The W3 project has been a ground breaking study to apply systems thinking to understanding the role of peer-led programs in a public health response, and their influence in their community, policy and sector systems.
Communities of gay men, people who use drugs, people with HIV or HCV, and sex workers are constantly adopting and adapting new opportunities (and barriers) for 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. 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.
In stage 1, the W3 project applied a systems approach to the evaluation of community and peer-led programs. Systems approaches 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. The W3 Project drew on the experience and expertise within peer programs and developed a framework of four key functions that are required for peer-led programs to be effective in a constantly changing environment and to be able to demonstrate their influence and impact.
In stage 2, the project is now working with Peer led organisations to implement the W3 Framework across at an organisational level
Senior Research Fellow
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society
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