Guest Blogpost by Timothy Krulic, Health Promotion Officer at Living Positive Victoria.
As the peer researcher of Stage 2 of the W3 Project at Living Positive Victoria I’ve been able to see firsthand what we’ve been learning as an organisation and the benefits and changes we’ve been making to how we do peer research and program evaluation.
Our first step was to run a series of seminars to upskill and educate the staff and volunteers involved in running Living Positive Victoria’s peer education and support programs. These seminars introduced systems thinking and the principals and practices behind W3. Through an iterative process we then worked with staff to develop program narratives and timelines to describe how their programs work from start to finish to produce outcomes for individuals and communities within their given environments.
What we found was that through articulating program narratives staff were able to identify a number of key indicators that provide insight into how engagement, alignment, learning and adaptation and influence were functioning in their programs. These linear program narratives also enabled us to identify points for data collection which had the least impact on program operations and the time of staff.
New tools and methods for data collection and program monitoring have been trialled and adapted over the last six months and are now in use for the Phoenix workshops for women and gay and bisexual men newly diagnosed with HIV, the HIV and Ageing Project for chronic health self-management and peer networking, and the Positive Leadership Development Institute (PLDI) Australia and New Zealand workshops. We are now better able to understand and track the influence and engagement of programs in the networks of participants by using new tools to capture the community profile of workshops, while much of the feedback we gather is collected by workshop facilitators and staff completed forms.
These tools enable reflective practice, gather critical information on how programs align, adapt, engage and influence, as well as streamline evaluation processes. This has lessened the burden of data collection on peer workers and participants and allowed us to capture more detailed data on changes in resilience, quality of life, social connection and leadership practice measures, which are now collected through participant feedback forms instead. We are currently in the process of developing similar tools to evaluate and monitor one-on-one peer support and navigation, and group peer support activities and social events, such as our family days and adult retreats, the Cook n’ Chat nights for heterosexual men and the Gen Next group for youth and young people living with HIV.
The next step is to communicate our learnings throughout the organisation in our second-year seminars, however, we are already seeing greater confidence and capacity among peer workers to conduct peer research and program evaluation. Building the capacity of peers in this way is a key strategic aim for Living Positive Victoria, empowering people living with HIV to be meaningfully involved in our work and supporting a two-way flow of influence between our community and the organisation.