The Evidence Portal

What are evidence-informed programs and how do I use them?

What is an evidence-informed program?

A program that has been rigorously evaluated in a controlled setting and has demonstrated effectiveness with specific population groups. There are clear links between the program’s core components and the expected outcomes.

How do I select and implement a suitable evidence-informed program?

Before you select an evidence-informed program, you should conduct a needs assessment. A needs assessment can help you identify and prioritise your client’s needs to inform programs, policies and services. Conducting a needs assessment will help you:

  • identify your client group and their needs
  • define the problem you’re trying to solve.

Once you’re clear about these things, you can identify the best program to meet your client’s needs. 

When you select an evidence-informed program, you should determine if:

  • the program meets your aims
  • the program has been developed and evaluated with your target group
  • you have the resources needed to implement the program
  • the program will achieve the outcomes you’re looking for.


The Hexagon Exploration Tool can help you evaluate the suitability of programs in a structured way.

You must implement the evidence-informed program as is intended. Otherwise you won’t know if issues with the program are because it is ineffective or because it hasn’t been delivered properly. You must also monitor the program to ensure the core components are adhered to.

See Selecting an evidence-based program and Implementation and adaptation of evidence-based programs from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) for more information.

Do I need to use evidence-informed programs to be evidence-informed?

No, you do not have to use evidence-informed programs to take an evidence-informed approach.

An evidence-informed program may not fully meet the diverse and complex needs of our clients and communities. You also might not be able to find an evidence-informed program for the type of service you provide. 

You should use evidence to ensure the right mix of services are provided to address client’s needs in the best possible way.

This may mean:

  • adapting evidence-informed programs for the local population
  • analysing the common components and activities of successful practices and programs to support service design.


Aboriginal Parenting Programs: Review of Case Studies

There is little evidence on parenting education programs developed specifically for Aboriginal families. However, there is research that has identified key elements of effective parenting supports for Aboriginal parents and families.

In 2017, Absec developed case studies from across NSW of effective and innovative Aboriginal-led practice in the provision of parenting supports. See Aboriginal Parenting Programs: Review of Case Studies (PDF , 1.1 MB).

This work identified key elements of successful programs could be used to inform effective design and delivery of parenting programs in Aboriginal communities.

When and how do I adapt an evidence-informed program?

You may need to adapt an existing evidence-informed program to make it more suitable for your local community. 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) have identified some key circumstances in which you might need to adapt your program:

  • Client engagement and/or retention is low
  • Clients have unique/different risk or protective factors
  • Outcomes are not achieved

If your program needs to be adapted, you should consider the following:

  • what are the important differences between your clients and the original population group the program was developed for?
  • what aspects of the program might need to be changed?
  • how will you change them?

When you adapt a program, you cannot change the core components of the program that are responsible for its effectiveness.

Can’t change Can change
  • Core content components – what the program is teaching (e.g. knowledge, attitudes, skills)
  • Core teaching components –  how the program is administered
  • Core implementation components – resources needed to deliver program
  • Location – participants feel comfortable and safe
  • Accessibility – participants can access the program (e.g. time of sessions)
  • Staffing – reflect the diversity of your clients
  • Language and other resources – adapt content so it’s relevant
  • Activities – tailor content to the capacity and culture of your group

Once you have made any necessary changes, test your adapted program with your client group and facilitators. You may need to make more changes to the program. You should document all the changes you make to the program and keep track of what worked and what didn’t work. This is so you can replicate the program in the future.

You should also evaluate your program to ensure the changes were successful.

See Implementation and adaptation of evidence-based programs for more guidance.

How do I develop an evidence-informed program?

There may not be an evidence-informed program that suits the needs of your target group, even if you adapted it. In that case, you can develop your own program by incorporating components of other evidence-based programs. 

An evidence-informed program should have:

  • a strong theoretical or research background 
  • a clear theory of change to explain how it will achieve the intended outcomes
  • evidence-based interventions or activities
  • a program manual and documentation so it can be replicated
  • qualified facilitators to conduct the activities
  • a program evaluation to determine if it was successful

See Implementation and adaptation of evidence-based programs for more guidance.

Last updated:

28 Feb 2022

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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