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About this toolkit

Welcome to this collection of practical tools and insights for working with Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) in place-based contexts.

If you are a Victorian public servant designing, procuring, managing, supporting or participating in MEL for place-based approaches, then this toolkit is for you.

We have designed this toolkit to answer the key questions we heard from VPS employees on how you can better support effective place-based MEL from within government.

This toolkit will help you get a grounding in core concepts, navigate existing resources and discover emerging approaches. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive or step-by-step guide to implementation.

You don’t need to be an expert to use this toolkit, but if you’re new to place-based approaches or MEL we suggest you start from the beginning.


We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Peoples and Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and water on which we all rely. We acknowledge that Aboriginal communities are steeped in traditions and customs, and we respect this. We acknowledge the continuing leadership role of the Aboriginal community in striving to redress inequality and disadvantage and the catastrophic and enduring effects of colonisation.

How and when to use this toolkit

This toolkit has been designed specifically for VPS staff. Whether you are a beginner or interested in deepening your practice, this toolkit can offer you helpful examples, insights and resources.

Who this toolkit is for

This toolkit is for VPS staff who are designing, procuring, managing or participating in monitoring, evaluation and learning approaches in place-based contexts.

It was developed for use by staff with varying degrees of familiarity with place-based approaches and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL).

How to use this toolkit

The toolkit is structured into three sections and can be used in different ways. If you are new to place-based approaches, we recommend you start from the beginning.

The introduction provides an overview of the Victorian Government’s definition of place-based approaches and what is unique about designing and implementing MEL processes for place-based approaches.

You can also skip to specific sections based on where you are at in your MEL process or the particular challenges you may be facing.

Why use this toolkit

This toolkit was developed to respond to the challenges associated with MEL processes for place-based approaches in a VPS context. It is a compilation of resources selected in response to needs and interests expressed by Victorian Government stakeholders who are involved or interested in the MEL practices associated with place-based work.

Where else can I go to learn about MEL in place-based contexts?

There are numerous resources and guidelines for conducting MEL and this toolkit should be used in tandem with the existing guidance and advice.

Several MEL resources have been specifically developed to guide place-based evaluations; the most prominent of these in Australia being the Framework and Toolkit for evaluating place-based delivery approaches.

Additionally, many departments house specialist evaluation units and have developed materials to support those involved in evaluation. The Place-Based Guide also includes valuable guidance to support the development of MEL practice in place-based settings.

Supporting resources are embedded throughout the toolkit, with a full list of resources included in Appendix C.

What’s in this toolkit

This isn’t a step-by-step guide—instead, sections are structured around the curiosities of VPS colleagues to address challenges specific to working within government and help you navigate the wealth of existing resources.

About the Introduction to MEL for place-based approaches section

What this section is:

An introduction to MEL in place-based contexts. It covers key concepts including an introduction to place-based approaches, and the value of and challenges involved in doing MEL in place-based contexts.

What this section is not:

A comprehensive overview of challenges in this space. All content is particular to the current operating environment within the VPS.

About the Setting up your approach to MEL in place-based settings section

What this section is:

A set of considerations to support VPS staff when facing key scoping and planning challenges for MEL in place-based contexts—focused on areas where VPS staff have highlighted that additional guidance will be particularly beneficial. This includes information on procuring MEL for a place-based approach.

What this section is not:

A comprehensive step-by-step planning tool. Additional resources to support MEL planning and scoping are included within the section.

About the Doing MEL in place-based settings section

What this section is:

A selection of case studies and guidance that showcase emerging approaches from Australia and internationally.

What this section is not:

While it aims to showcase key learnings, this section does not go into enough detail to inform whether approaches are appropriate for particular contexts. Where possible, we have included resources to help you understand whether approaches are applicable to your context.

About the focus on First Nations evaluation in place-based contexts

What this section is:

Throughout the document we have included lessons and guidance related to MEL in First Nations contexts. These sections provide an overview of the importance and value of supporting First Nations leadership, participation and ownership at all phases of MEL. They also offer some strategies and examples to support VPS staff to approach MEL with First Nations communities differently. The advice contained in these sections has been prepared by a First Nations MEL specialist.

What this section is not:

A comprehensive or representative one-stop-shop for conducting MEL with First Nations communities. The knowledge and approaches of local First Nations peoples, leaders and custodians of knowledge should lead all place-based works and efforts toward monitoring, evaluation and learning.

How this toolkit was developed

To make it relevant and useful, this toolkit was developed collaboratively with place-based experts and practitioners inside and outside of government.

How this toolkit was developed

The toolkit was created as part of the Whole-of-Victorian-Government Place-Based Agenda in late 2021 and 2022. The development process involved:

  • Deep dive – review of literature and consultation with experts, place-based approaches from across Victoria and VPS staff from across government to understand local and international best practice, as well as the factors unique to the VPS.
  • Iterative development – building the toolkit from the ground up through engaging with multiple rounds of consultation and feedback and responding to content selection and key messaging from our stakeholders to understand what is resonating and useful.
  • Keeping connection to place – ensuring key learnings from MEL of place-based approaches were featured in the toolkit.


The authors would like to thank all who have contributed to the toolkit, particularly:

  • The Place-Based Reform team’s Working Together in Place Learning Partners (five existing place-based initiatives in Victoria) who have generously shared their experiences and exemplary practice.
  • Members of the Place-Based Evaluation Working Group, including from the Departments of Education (DoE), Families Fairness and Housing (DFFH), Health (DH), Jobs Skills Industry and Regions (DJSIR), Premier and Cabinet (DPC), and the Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC). The experiences, expertise and time shared to support the development of the toolkit has been invaluable.
  • Clear Horizon, who have generously shared their wisdom and resources for evaluating place-based approaches, providing guidance, advice and review throughout the development of the toolkit.
  • Kowa Collaboration who have contributed content and provided invaluable advice from their experience working in evaluation with First Nations people and communities, including in place-based and community-led contexts. Kowa Collaboration led the development of all First Nations sections in the toolkit.