The What Works & Why (W3) Project

Hosted by Ford Hickson

Date: Thursday 21 January 2016
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Venue: Jerry Morris B, LSHTM, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, UK
Type of event: Seminar
Speaker(s): Dr Graham Brown, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Dr Graham Brown is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. Graham has worked in community based health promotion and research for 20 years, with a particular interest in the role of community based organisations and peer-led programs, building long term collaborations with state and national research centres and community organisations in Australia and Europe. Graham has adjunct appointments at the Burnet Institute, the Centre for Social Research in Health, and the Collaboration for Research, Evidence and Impact in Public Health. Graham is a past President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and continues to serve on a number of Australian HIV, Hepatitis C and STI related health promotion and policy committees.

Communities of gay men, people who use drugs, people with HIV and HCV, and sex workers are constantly adopting and adapting new opportunities (and barriers) for both pleasure and prevention of HIV and HCV transmission. Peer-led programs must keep adapting to these changes in tandem with their communities as well as operate at multiple levels – individual, network, community and structural.

However – the contracting and evaluation of programs often struggles with this complexity. What this often results in is rhetoric about community mobilisation and peer-led responses – but contracted, evaluated and managed as information dissemination or generic service provision. Most traditional evaluations look at programs in isolation from their interactions with other programs, the community, and the broader socio-political context in which they are implemented.

As we know, however, peer and community based health promotion isall about interactions between the program and the communities it works with. These restrictions limit the capture of data that could demonstrate a broader set of impacts and community benefit of community programs, as well as the mutually reinforcing relationships between programs that may be critical to their ability to adapt and sustain impact.

The W3 project wanted to really make a shift in the capacity of community and peer-led programs to demonstrate their role and influence, and so we needed to rethink the way we described and evaluated these programs. To do that – we needed a more accurate and less linear program theory. W3 piloted the application of a systems approach to the evaluation of community and peer-led programs at a state and national level working with people living with HIV, people who use drugs, sex workers, and gay men.

Systems approaches are a collection of analytic tools that aim to examine simultaneously the big picture, the individual pieces that make up the picture, and the complexity of non-linear relationships, influences and emergent effects.

Pilot work suggests that the application of systems approaches assists in understanding how community-led programs can: better operate within broad health, community, and political systems; adapt to changing contexts, policy and funding priorities in tandem with their communities; and demonstrate the multiplying and amplifying effects of their programs with other components in a system.

The W3 project developed a framework which identified four key system level functions that are required for peer-led programs to be effective and sustainable in a constantly changing environment. 

Admission: Free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Contact: Ford Hickson
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