We are proud to present our Social Impact Report for 2023. Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) is committed to understanding and demonstrating impact and ensuring that clients receive the most effective support possible.
In recent years, we’ve made significant progress in developing our theory of change and incorporating fit-for-purpose outcome measurement, known to improve clinical decision-making and efficacy.
We are strengthening our approach to evidence-informed practice, creating a culture of learning and using developmental evaluation to inform program design and implementation. This has allowed us to refine our models, improve practice, better understand the needs of clients and communities, respond to emerging evidence, and increase our contribution to the evidence base.
This Social Impact Report complements our Annual Report 2022–23. It showcases the effects of our activities and incorporates the firsthand experience of practitioners – who witness transformational change in people’s lives every day – in addition to client voice and research evidence.
In 2023, we broadened the way in which we demonstrate the value and impact of our work by commencing a cost–benefit analysis of our Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) services. Cost–benefit analysis is a comprehensive and evidence-based method for systematically organising and presenting the economic, social and environmental impacts of different programs. This will allow us to better advocate for and articulate the impact of our programs and inform client decision-making. We look forward to sharing this analysis in the coming months.
We are also increasingly adopting a place-based lens – a promising, collaborative approach for addressing complex social issues. We are continually learning from our experiences in the delivery and evaluation of a range of place-based initiatives to strengthen family relationships. Collaboration can lead to systemic change in a way that no single policy, program or organisation can achieve on its own. We will build on these learnings and apply them to service design and delivery going forward.
Our prevention and early intervention initiatives are continuously informed by emerging evidence in a range of areas. These include the developmental significance of the early years, prevention of gender-based violence, and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing by strengthening protective factors such as positive family relationships, and social and emotional competencies.
The Australian Government recently released ‘Measuring What Matters’, the first comprehensive national wellbeing framework. This framework acknowledges the significance of broader measures of wellbeing, envisioning a healthier, more secure, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous Australia.
Relationships and connections are the foundations on which this vision is built. Not only are relationships integral to individual wellbeing, but also to the outcomes and effectiveness of services. They are also essential to influencing systems change. Strong relationships and connections support families and communities to navigate multiple environmental, economic and social challenges.
Our Social Impact Report provides an overview of our approach to evaluation and evidence-informed practice.
Theory of Change
How we create change
We deliver a wide variety of family and relationship services across a continuum of prevention, early intervention, therapeutic services and support.
We adopt a socio-ecological and person-centred approach to our services, holistically meeting the needs of families, which begins with addressing client needs. Evidence shows that personal wellbeing is strongly linked to our interpersonal relationships. These can be family relationships, couple relationships and social connections.
Change happens when individuals and communities have the knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes to build and maintain positive and healthy relationships.
By building and empowering individuals’ knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes to create and maintain healthy relationships, we contribute to thriving, resilient and cohesive communities. Cohesive communities are places where everyone feels a sense of belonging and safety. They support healthy child development, improve school climates, foster social connection, reduce family violence and improve overall wellbeing.
Our prevention and early intervention services aim to build skills in individuals, helping them develop healthy relationships and improve mental wellbeing. This can be achieved, for example, by strengthening social and emotional competencies, as well as enhancing parenting capacity. Our recovery and intervention services facilitate change through relational and collaborative practice with skilled professionals to achieve individual, client-led goals.
Socio-ecological model of wellbeing (from RAV’s Theory of Change)
Understanding our impact
Our services are focused on strengthening families and relationships and improving outcomes across 5 key domains. These domains have been refined over the past few years in consultation with our practice specialists, practitioners and clients.
This Social Impact Report provides a selection of impact stories to demonstrate how we create change across the 5 domains.
A social impact report demonstrates the real-world effect of an organisation’s activities and the change they create (Ramia et al., 2021). For over 75 years, RAV has been dedicated to achieving social impact through fostering positive, respectful, safe and fulfilling relationships for all Australians. Measuring social outcomes allows us to better understand the difference that we are making for individuals, families and communities.
