Evaluation of the Southern Suburbs Community Sector Capacity Building
(Wollongong City Council)
Duration: August 2012 – July 2014
In 2011 Wollongong City Council obtained a three year funding grant from the NSW Government through Community Services, Department of Human Services, to develop and implement the Strengthening Communities - Community Builders Project. A Capacity Building Program was developed and implemented with two established community organisations in the Illawarra region. These were the Coomaditchie Community Hub operated by the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation and the Warrawong Community Kitchen/Lunch operated by the Warrawong Residents Forum Inc. The Capacity Building Program consisted of a series of activities implemented at each site by external consultants between July 2012 and June 2014. CHSD was commissioned by the Council in August 2012 to conduct the evaluation at the two sites.
What we did
A formative evaluation, encompassing process as well as outcomes elements, was conducted to provide a framework for developing an understanding of the process of change and for finding out how was the Program was implemented at each site, the extent to which the Program produced worthwhile results in the short, medium and long term, the enablers and barriers to participation in and impact of the Program at each site, and extent to which the Program contributed to the sustainability of the two organisations.
The first stage of the project involved a targeted literature review and development of an evaluation framework. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed including program data, 24 qualitative semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and key staff, on-site visits, and quantitative service data to describe client service activities and use.
The evaluation found that the Capacity Building Program was successfully implemented at each of the sites over a two year period. It brought together Council staff, external consultants, staff, management committee members, and volunteers at both sites around a Program designed to enhance the capacity of the organisations to deliver much needed services to their disadvantaged clients. The Program focused attention on the underpinnings of strong and effective organisations – good governance, vision, goals and objectives aligned with organisational capacity, the use of knowledge to inform service delivery, and the need to adopt innovative ways of addressing future uncertainties. The Program resulted in a number of outputs: revised policy and procedures manuals for both of the projects; Capacity Building Action Plans for each of the projects; a People Assets Mapping Project Report.
The Program has achieved many of its short and medium term outcomes, including those around improved knowledge and skills in good governance principles and processes; an improved understanding of current organisational situation; and the capacity for short and long term planning. Perhaps the most important outcome to emerge in the short and medium term was that the AHSRI 2014 ANNUAL REPORT I 27 project staff and management committees have become better informed about potential business collaborations and partnerships between local business leaders and the community organisations were established. The implementation of the Capacity Building Program was facilitated by a systematic approach to organisational capacity building as well as a creative approach to trying out various strategies in order to find those which had the best fit for each of the organisations. The most success was achieved when the consultants were willing to listen and respond flexibly to the needs of the organisations. One of the key strengths of these community based organisations is that they are flexible and willing to adapt to changes in the environment. The evaluation demonstrated this ability of the projects to incorporate new ideas and to give new ways of doing things a go.