2.2. Program overview

The program overview needs to explain why the program is needed, what it is aiming to achieve and how it is expected to impact demand on future government services. It also briefly describes how the program operates (its funding and governance) and any sensitivities. It should be about half a page in length with any additional information in an appendix.

2.2.1. Needs assessment

Ideally, a needs assessment will be undertaken as part of the program design. If a needs assessment has been carried out, please outline the findings in the program overview or a relevant appendix.

A needs assessment is a tool that is used for both designing programs and for conducting program evaluation.[1] It is a systematic method to determine who needs the program, how great the need is, characteristics of the target group, patterns of unmet needs, and what might work to meet the needs identified.[1]

Key questions may include:

  • What problems exist and how large or serious are they?
  • What are the characteristics and needs of the target population?
  • How are people affected as individuals?
  • How is the community affected? What are the financial and social costs of the issue?
  • Are other groups or agencies (including Commonwealth agencies) working to address the need?
  • What are the opportunities for collaboration and shared funding?

Undertaking a systematic needs assessment is a transparent way of ensuring resources are used in the most effective way possible. The needs assessment should be reviewed during evaluation to assess whether the program is still needed.

Further information on needs assessment is available from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, including a guide on how to do a needs assessment.

Conducting a literature review is an important step in determining the existing evidence base and possible program or intervention options. A good starting point may include one of the many online evidence banks or clearinghouses which aim to synthesise evidence on what works in various policy areas.

Campbell CollaborationSystematic reviews and evidence and gap maps (EGMs) by a range of subject areas e.g. Crime & Justice, Disability, Education, Social Welfare
Washington State Institute for Public PolicySystematic assessment of high quality studies across various public policy areas and the cost of each policy option
Cochrane libraryThe Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is the leading journal for systematic review in healthcare
Australian Public Sector Evaluation NetworkAPSEN SharePoint Communication site provides a library of public sector evaluation resources and reports
The Evidence Based Policing MatrixThis Matrix categorises and visualises evaluated police tactics against ‘realms of effectiveness’
CrimeSolutionsA clearing house of programs and practices that have undergone rigorous evaluations and meta-analyses aiming to address criminal justice, juvenile justice and crime victim services outcomes
Evidence for Learning ToolkitSummaries of global evidence for education approaches with a dashboard of i) average months’ worth of learning progress, ii) cost to implement and iii) security of evidence
Child Family Community AustraliaThe CFCA information exchange’s mission is to be the primary source of quality, evidence-based information, resources and support for professionals in the child, family and community welfare sector
The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Clearing HouseThis clearinghouse shares promising and best practice programs, services, guidelines, resources and research on Indigenous suicide prevention initiatives

Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (historical)

This clearinghouse was established to collect, analyse and synthesise evaluation evidence on 'what works' to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.
Indigenous Justice ClearinghouseThis clearinghouse disseminates relevant Indigenous Justice information
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety LimitedANROWS produce evidence to support the reduction of violence against women and their children
What works wellbeing evidence bankEvidence statements and gaps from systematic reviews on wellbeing, culture, sport, work and learning
Clearinghouse for SportAn information and knowledge sharing platform for Australian sport
HealthInfoNetThis website provides an evidence base to inform practice and policy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
NSW Department of Communities and Justice  evidence and gap mapsAn interactive out-of-home care evidence and gap map against 11 outcome areas based on 128 primary studies and 31 systematic reviews
UNICEF Evidence Gap MapsEvidence gap maps for reducing violence against children, child well-being interventions, adolescent well-being and pandemics, epidemics and child protection
3ie - International Initiative for Impact EvaluationInteractive evidence gap maps for international development policies and programs, links to user-friendly summaries and full-text articles where available

[1] NSW Evaluation Toolkit (step 1).

Last updated: 12 September 2022

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