Evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes

This post is based on a workshop on evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes that Alan Hayes, Jamin Day and I facilitated for the Combined Upper Hunter Interagencies. The slides from the workshop are above or you can download them here. It was quite a long workshop so this is a long post. It includes:

  1. An introduction to evidence-based practice
  2. How the nature of complex problems suggests a slightly different approach is appropriate
  3. An introduction to evidence-informed practice
  4. What we mean by “evidence”
  5. Measuring outcomes
  6. An introduction to evidence-based programs (including a brief discussion of adaptation)
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Introduction

There is an increasing emphasis on evidence-informed practice and evidence-based programs in family and community work. In Australia and elsewhere, government and other funders increasingly require family services to adopt evidence-based programs. For example, Communities for Children [1] —a federally funded program in 52 disadvantaged communities across Australia with a focus on improving early childhood development and wellbeing of children from birth to 12 years—now requires that 50% of the funds for direct service delivery should be used to “purchase high quality evidence-based programs” (p. 11). Another example is the NSW Targeted Earlier Intervention Program Reform [2] where the first service reform principle is: Continue reading

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Bringing Alternatives to Violence Project workshops to parents and partners

One of the strengths of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops is that they can be easily be adapted to many contexts. Rather than being a set, inflexible program, AVP is based on a number of broad principles and practices which means facilitators are encouraged to experiment and modify the workshops depending on the group.

Since starting in 1975 in a USA prison, AVP has grown so it is now offered in over 50 countries in a wide variety of settings including in prisons, schools, universities, refugee camps and conflict zones.

In Newcastle, the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) and Family Support Newcastle are working with Alternatives to Violence Project to adapt the workshops so that they have a specific focus on families and parenting. We’re not aware of anybody else who has done this.

While not being a specific domestic violence program, the workshop will explore attitudes and skills that can help us be nonviolent partners and parents.

AVP workshops are built on the idea of transforming power – a power that can help us transform situations and ourselves. Transforming power is based on a number of simple ideas: Continue reading

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Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders

Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders by the Victorian Department of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning.

In 2005 the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment released a three part resource on Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholder.

In 2015, it was re-released by the Department of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning (which had replaced the previous Department). It had some useful material and I often refer to it in courses I teach. I was thus quite disappointed to discover it was no longer available. Fortunately, however, I had a PDF version of each of the volumes and, as it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence, I can make it available to others as well.

It really is too valuable a resource to lose.

Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders. Book 1: An introduction to engagementDepartment of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning. (2015). Effective engagement: Building relationships with community and other stakeholders. Book 1: An introduction to engagement (4th ed.). Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Download here. Continue reading

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Evidence-based programs in rural family services

(Photo: Pixabay)

In Australia and elsewhere, government and other funders increasingly require family services to adopt evidence-based programs. For example, Communities for Children[1]—a federally funded program in 52 disadvantaged communities across Australia with a focus on improving early childhood development and wellbeing of children from birth to 12 years—now requires that 50% of the funds for direct service delivery should be used to “purchase high quality evidence-based programs” (p. 11).

This post reflects on the experience of nine children and parenting support programs in regional and rural NSW in relation to adopting and implementing evidence-based practice. It’s based on some work I did though the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) did funded by the Department of Social Services through the Children and Families Expert Panel. (There’s more information and posts related to this work here.)

Evidence-based programs are programs that have research evidence demonstrating they are effective. Generally there is an expectation that evaluations of programs have included:

  • Rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures which obtain reliable and valid knowledge about the impact of the program
  • The collection and analysis of adequate data to justify the research conclusions
  • Appropriate measures that substantiate claims about improved outcomes as the result of participation in the intervention (Williams et al., 2015) [2].

There are a range of registers (e.g., the Australian Institute of Family Studies Program Profiles and the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare Program Registry) that list evidence-based programs meeting their criteria. The criteria for inclusion on these registers can vary widely.

The practitioners from rural services we worked with essentially supported the use of evidence-based programs and recognised the role they could play in service delivery. They were concerned, however, that many programs had been tested in other contexts and needed to be adapted to address the context of the families they worked with. For example evaluations undertaken in an urban setting with non-Aboriginal families, were not necessarily relevant to their work with remote Aboriginal families. Continue reading

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Transition Newcastle – some videos we used to spark an evening of conversation

At a recent Transition Newcastle evening one of our members (Stuart Carter) led us in evening of conversations around the idea of a new story for a Living Earth. After each video we had small group conversations about our reaction to the video and what practical responses we could make.

The first video set the scene by introducing some ideas from Thomas Berry about the need for us, as humans, to change our relationship with the Earth – to create a new story. (There’s an introduction to his life and work here, or you could read a lecture he gave in 1991 on the Ecozoic Era.)

