Results based accountability


​The department has adopted Results Based Accountability (RBA) to measure improvements in outcomes for children and their families.

RBA is a simple, common sense process, which communities and agencies can use to improve the lives of children, families and the community as a whole.

It is an approach that emphasises the achievement of results of services from the perspective of the child and their family.

Key features

Population and performance accountability – who is accountable for what?

Accountability starts with a crucial distinction between:

  • results for whole populations (such as all children, all citizens)
  • results for the customers or clients of a particular program, agency or service system.

The distinction in results links to a distinction in accountabilities:

  • Performance accountability can be assigned to the managers who run the various programs, agencies or service systems.
  • Population accountability cannot be assigned to any one individual, organisation or level of government. The whole community, public and private sectors, must share responsibility for achieving results.

A common language

The diversity and multi-disciplinary nature of organisations and staff delivering early years services means some commonly used terms may mean different thing​s to different people.

To remedy this, RBA uses plain language and common sense methods that everyone can understand.

For more information view the glossary of terms.

From ends to means

RBA starts with the ends and works backwards, step by step, towards the means.

The first step is to identify the desired result e.g. conditions of well-being for children, families and the community as a whole.

The second step is to work out how these results can be achieved.

This approach can be used to support strategic planning, continuous improvement, program development and performance.

Results and indicators are about the ends (results) we want for children and families.

Strategies and performance measures are about the means to get there.

Indicators and performance measures - what is the difference?

The key differences are about the scale and or size of the group that data relates to, for instance:

  • Indicators are about the ends (high level results) we want for children and families.
  • Performance measures are about the means to get there (strategies, actions, activities). How did the program/service make a difference for families and their children involved?

Linking population and performance accountabilities

The performance of programs and services contribute to the achievement of results for the population.

The linkage

Organisations or funded services are responsible for what they do for/with their clients. In turn, these client results contribute to the achievement of population results. However achievement of the population result is the collective responsibility of all organisations, government and other community and business partners operating in a geographic area like Queensland or a specific neighbourhood or town.

The linkage between population and customer results in relation to an Early Years Service is outlined in the example below.

Population accountability

Result: All children are ready for school.

Indicator: Percent of children on track according to Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).

Performance accountability

Child Focused Activities and Groups
How much? e.g. number of children participating.
How well? e.g. percent of parent/carers satisfied with the service.

Client results/outcomes
Is anyone better off? e.g. number of parents/carers who report that their child is benefiting from participation.

Performance measures

Performance measures comprise 3 questions:

How much did we do?
Clients: e.g. number of children accessing the service.
Activities: e.g. number of playgroups, number of parenting programs.

How well did we do it?
Common quality measures: e.g. satisfaction, attendance rates, completion.
Activity-specific quality measures: e.g. percentage of staff trained/qualified, percentage of clients satisfied.

Is anyone better off?
Number and percentage changes in: skills/knowledge, attitude/opinion, behaviour, circumstance.


The RBA and trade are concepts used by the department that are derived from the books Trying Hard is Not Good Enough and Turning Curves An Accountability Companion Reader by Mark Friedman.

More information

Fiscal Policy Studies Institute
Information about RBA, resources, tools and workshops on Mark Friedman, the US-based developer of RBA.

Implementation Guide: Results-Based Accountability
A comprehensive resource for the RBA community organised around questions people typically ask.​​

Australian Institute of Family Studies
Read about communities for children facilitating partners evidence-based programme profiles.

Outcomes Star (UK website)
Learn about The Outcomes Star™ evidence-based tool for both supporting and measuring change.

Evidence for Learning
Read about the Teaching and Learning Toolkit which summarises the global evidence base on 34 different approaches to lift learning outcomes in schools.

Last updated 17 February 2023