The first year of the W3 project has been incredibly busy, challenging and yet also fulfilling.

Here are some of the things we got done in 2014:

  • Workshops with practitioners in four different programs — two state and two federal; one service delivery, one health promotion, and two leadership and advocacy; with people who use drugs, sex workers, gay men and people living with HIV; to articulate ‘theories in use’ by practitioners about how their programs actually work.
  • Cross-sectional workshops with practitioners from a range of sectors — two national and one international — to help us identify common challenges faced by programs and organisations no matter what sector or level they work at.
  • Program theories expressed in diagram and textual formats that describe how peer based programs engage with and influence the complex social and policy/funding systems in which they are located.
  • Lists of what items or relationships in those diagrams practitioners thought it would be most important to monitor, both to check our understanding of the maps is correct and to assess how the program could be improved.
  • A draft framework of indicators and domains that our partner organisations could use to generate, organise and package up shareable knowledge about their effectiveness against those priorities and common challenges we identified (to be distributed to partners for feedback and refinement in January).

Here’s what to expect in 2015:

  • An online survey of partner organisations to get a sense of what formal and informal monitoring, evaluation and learning practices are used to generate knowledge about programs and the community and policy systems they engage with.
  • A conversation with W3 partner organisations about the draft indicator framework to refine and get a sense of what looks most useful and worth testing in 2015.
  • We’ll be reporting back to our funders, the Commonwealth Department of Health, at the end of January about our progress so far.  We’re hoping to include preliminary survey results and some or all of the draft indicators to provide examples of insights from the project.
  • We’ll be asking our partners to try a couple of draft indicators from each of 3-4 domains — covering those high-level common challenges discussed in the workshops like engagement, influence, learning and adaptation, and integration — and to give us feedback on whether the exercise as a whole helped or hindered them in meeting those challenges.

In late 2014 we reported on our first-year findings at an ARCSHS Seminar and then sought feedback from our colleagues Alan Shiell and Lyndal Bond at CEIPS, who have a heap of experience using a systems approach in different fields.  They suggested it would be really useful to meet and run through our workshop approach with funders and policy-makers — to get a sense of how they understand the systems they’re engaged with, as well as what kind of knowledge our partner organisations could generate that would help them justify the investment in a peer and community-based approach.

To date our approach has been very much ‘from the ground up’, so seeking an additional ‘top down’ perspective could help us develop indicators that ‘meet in the middle’ — helping to translate knowledge from a practitioner and organisational perspective into forms that are shareable and productive in a policy and funding systemic context.

Wishing you a peaceful break and a productive beginning to 2015,
The W3 Project Team (at different times, Graham, Daniel, Natalie, Marina and Kylie)

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