Social impact encompasses the net consequences of our activities, including the changes that result from using our services (outcomes), alongside the measurement of what we do and the quality of our services (outputs).
This is our first social impact report and is focused on measurable outcomes across 3 interdependent levels of wellbeing: individual outcomes, interpersonal relationship outcomes and community outcomes. RAV’s Theory of Change is premised on how individual level changes contribute to improved family and relationship outcomes, ultimately leading to more cohesive communities (see our Theory of Change video above). When these levels are examined together, we gain a deeper understanding of the broader positive impact our organisation has on society in the short and longer term.
Additionally, this report is a vital tool for evidence-based decision-making, continuous improvement, stakeholder engagement and transparent communication of our outcomes and impact. Outcome measurement is the first step towards evaluation and better understanding our programs (Ramia et al, 2021).
While attributing long-term change solely to a single intervention or organisation can be challenging, through the evaluation of the positive impact we’ve made on individuals and families, we can confidently affirm our contribution towards fostering sustainable, positive community and societal change.
An evidence-informed approach: Practice principles and common elements
An evidence-informed approach integrates research and evidence with practice knowledge and client perspectives (Alla & Joss, 2021; Moore, 2016). Our programs use a flexible, responsive and tailored approach that can be adapted to fit local contexts and individual family needs. This has led to the development of evidence-based principles and common elements that guide our work and build the capacity of practitioners to utilise evidence-informed techniques. In complex environments, principles and common factors promote a shared understanding of best practice (Patton, 2018).
Our practice frameworks are informed by sound theoretical and research bases, program logics, principles, common elements and evidence-based interventions or activities. Ongoing evaluation and learning inform further development and decision-making.
We know that the way services are delivered is just as important as what is delivered. That is why we place a strong emphasis on the relationships between practitioners and clients as the medium though which meaningful change occurs. This is particularly true when working with vulnerable families (Centre for Community Child Health, 2022; Ingram & Smith, 2018; Miller et al., 2014; Moloney, 2016).
The focus on improving outcomes is therefore threefold: ensuring families have access to evidence-informed programs and services that meet their needs; adapting these programs and services to context and aligning them with local service delivery models; and ensuring their effective implementation to achieve improved outcomes for families.
Our principles are constructed within 3 main focuses: centering our clients in everything we do; common practice elements that guide our work; and constant monitoring and improvement.
We draw on strengths-based, trauma-informed and socio-ecological theories to holistically understand client context. Socio-ecological theory explores the interconnectedness between individuals and their broader social and environmental contexts. Our goal is to empower individuals in pursuing their goals based on their needs and values. Creating a culturally safe environment is crucial, and we prioritise client safety, self-determination and individual perspectives. This approach keeps our clients at the centre of our practice.
Common practice elements
We aim for a balance between consistent, evidence-informed, best-practice approaches, and responsive, place-focused and flexible delivery. By engaging in relational, collaborative practice, we build strong therapeutic bonds. Evidence shows the quality of the relationship between practitioners and clients – or therapeutic alliance – is the medium through which effective services can be delivered (Miller et al., 2014; Moore, 2016).
‘Effective relationships are central to successful outcomes.’
Ingram & Smith, 2018
Evaluation, learning and development
We continually assess and enhance our programs through regular monitoring and evaluation, driving continuous improvement and informed decision-making. We value our clients’ experiences, feedback and insights, which guide our design and evaluation approaches. Seeking feedback helps us understand our impact and opportunities for improvement, shaping the direction of our future work.
Developing a culture of learning and evaluation is an important objective of integrating outcome measurement and client feedback into practice. Outcome evaluation improves clinical decision-making and effectiveness (Miller et al, 2014; Moloney, 2016). We routinely collect client feedback and outcome data and use this to tailor and inform service delivery. Our Outcome Framework incorporates key measures and indicators based on an overarching program logic and theory of change. This framework allows us to monitor both program and individual client progress along a continuum which includes client satisfaction, achievement of collaborative goals and progress in key outcome domains. Our approach is compatible with the Australian Government Department of Social Services’ Standard Client Outcomes Reporting (SCORE).