Whole of government evaluation guidelines: 
Great! Now what?

Monday 2:00pm

Vanessa Hood facilitated a 1hr exploration and discussion of government evaluation guideline documents from NSW, QLD, WA and the Commonwealth. 

There were around 60 participants from across Australasia. The room included a mix of evaluation practitioners and commissioners from government, private sector, NGO and academia.

Click here for the full abstract.

Calls to action from the guidelines, as summarised by participants


  • Embed evaluation into government, for ongoing support of decision making.

  • Use the most appropriate methods to answer your questions and address needs (types, processes, questions, theory of change).

  • Communicate findings effectively so they can be used to inform decisions.  Develop realistic and useful recommendations.  Have a plan for implementation and use.


  • There’s a role for everyone – evaluation is everyone’s business.

  • Planning is pivotal.

  • Use your evaluation resources wisely. Prioritise what needs to be evaluated and to what extent or degree.


  • Plan your evaluation upfront. It’s better when it’s built in, rather than bolted on.

  • Be clear about what you want at the start of the evaluation – good scoping document, informed purchaser.

  • Be clear about roles and responsibilities, manage expectations.

Australian Government

  • Accountability matters.

  • This includes accountability by line agencies to the public, for how they have used the resources they have been given.

  • Agencies need to be able to tell a ‘performance story, not just report outputs – what did we do, how much of it did we do, how well did we do it, and what happened as a consequence.


Wins - How participants have seen these guidelines have a positive effect

  • Providing leadership

  • Putting evaluation on the agenda – embedding it, institutionalising practice

  • Increasing the importance of owning evaluation as a government agency, not just contracting it out

  • Made it easier to engage stakeholders in evaluation planning

  • Linking evaluation to program design

  • Helping to identify gaps and inform a capacity development agenda

Losses - How participants have been disappointed by these guidelines

  • Clunky

  • Turning evaluation into a ‘niche business’ not ‘everyone’s business’

  • Compliance response – fallen short of ‘evaluation renaissance’

  • Led to unhelpful performance indicators, where the data don't exist

  • No growth in evaluation expertise

  • Guidelines only – allowing agencies to opt in/out as they choose

Where to from here?

  • The session finished with an invitation to continue the conversation at the conference and beyond. 

  • Duncan Rintoul called for someone to lead the ‘Evaluation in government’ special interest group and invited people to come and see him after the session to talk about this further. If you are interested, email him.

  • John Stoney (AES Board member) also spoke to the current strategic priorities of the AES, and encouraged people to keep active and involved as members around this topic.