Social impact evaluation gets $2.1m boost from Paul Ramsay Foundation, announces Andrew Leigh

Dee Rudebeck, Adviser News and Storytelling Fri, 21 Jun 2024 Estimated reading times: 3 minutes

Expanding the use of social impact evaluation in the for-purpose sector received a significant boost this week in a new grant round from the Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF). The grants, worth $2.1 million in total, for evaluations that include trials and other experimental, ethically performed components, were announced by Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities, and Treasury, the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP.

Minister Leigh was speaking at an Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE) event at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, titled Impact Evaluation: Assessing the effectiveness of Australian public policy.

Noting that ACE was established a year ago to expand the quality and quantity of evaluation across the public service, he highlighted that “collaboration with evaluation researchers outside of government is critical too”. He announced the launch of PRF’s Experimental Methods for Social Impact Open Grant Round, consisting of up to seven evaluations conducted by not-for-profits with a social impact mission, saying it demonstrates PRF’s commitment to “rigorous evaluation”.

He said: “The Australian Centre for Evaluation will support this open grant round, and in particular will help to connect grantees with administrative data relevant to the evaluation. I commend Paul Ramsay Foundation CEO [Professor] Kristy Muir and her board for their leadership, and I hope that it inspires other foundations to also fund randomised trials of innovative programs.”

PRF said its aim is to deepen the understanding and experience of evaluation techniques, which are currently underused in the Australian sector, to better measure and create social impact. The evaluations will contribute to the evidence base that will help shape future investment in social impact programs.

Expressions of interest are now open for seven available grants, up to a maximum of $300,000 each, to fund evaluations of social impact programs that align with PRF’s purpose of a future where people and places have what they need to thrive. PRF is receiving support from the Australian Centre for Evaluation at various stages of the grant round.

Dr George Argyrous, Head of Measurement, Evaluation, Research and Learning at the Paul Ramsay Foundation

PRF’s Head of Measurement, Evaluation, Research and Learning, Dr George Argyrous: said: “These grants are a $2.1 million investment in using experimental evaluation design to increase sector capacity and social impact. The open grant round will show that experimental design can be a cost-effective and efficient way to evaluate areas of social impact, while also complementing quasi and non-experimental evaluation designs.

“Experimental methods of evaluation are not often used in Australia, due partly to some widely held misconceptions, and we hope that this work will challenge some of these barriers. With appropriate planning and access to relevant data, experimental designs can be done with modest budgets and within a short time-period.

“Experimental and non-experimental evaluation designs can work together to answer a broader range of questions, thereby providing a richer understanding of impact,” he said.

The grants are open to registered charities and non-profit organisations that are implementing, or intend to implement, programs that improve outcomes aligned to PRF’s outcomes, which are:

  • Children and young people have positive life paths free from entrenched poverty and harm
  • Places and communities are connected and imagining and leading their own futures
  • Conditions support thriving
  • First Nations people and communities are self-determining.

Minister Leigh said: “In medicine, randomised trials have saved countless lives. Bringing the same ‘what works’ philosophy to Australian social policy is vital to helping the most vulnerable. In countries such as Britain and the US, philanthropic foundations have a strong track record in supporting randomised policy trials. In Australia, it’s terrific to see the Paul Ramsay Foundation leading the way.”

Following the EOI process, successful programs will be invited to make a full grant application. PRF will engage Evaluation Advisors to support applicants and ensure all relevant requirements are addressed.


Expressions of interest can be submitted until Tuesday 23 July 2024, with an open, online information session to be held on Tuesday, 25 June 2024.