In evaluation, attribution and contribution analysis each have their place.
Attribution analysis offers rigour to impact evaluation where there is a funder (or a consortium of funders) who implement (or contract out) the delivery of services. These services may be at a single site, community, state or territory or national level. In this case, there is a causal link between the delivery of the program to the intended audience.
Contribution analysis offers rigour to evaluation of place-based initiatives where there are multiple funders (government, philanthropy, not-for-profit, social enterprises and community) who implement (or contract out) the delivery of services. In the situation of place-based initiatives in Australia, it is more likely to be located within a community experience extremely high levels of social disadvantage. Given the complexity of funders, services and audiences found within place-based initiatives, the value of attribution analysis diminishes as it is impossible to separate out all the variables to determine which service had the intended impact of the target audiences.
This is where contribution analysis comes into its own. It is possible for neutral backbone organisations to document and analyse all levels of contribution from stakeholders. For example, a common ambition for a neutral backbone organisations is to facilitate community decision making, engage with community leaders and ultimately transition across to all decisions being made by community, for community. Over this period of time, if you document all stakeholder participation, keep agendas, minutes, records of actions, plans and projects, there will be a plethora of evidence to prove that community is engaged in decision making.