Future Directions is the NSW Government’s new vision for social housing over the next 10 years. It’s an innovative, holistic approach to making real change in social housing. It recognises that people living in social housing do so because of a range of life events and risk factors and that changing the trajectory of their lives cannot be achieved through a single initiative alone.
Future Directions offers a suite of interconnected and mutually reinforcing strategies and programs, which together aim to affect real change. Part of the programmatic response within the Future Directions strategy are six Service Improvement Initiatives, which are designed to deliver against three key objectives: more and better-quality social housing; more opportunities, support and incentives for people to avoid and/or leave social housing; and a better experience for social housing clients.
The Department has commissioned ARTD and its partners Taylor Fry and Social Ventures Australia to evaluate the six Service Improvement Initiatives. The purpose of the evaluation is to understand:
- Which Service Improvement Initiatives work well, in which domains, for whom and under what circumstances?
- What are the implications for the modification, targeting or re-design of each initiative to improve implementation and maximise outcomes?
- What are the implications for Future Directions in housing and homelessness policy and programs to improve outcomes and increase housing independence?
The evaluation will provide a rigorous theory-driven and quasi-experimental evaluation of the Future Directions Service Improvement Initiatives. It is designed to overcome the typical barriers to evaluation utility and utilisation. Key features of the overall Service Improvement Initiative Evaluation design are:
- embedded quasi-experimental elements within program delivery
- use routinely collected administrative and linked administrative data to give a holistic perspective on outcomes
- focus on understanding client pathways, within and between initiatives
- integrated implementation, outcome and economic evaluations across the initiatives.
Understanding the causal powers of each initiative is necessary and appropriate for rigorous and scientific evaluation that can inform evidence-based policy. The evaluation will include stages for the development of hypotheses about what works for different people, testing of hypotheses in linked data sets, and validation of results through case studies with intended beneficiaries and consultation with local community groups. The evaluation design is consistent with both the Future Directions Evaluation Framework and the NSW Government Program Evaluation Guidelines.
Our evaluation will produce evidence about the most effective initiatives – in isolation and
combination – for generating outcomes for people and places with defined risk and
protective factor profiles. The resulting evidence base will allow FACS to modify, target or
abandon certain interventions for different clients, and ensure clients are at the centre of
program design and delivery for Future Directions.
Department of Housing and Public Works – Open Doors Rental Reform analysis
(Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works, 2018–19)
Renting is an important housing option for many Queenslanders. As the number of people who rent property in Queensland grows, the Department of Housing and Public Works wanted to ensure renting laws support access to safe, secure and sustainable homes in a stable rental market. In late 2018, the Department sought public comment on revisions to the Housing Act (Open Doors to Renting Reform). The community enthusiastically embraced the consultation, with more than 130,000 responses from people with a range of experience of the rental market (tenants, agents, landlords).
ARTD was contracted to extract, collate and clean the extensive data volume of data in a range of formats – postcards (handwritten), online surveys, written submissions (including email), forum posts, social media posts and snap polls – and conduct a systematic analysis.
ARTD partnered with data science and business insights firm, Altometer, to analyse the entire dataset within an exceptionally short time frame – just four weeks – over the Christmas – New Year holiday period. The team used a machine-assisted analysis model for qualitative analysis, where algorithms were used to read, sort, and categorise comments, which were then available for the project team to review and validate. The approach allowed the team to identify ten main topics, and to quantify how many times each group of respondents talked about the topic. The team used Tableau to visualise the data, and to support its written report.
The combined human-machine analysis approach reduced the data processing time by up to 75%, allowing the team to meet the tight deadlines for reporting while maintaining quality analysis. The report contributed to a submission to Queensland Cabinet, and subsequent changes to the Housing Act.
Machine-assisted qualitative analysis has the potential to support citizen engagement by reducing the time it takes to systematically analyse large-scale consultation data. This is important because qualitative data provides a deeper understanding.