Skip to main content

Learning and Improvement

This information is available in Easy Read and Auslan

This resource teaches your peer organisation how to gather evidence about the work you do.

Many of us in peer organisations don’t know enough about how to evaluate our organisation or the programs we run.

But getting this information can bring so many benefits.

  • Improve your peer programs ability to build the capacity of members
  • Learn more about what you are doing and why you are doing it
  • Keep track of your peer programs
  • Talk about the important work you do
  • Get funding and thrive under the ILC

This resource helps build the skills to keep your programs and organisation thriving.

The peer movement is vital for people with disability and the sector. We really want you and your organisation to nail the next ILC grant round – and we hope that this resource can help you to do that!

Background: Peer Support Across Australia

Peer organisations deliver peer groups and programs across Australia to the disability sector based on a shared belief in the benefits of peer support. Evidence shows tangible benefits are emerging for people who are members of peer support networks, in areas such as fellowship, information, increased confidence and capacity, social connection and leadership.

Some groups run regular small groups, others hold large peer group workshops, and some enable and support mentoring relationships between peers. Peer organisations are driven by their belief in the importance of lived experience, walking together and the sharing of information and strategies. Some groups are location based, other groups are formed based on areas of interest or disability type. Across Australia there is a strong user-led community offering an assortment of peer groups and programs to people living with disability.

The ILC recently sourced a mapping of peer disability focussed programs nationally and, in May 2018, the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) published a practice review of peer support programs across Australia (Davy, Fisher and Wehbe, 2018). This report identified a range of broader benefits from peer support including: The development of an informed and engaged disability community, together with awareness and capacity building within mainstream services, as well as, the wider community about inclusive strategies and engaging with people with disability and their families. The review found that ‘despite variation in peer support delivery, common values and principles of good practice peer support emerged’ (p1). Best practice peer support was described as being flexible, user-led, focused on capacity building, organised with a blend of information-based content along with informal or unstructured forms of support and being community facilitated and/or linked. This learning package is founded on the disability rights framework and is aimed at providing useful content and tools that disability focussed peer organisations require. Such organisations will offer unique peer delivery models but be aligned with these identified principles of best practice.

Peer Organisations’ Historical Challenges

Whatever the type of peer support group or program you are involved in, you would know that working in this space is very rewarding, but can also be challenging. Peer organisations within the disability sector have historically been challenged by the lack of available, adequate and ongoing funding to support their work. With the development of the NDIS, new opportunities now exist for peer organisations – but they need to be ready for it, and research suggests that many are not.

The NDIA’s Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grant programs offer a significant opportunity for peer organisations to resolve their funding issues. The recently announced ILC Investment Strategy has a focus on organisations run by and for people with disability and/or their families and carers. ILC grants will be distributed based on an investment approach, where evidence of the positive outcomes will be a key consideration in who is able to secure a grant. That is; ILC will offer funding opportunities for peer organisations, but only if they can show what they are doing is working for their peer members who are gaining benefits from their attendance and involvement in peer groups and programs. Peer organisations need to know how to do outcomes based evaluations.

The ILC team want improved measurement of the impact of the programs they support – including peer groups and programs. ILC funds are limited, and they need to ensure investments result in improved outcomes for people living with disability nationally. The shift to outcomes based evaluations required by ILC, as well as an increasingly complex competitive environment, means developing the capacity of peer organisations is a key focus of the NDIA.

As we move further into the NDIS world of strong competition and polished service providers (perhaps looking to enter markets where they can easily gain access to participants), user-led peer programs are at risk of being unable to adequately prepare for the organisational demands ahead. Peer organisations are often built on enthusiasm and the power of lived experience. This is crucial, yet it means that at least some community groups aren’t going to have team members with specialist business and/or evaluation expertise. The ILC team recognise this and want to provide more resources to assist peer organisations in building their knowledge and expertise in evidence collection. They know how important this is, value their existing expertise and the power of lived experience. This training package was developed to enable peer organisations to build their knowledge in this area and meet this need within the dynamic peer group and program marketplace.

Evidence on Existing Peer Organisations’ Expertise

Peer organisations are underpinned by a deep-seated rights value base and offer programs which emphasise personal capacity development of their attendees. In this training package, we are directing our attention toward peer organisations and the ways that these valuable organisations can build their own capacity.

The report recommends that peer organisations should benefit from having access to organisational capacity building resources in areas including evaluation and evidence gathering (Davy, Fisher and Wehbe, 2018). It was also proposed that sharing across peer organisations could enable current good practices to be built on, with assistance being provided to assist other organisations in this area. It was also suggested that the NDIA and its ILC program should undertake investment in peer evaluation resources. This resource addresses some of these report’s recommendations. The author of these materials was a family member (and Carer) of a person with acquired disability and developed the evaluation system within the Families4Families ABI Peer Support Network over a number of years, centred on her experience as an Accounting Academic specialising in strategic performance evaluation and with a Doctorate in that field. Resources developed have benefited enormously from the strong input from an editor with lived experience of disability and roles within peer support programs for many years. It is hoped that future investments will enable further learning opportunities in this space, including face to face sessions and access to ongoing consultancy support.

This package has been developed as an online, self-focussed learning resource due to limitations in the current project scope. The developers have requested the addition of face to face learning sessions, and ongoing access to consultancy support for the peer organisations who utilise this resource. We anticipate that the offerings in this area will grow and develop over time once the ILC redesign currently underway enables more clarity around the needs in this space. If you require assistance with any aspect of this Training Package, you can send your query via our Feedback page and this will be shared with the development team for response.

Some Final Preliminary Comments

This ‘Learning and Improving’ Training Resource offers peer organisations the opportunity to gain additional expertise in collecting and assembling information for both internal and external stakeholders. Significant benefits can be gained from these skills including gaining knowledge about whether your peer program is progressing as you planned and bringing about the expected outcomes for its attendees.

A primary driver behind the development of this resource is to ensure that user-led peer organisations thrive under ILC and build their ability to complete for ILC funding and enable their longevity. In the competitive NDIS disability sector user-led community groups and organisations will often be competing with professional grant writers for funding support and the ability to offer appropriately funded groups and supports. This results in the necessity for peer organisations to capture what they are doing well and be able to communicate that succinctly within tightly written grant submissions. Illustrating an understanding of what is working well, what has already been learned via prior investment and evidence of member outcomes are all important components of ensuring peer organisations are competitive and sustainable. None of us want precious and limited ILC funds expended on programs that sound amazing in a grant submission but which don’t have a strong chance of coalface success. The loss of effective peer groups and programs would reduce the opportunities available for people living with disability to gain from the power of lived experience.

This resource offers various engagement pathways depending upon the approach that feels right to the user. Whether you choose the ‘vintage’, ‘traditional’ or ‘modern’ user pathway, you can access skill development and also a ‘takeaway’ Evaluation Plan. However, an online learning resource is unlikely to meet all the needs of peer organisations in gaining this expertise. As peer organisations evolve within the changing disability sector, the ILC team recognise more is needed. There are currently discussions under way about ways in which additional support can be provided, and hopefully the development of a ‘technology hub’ will be explored in the near future by the ILC team. In the meantime, we hope that this resource can provide you with the opportunity to build your peer organisation’s capacity and result in the strengthening of the user-led movement nationally.