Independence and Disability project – background

The Independence and Disability project is a collaboration between Independence Australia and Swinburne University, and aims to explore innovative methods for developing and communicating outcome measures and service satisfaction. This project draws on approaches from two distinct disciplines: social impact measurement and visual design.

This partnership was established due to the notoriously difficult nature of outcomes measurement within the community services sector. Being a large service provider Independence Australia is responsible for a wide range of disability services including in-home and residential care, and while these services play a significant role in its customers lives there are, at present, limited processes that allow the organisation to track its impact on its customers lives. Wanting to better understand its customers and the impact these services have on their lives, Independence Australia sought to partner with Swinburne University to construct a research partnership that will assist them to reach their impact measurement goals.

The Independence and Disability project commenced in 2019.

Stage one – Theory of Change

For a service delivery driven organisation, the best place to start was to identify the organisation’s Theory of Change. A Theory of Change identifies and maps the logic of service provision identifying the problem, the activities being delivered to address this, and the short, medium and long term outcomes and impacts of this approach. The Theory of Change is an important strategic activity that engages stakeholders in thinking through the logic of the approach, and also establishes outcomes that the work can be evaluated against.

This approach was particularly valuable for Independence Australia, as it provided a baseline for the project. As a service provider Independence Australia staff are constantly working towards individual outcomes for customers, such as sourcing a staff member to assist them out of bed, but they’re not working to map those outcomes on a larger scale – they’re simply working to assist the customer address a need.

This is where the Theory of Change process has been vital for framing what outcomes measurement can look like for the organisation, and for the customers.

The Theory of Change process found three key outcome areas that were most significant to IA customers:

  1. Agency: exercising choice in and control over their lives
  2. Support: accessing necessary funding and services
  3. Independence: living the life they want to live

Stage two – Co-design

Following on from the Theory of Change process, the three key outcome areas represented a framework for a co-design workshop that could explore these outcomes and facilitating the development of a monitoring and evaluation process. As part of the co-design stage, researchers from Swinburne’s School of Design and the Centre of Social Impact have consulted with Independence Australia staff and clients to design an innovative technology product that captures client support needs and outcomes.

The outcome of the co-design workshop was a set of recommendations that were used to conceptualise a prototype which has been developed and tested in this stage.

The prototype empowers clients to manage their support services independently, enabling them to streamline their communication, set personalised goals, manage their support roster, and leave feedback about their support quality and experience. The prototype of the technology, which was tested by a range of Independence Australia support services clients, has now progressed to the next stage of development. If you would like to find out more about the technology or use the prototype, please contact the Independence Australia Research Team here.

Stage three – Longitudinal study

Independence Australia and Swinburne University are currently in stage three of this research partnership, which involves a longitudinal study of Independence Australia’s customers and their needs. We look forward to sharing our updates with you as we progress through this stage.