Evaluation one step removed: The government/not-for-profit performance nexus

David Gilchrist, Peter Wilkins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Governments have increasingly sought to rely on non-profit voluntary organizations in the delivery of human services because they are perceived as being more efficient, more flexible, and are closer to the community – allowing them more opportunity to assess the relative impact of those programs. The almost universal view is that market-style funding arrangements with those organizations result in better outcomes. But do they?

David Gilchrist and Peter Wilkins examine the case of Western Australia, focusing on both the demand for, and the supply of, outcome-based evaluations of human services programs contracted by government agencies, and implemented by non-profits, in the 2012–2014 period. Despite significant efforts to develop the capacity to contract, assess, and report on program outcomes rather than outputs (as was traditionally the case), this proved to be a major challenge. A host of problems were encountered ranging from correctly defining outcomes, to data collection and timeliness, and to data storage and sharing among agencies. The authors conclude that while training and financial resources to support evaluation capacity are certainly necessary, those efforts will not be successful unless external “inhibitors” including inter-governmental collaboration issues, operational considerations, and realistic expectations for conducting outcome evaluations within a politically palatable timeframe, are also addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Realpolitik of Evaluation
Subtitle of host publicationWhy Demand and Supply Rarely Intersect
EditorsMarkus Palenberg, Arne Paulson
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781003005162
ISBN (Print)9780367434328
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2020


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