Measuring Outcomes That Matter: Valued Contribution Project

Current project

People with disability make important contributions to our society. Many may not be aware that Albert Einstein was suspected to be autistic, George Washington was a person with dyslexia and Franklin Roosevelt a person with polio. Greta Thunberg, an autistic teenager, is arguably the most influential environmental activist of our time. For Greta, her autism “is a superpower” (as quoted in the Guardian).

Amazing contributions also come from people with intellectual disability including people with profound and multiple intellectual disability; Derek Paravicini has composed a piano concerto and played with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra, Stephen Wilshire was awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to art.

It is also unrecognised the subtle contributions that people with intellectual disability make to everyday lives of others (Thorpe et al., 2017), the love they bring to relationships with family and friends, unique perspectives, shared effort and purpose in community activities. People with intellectual disability build bonds, bridges and linkages leading to social capital and enriching society.



With initial funding from the Endeavour Foundation Disability Research Fund 2021 Research Award, we aim to achieve preliminary conceptualisation and development of contribution outcome measures. This work will challenge deficit-based paradigms and be pivotal in debates regarding NDIS assessments and funding.

The recent issue of the NDIS Independent Assessments Framework shows a forgotten purpose of the NDIS, with a focus on burden and cost-cutting. The Productivity Commission’s original Disability Care and Support Report (2011) highlights potential non-fiscal gains, including wellbeing for people with disability and informal carers which it projected would “eclipse the benefits of many things that are counted as valuable in official statistics” (p. 54). Measuring contribution will shift the paradigm and articulate these non-fiscal benefits.

Articulating the contribution of people with intellectual disability is a pressing issue for the sector, where people with intellectual disability compete with other groups for finite resources, and prejudice regarding the value of people with intellectual disability remains entrenched.

There is little or no research to inform policy or service delivery with respect to measuring the contribution of people with intellectual disability, how to invest resources to maximise this contribution, and appraising the impact of investment.

Identifying where people with intellectual disability can and do contribute to their community, we can better direct resources (including NDIS resources) to foster these endeavours, enhancing the ability of people with intellectual disability to lead fulfilling lives. This will have a significant impact for people with intellectual disability, subjective wellbeing is linked to valuing a person’s contribution. Meaningful contribution is the core of inclusion.

In the future we hope further trialling and development of these tools will also allow application Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse populations, marginalised groups, as well as mainstream areas including volunteering, aging and positive psychology practice. Tools developed will not only measure contribution, but provide recommendation on how individual contribution can be increased, leading to greater subjective well-being.

Project updates

September 2022

The first phase has been successfully completed! You can see the online Contribution Photovoice Gallery here.

Recruitment for the second phase of the Valued Contribution project – The Grounded Delphi phase, is now open. In this second phase, we are looking to understand contribution from a broad range of perspectives and will be recruiting people who engage in volunteering, people with disability, family members of people with disability, support persons of people with disability, disability service providers and clinicians that provide support to people with disability.

If you would like to know more about participation in the Grounded Delphi study please get in touch with Study flyers, information and consent forms will be available shortly.

May 2022

Our first stage photovoice study is reaching conclusion.  We are excited to announce the first gallery event to be held on 16 June at 6 pm at the Wallace Wurth Atrium UNSW, details and registration are forthcoming. We are very pleased to have award-winning human rights social documentarian Belinda Mason join the project and co-facilitate the photovoice work

January 2022

Recruitment is open for our first stage photovoice study. We are looking for people with intellectual disability who want to publicly share images of the important contributions they make to our society. Please get in touch with if you would like to know more about participation in the photovoice study. You can download study flyers, information and consent forms below. We plan to open recruitment to other stakeholders and the general public for later studies in early 2022.

July 2023

Dr Arnold has moved to Western Sydney University but remains a Visiting Fellow with 3DN UNSW Sydney and will be continuing to drive the project.

We have completed the second phase – Grounded Delphi study, and are in the final stages of developing a first draft of the ‘Contribution Outcome Measures’. We are nearing academic publication of the first photovoice phase and hope in a few months we will be able to share this and other exciting developments with you.


Project Team and Advisors:

  • Dr Samuel Arnold, Western Sydney University
  • Prof Keith McVilly, The University of Melbourne
  • Prof Julian Trollor, 3DN UNSW Sydney
  • Adjunct Prof John Walsh AM, The University of Sydney
  • Prof Gigi Foster, UNSW Sydney
  • Prof Karen Fisher, UNSW Sydney
  • Dr Suzie Green, The Positivity Institute

If you would like to receive updates on the project, you can contact Samuel Arnold at

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