The second video, a TEDx talk by Patricia Siemen, introduced the idea of recognising regal rights for Earth’s systems and creatures.

In the talk she mentions Ecuador giving constitutional rights to nature. In 2008/2009 Ecuador changed its constitution and recognised humans as being equal to all other entities (and vice versa). In 2011 it introduced 11 new rights for nature including:

  • The right to life and to exist
  • The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
  • The right to pure water and clean air
  • The right to balance
  • The right not to be polluted
  • The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. (The Guardian)

She also refers to Whanganui river in New Zealand being granted the same legal rights as humans. It’s worth noting that this only happened after a 140 year struggle by the local Maori tribe.

Last year, the Conversation had an interesting article called “When a river is a person: from Ecuador to New Zealand, nature gets its day in court“.

We finished with two brief videos on alternatives to our current economic system: the first of seven videos on doughnut economics; and an introduction to the circular economy.

We had some interesting conversations and it was great to reflect on some of the issues involved. As we covered three very large topics, we didn’t really have the time to think deeply about how to respond and the implications for our lives, but it was a thought-provoking and meaningful evening.

I’d love to hear what you think of the videos.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. The paradox of inconsequence
  2. Consumption and the Transition movement
  3. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  4. Our addiction to growth
  5. Blue Men: Message to Humanity
  6. Social change and strengths-based approaches

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

 

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Updated post on bottom-up community development

My blog has been going for over seven years so I’ve started updating some of my older posts. Today I’ve updated a post I originally wrote in 2014 about bottom-up community development. It starts with a quote I love from Melinda Jurd, one of my students in an online elective about community engagement:

You cannot waltz into a community and fix the world…. no matter how well you can dance

You can read the full post at https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/bottom-up/

Posted in Families & parenting | 2 Comments

Current projects (March 2018)

This year is shaping up to be an interesting year. The following are some of the major projects I’m involved in.

Best practice and trends in family counselling and mediation services in NSW:  A collaborative case study of Uniting

I’m the project manager (with Tamara Blakemore from Social Work as the Chief Investigator) on this major research project exploring three primary research questions:

  1. What does the existing evidence base identify as principles for best practice in terms of family counselling and mediation services?
  2. How do Uniting’s family counselling and mediation services achieve positive outcomes for their clients?
  3. How can family counselling and mediation services measure the impact/outcomes of their services?

The research focuses on Uniting family and counselling and mediation services in Central Sydney, Nowra, Wollongong, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Penrith, Parramatta, Gosford and Newcastle and includes a number of stages: Continue reading

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Strengths-based practice: more than being positive

(Photo: Pixabay)

In strengths-based and asset-based approaches to family and community work we focus on strengths, aspirations and potential rather than problems, needs and deficits by, amongst other things:

  • Consciously looking for the strengths and potential of the people, families and communities we work with
  • Adopting a positive, optimistic outlook (focusing on the “half-full part of the glass”)
  • Avoiding the role of the “expert”

This does NOT mean looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses and ignoring problems, needs and deficits.

In a recent Alternatives to Violence Project workshop, which had a large focus on parenting, at the end of the first (of two) days, one of the fathers said:

This workshop is making me realise I’m a better father than some people say I am!

At face value this seems to be a great outcome. But even though we want to increase parents’ confidence, there is a potential dark side to this statement. What if he was an abusive parent and there were significant grounds for being concerned about his parenting? What if it was allowing him to deny the need for change?  There are real risks involved in accepting this statement without question and not exploring it further. Continue reading

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Updated post on complex problems

I just completed a major update on my post “What are complex problems?” You can find it at https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/complex-problems

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Reflections on community development vs community work

People in small groups having conversationsI’ve recently been thinking about the difference between community development and community work, and the importance of being clear about which is appropriate for a given context. These are fairly initial thoughts so I’d welcome any feedback or comments.

In thinking about family work, social work and other human service fields, it can be useful to think of a number of broad fields of practice including:

  1. Casework and case management
  2. Group work
  3. Community work
  4. Social policy and administration
  5. Research
  6. Social action

Each of these fields of practice have different approaches, emphasise different practice skills, and have different priorities. Each of them are important and have their role. Like the other fields of practice, community work covers a very broad area and can include community engagement, health promotion, community organising, community housing, community education, and community development—to name a few.

One of the defining characteristics of community work is that the focus is on the collective rather than the individual [1, 2]. The emphasis is on strategies that make a difference at a community level and that help build the capacity of communities to address specific issues or to build community capacity and wellbeing. Continue reading

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