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Evaluating the social and economic outcomes of the NSW Stronger Country Communities Fund

Our Work | Case Study

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The Department of Regional NSW is the central and economic agency responsible for regional issues, economies and communities. The Stronger Country Communities Fund (SCCF) is the NSW Government’s flagship social infrastructure fund for regional communities.

The SCCF is a significant investment in regional NSW

The SCCF aims to improve regional NSW’s liveability. It was established in 2016 under the Regional Growth Fund to deliver local social infrastructure projects to regional communities and has included four rounds from 2016 to 2021. Round One (2016) and Two (2017) comprised 999 community projects worth $285 million in total.

The department engaged us to assess the social and economic impacts of the investment and to explore the factors that supported or hindered positive outcomes for regional communities.

We triangulated data from an outcomes evaluation and an economic evaluation

Our evaluation included an Outcomes Evaluation and an Economic Evaluation. The Outcomes Evaluation explored the social and economic, intended and unintended, and direct and indirect impacts of the SCCF, while the Economic Evaluation assessed whether the investment delivered net economic benefits for NSW.

Our methodology involved triangulating data from these evaluations:

The methodology we used to evaluate outcomes
The methodology we used to evaluate outcomes

The evaluation identified positive outcomes and opportunities to improve

The Outcomes Evaluation showed that SCCF projects delivered project-specific and community-wide outcomes. It found that the SCCF:

  • enabled projects that best enhanced each local community
  • enabled the delivery or new, greater or earlier project benefits
  • enhanced community pride, connection and ambition
  • advanced community wellbeing, resilience, and prosperity
  • increased social equity outcomes across and within regional communities.

The Economic Evaluation also indicated that Rounds One and Two of the SCCF provided an estimated net economic benefit of $520 million for NSW. 

Opportunities were identified to enhance project outcomes and to better support analysis of the SCCF. These include:

  • encouraging ongoing collaboration between local councils and community groups to coordinate applications and project delivery
  • implementing project delivery support and knowledge-sharing mechanisms
  • improving data collection to better measure the experience, outcomes and impact of SCCF projects.

These recommendations will inform future rounds of the SCCF program and other regional growth programs administered by the Department of Regional NSW. The summary and full evaluation report is on the Department of Regional NSW website.

What you can learn from this evaluation

A place-based case study methodology can help to unearth individual grant and community-wide impact.

Advanced statistical techniques coupled with rigorous cost-benefit methodologies can deliver robust economic outcomes analysis for large grant programs.

Investments in social infrastructure can deliver important social and economic benefits for regional communities.