Study Declares Communities That Cares a Successful Prevention Program

A study published online in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine offers evidence that the program Communities That Care is successful in preventing drug and alcohol use and other high-risk behaviors among youth. Communities That Care is essentially a prevention strategy developed by researchers at the University of Washington. According to the CTC Facebook page, the approach is described as a “coalition-based prevention operating system that uses a public health approach to prevent youth problem behaviors such as violence, delinquency, school drop out and substance abuse”.

The most recent study tracked  students  (via surveys) for 5 years (from 5th grade to 10th grade), including a period of time after the external support for the CTC program in their community had been withdrawn.  According to a new release from the University of Washington, adolescents in the communities where the program operated:

  • were half as likely to have tried cigarettes by the 10th grade;
  • had 38 percent lower odds of trying alcohol by grade 10;
  • 25 percent lower odds of participating in physical violence; and
  • 17 percent lower odds of participating in delinquent behaviors including theft, vandalism and drug sales than their peers in other communities.

A brief summary of the study, Sustained Decreases in Risk Exposure and Youth Problem Behaviors After Installation of the Communities That Care Prevention System in a Randomized Trial by J. David Hawkins, PhD; Sabrina Oesterle, PhD; Eric C. Brown, PhD; Kathryn C. Monahan, PhD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Michael W. Arthur, PhD; and Richard F. Catalano, PhD is available at the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine website. Additional information on this study and comments from the head researcher are included in the news release from the University of Washington.

Lessons Learned from the Front Lines of Evaluation Capacity Building

A new paper from the Innovation Network discussing strategies in building evaluation capacity should be on the reading list of program evaluators, trainers, foundations and nonprofit leaders alike. The brief, Evaluation Capacity Building: Funder Initiatives to Strengthen Grantee Evaluation Capacity and Practice by Myia Welsh and Johanna Morariu, examines the process of engaging nonprofits in evaluation capacity building (ECB) to support their programs and operations.

The authors present case studies of evaluation capacity building activities with grantee organizations on behalf of and in collaboration with funders. Some of their lessons learned include,

  • Ensure organizations begin the evaluation capacity building process with a clear grasp of what evaluation is (and isn’t) and how it may best be used within their organizations.
  • Make evaluation a required element of grant reporting.
  • Make capacity building services the default offering – do not make grantee agencies have to self-select into the process.
  • Capacity building goes beyond the executive leadership. All staff matter in good evaluation practices and should be represented in ECB activities.

Has your organization participated in some kind of evaluation capacity building training? How did it impact your evaluation practices?

Effective Programs for Improving Social Skills in Youth

A report from Child Trends, What Works for Promoting and Enhancing Positive Social Skills:Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions by Tawana Bandy and Kristin A. Moore, details the most effective methods to foster said skills from a sample of 38 evaluated programs. The brief classifies the programs (all of which were evaluated with experimental research designs) into the categories of “not proven to work,” “mixed reviews” and “proven to work.” Overall, 27 of the interventions that focused on improving social skills had a measurable beneficial impact, but some programs were more effective than others.

Since knowing what works is key to developing a successful program, visit the Child Trends website to read about the most effective social skills programs for youth (some of which have manuals available).

Social Value: What Are We Trying to Measure Anyway?

Foundations, policy analysts and grant-seeking organizations have long attempted to capture the meaning of social value in both conceptual and concrete form. The article Measuring Social Value by Geoff Mulgan, published last summer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, suggests that setting aside separate methodologies and sitting down at the same table may the first step in finding the answer.

Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation in the United Kingdom, points out two major flaws in current approaches to measuring the value of social programs:
1) the assumption that value is objective (let us not forget the element of “social values” when measuring social value), and 2) incorrectly equating and combining multiple reporting purposes. Rather, Mulgan suggests using a framework of sorts to present pertinent information around fit, expected outcomes and costs both from and to various stakeholders (the grant makers, policy analysts and agency administration), as did his team in a project with the UK’s National Health Service. The process begins with everyone on the same page contextually and can continue from there.

The notion of a shared framework is not meant to replace, but rather summarize, individual measures in a context appropriate to the project/field at hand and lead to more accurate assessments of need, markets and resources. Hopefully, Mulgan’s insights will help to nudge the debate around the metrics of social value into a place of real collaboration.

How does your organization measure the value of social programs?