & Evaluation Framework