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It is our commitment to deliver a service that is highly cost effective, that meets or exceeds the expectations of our customers and makes a significant contribution to the sustainability of the communities where we operate. Value for money(VFM) is an important consideration to most of us whether we are aware of it or not. Efficiency is a measure of productivity in terms of the volume of output we can achieve in relation to the inputs. Effectiveness is a measure of the outcome for customers which may be either quantitative or qualitative.
At this beginning of a new year it is possible you are wondering whether your programs and initiatives are providing a good return on investment, or how your budget may be better spent.  In the not-for-profit and government sectors throughout Australia, value for money and how to assess it has become important. A recent BetterEvaluation paper written by Farida Fleming identifies six main methods that can be used to evaluate value for money. An evaluation may employ one or more of these methods, or even a combination of some aspects of each approach.
This main content of this blog summarises key points made in a paper published by BetterEvaluation developed by a Working Group convened through the Australasian Evaluation Society.
For example, when we do our weekly shopping we have a wide range of products to choose from offering different levels of quality and varying prices. For example, the percentage of repairs completed on time (quantitative), and the customer satisfaction levels with those repairs (qualitative).
Determining whether programs or activities provide value for money has become a policy imperative and is often an important objective of a program evaluation. Most commonly, it includes an assessment of the cost of running the program, its efficiency (the outputs it achieves for its inputs) and its effectiveness (the extent to which it has achieved programs outcomes).

Each approach has  benefits and limitations and examines the relationship between costs and benefits in a particular way. Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CE Analysis).  This approach involves the evaluation of two or more alternatives, based on the relative costs and outcomes (effects), in reaching a particular goal. Cost Utility Analysis (CU Analysis).  This type of evaluation takes two or more alternatives and compares their costs to their value.
It is important for you to have a conversation with your evaluator about what you hope the evaluation may achieve, what you hope it may uncover and what you intend to do with the findings. It is important for the evaluator to consider a range of options for determining whether an activity is value for money.
We have to decide whether to buy economy products, which may cost less or perhaps a branded product, which may cost more but may have a better taste.
It can be used when comparing programs that aim to achieve the same goal.  It cannot, however, compare alternatives with different goals, nor make an overall assessment of whether a program is worthwhile in an absolute sense. It is most commonly used when the evaluator needs to consider individual preferences.  A CU analysis can result in a large number of potential outcomes.
A cost benefit analysis is an evaluation of alternatives by identifying the cost and benefits of each alternative in money terms, and adjusting for time.
This approach allows for the relative measurement of value for money across a portfolio of initiatives. A BER analysis provides a framework for evaluating complex programs by comparing impact to resources and offering a relative perspective on performance where units analysed are judged in comparison to other peer units. Only then can an evaluator choose the best approach to the evaluation to help you understand whether your program is delivering value for money. They should think through the benefits and limitations of each approach and ensure key points are included in the design of the evaluation that may be important.

This is the basic principle of value for money; it is the balance between COST and QUALITY. However, results are often difficult to reproduce among different evaluators because of the sometimes conflicting methodologies used to estimate importance weights. This method can be used to identify if a course of action is worthwhile in an absolute sense; that is, whether the costs outweigh the benefits. Like Cost Benefit Analysis, SROI can be used when comparing programs with different goals or in different sectors.
This method can help determine a comparison between alternatives with different objectives.
It may be necessary for the evaluator to source input from other specialist consultants in particularly complex evaluations of this nature. It is best used when the majority of benefits can be converted to monetary values or when those that cannot be converted are unimportant or are similar among the alternatives considered. A limitation of this method is that cost data can be disputed as different evaluators may use conflicting methodologies to derive value. It can be useful to multi-unit programs and can contribute to participatory decision-making as stakeholders are called upon to identify and value program outcomes.
It should be used in conjunction with other data and never as the only analytical approach. Data collection and analysis is very time consuming, so it is best done as a discrete evaluation approach rather than within a mixed method approach.

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