Public Economics Forum: Evaluation for better evidence and improved social policy

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Hyatt Canberra, 120 Commonwealth Ave, Yarralumla, ACT 2600


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Rachel Derham

T: +61 3 8344 2100

The benefits of conducting comprehensive evaluations of social intervention programs are widely recognised. Evaluations can provide evidence to strengthen the design and operation of programs to improve the lives of those they are intended to influence.

Since the findings from well-designed evaluations can lead to more informed policy decisions, why are published results from these studies in such short supply in Australia? In part because so many things can go wrong and stand in the way of the conduct and release of informative evaluations.

This Public Economics Forum will help you navigate this challenging topic. The panel will draw on firsthand experience to highlight the challenges you should be aware of and identify ways to establish systemic approaches to evaluations designed to bring longer-term success.


The forum will be opened by Professor A. Abigail Payne, Ronald Henderson Professor and Director of the Melbourne Institute, followed by panel discussion featuring:

Professor Guyonne Kalb, Professorial Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research

Guyonne Kalb has been the Director of the Labour Economics and Social Policy Program in the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne since 2009. She has been involved in several research projects providing evidence for policy makers, including a number of evaluation studies, such as the evaluation of the Paid Parental Leave scheme, and the Try, Test and Learn Fund. Guyonne’s research interests are in the field of applied micro-economics and include labour supply issues, in particular, female labour supply; the interaction of labour supply, social security and taxation; labour supply and childcare; and the impact of childcare/parental activities on child development and health. She publishes widely in refereed academic journals, including Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Health Economics, Health Economics, Economics of Education Review, Fiscal Studies and Economic Record.

Ophelia Cowell, Director, Centre for Evidence and Evaluation, NSW Treasury

Ophelia Cowell directs the Centre for Evidence and Evaluation at NSW Treasury. CEE provides evidence-based economic analysis and advice to inform policy and resource allocation decisions of the NSW Government. By working with agencies to improve the evidence base, CEE helps inform Government decisions so that public funds can be directed to the initiatives and social policies that deliver the greatest outcomes and public value.

Previously, Ophelia directed the Strategic Reform branch in NSW Treasury where she led reform initiatives across a range of policy portfolios including in health, justice, energy, climate change and water and ran the first pilot of the Washington State Institute model for policy impact assessment in Australia. Before joining the public sector, Ophelia led an international program for evidence-based energy policy development in 12 developing and in-transition economies in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  Ophelia holds a Master of Science and a Master of Public Administration through the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG).

Professor Patricia Rogers, Professor of Public Sector Evaluation, ANZSOG

Patricia Rogers is Professor of Public Sector Evaluation at ANZSOG and RMIT University, and Director of BetterEvaluation, an international collaboration to improve evaluation.  She has worked on evaluations and evaluation systems in diverse sectors with local, state and federal government departments, NGOs, UN agencies, aid agencies, foundations and development banks in Australia and internationally for more than 30 years.  She is the co-author of Purposeful Program Theory: Effective Use of Theories of Change and Logic Models and publications on better approaches to evaluation and monitoring and evaluation systems, especially using theories of change, complexity theory and a wider repertoire of methods and processes.  Her practice and research have been recognised by awards from the Australian Evaluation Society and the American Evaluation Association including the AES Best Evaluation Study, and AES Fellow.  What drives her work is an appreciation of the potential value of doing evaluation well and the risks of doing it badly.