Connected Beginnings

December 9, 2021 / Written by Ellise Barkley

“This project has given us the framework to evidence social change and create impact for our Aboriginal families and vulnerable children.” – Connected Beginnings Partner.

Any community champion or change-maker will tell you that creating meaningful, sustainable social change takes a lot of people and a lot of time – and that it’s not always a linear process. And as any evaluator or impact measurement specialist knows, this can be problematic when dealing with relatively short-term funding cycles and donors wanting to see more immediate impact. But as the Connected Beginnings initiative shows, by harnessing digital technology and collective approaches to problem solving and reporting, we can do a lot to bring funders and communities together on the journey of change.

Funded by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), Connected Beginnings supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children and their families to be school ready, aiming to close the gap in social and educational outcomes between First Nation children and non-Indigenous children.

And they’re working smart, using community-led and collective impact approaches to improve school readiness throughout all aspects of a child’s life, including health, play and education.

The issue is, when you have so many stakeholders involved, with local agencies and communities working together across multiple sites in new and different ways to create the conditions for change, how can you get a clear handle on who’s doing what and which approaches look promising? And how do you tie this back into a report fit for government funders.

Enter Clear Horizon and the Connected Beginnings measurement suite. It’s a leading innovation in social impact measurement and reporting for place-based approaches. Working closely with our partners, Clear Horizon created a digital framework and dashboards to help deliver the data and insights that matter to communities and governments. The information is co-created and accessed by each of the 24 sites and government agencies involved in the program, with each site being able to independently use and analyse their data. For the communities, this approach has meant greater data access and is strengthening data sovereignty.

Using an online platform means that data updates have become instantaneous, and analysis of data provides clearer understanding of local circumstances that help facilitate community led decisions around local issues.”- Kalgoorlie, Connected Beginnings site partner.

Crucially, the measurement suite also covers the missing levels of outcomes reporting, showing the progress and indicators of longer-term systems change and collective impact practice. The visually engaging dashboards also mean that successes and learnings can be easily accessed and shared across sites, which in turn supports data-driven decision-making from the local to the national level.

While this project is in the implementation phase, the results have been promising with the extent and success of data sharing beyond initial expectations. Another great achievement in this early stage is that the communities are reporting reduced time spent with data collection, with partners telling us:

“Having quick and secure access to fresh data provided by the government has enabled our site to focus time more on engaging with our communities and families.” – Ceduna, Connected Beginnings Partner.

Across the next six months, Clear Horizon is working with DESE to onboard and support communities that are part of the program. The aim is to increase their confidence and capacity to use real-time data access to inform strategy and improve their capacity to share critical insights with partners.