Bridging the gap between academia and best practice
The first Mentor-ADEPIS seminar of 2017, 'Evidence-based practice: effective youth alcohol and drug education', was held at Guildhall in London on March 14th. Practitioners, service providers and commissioners discussed the significance of using quality standards in drug education to help develop effective frameworks.
Two presenters outlined best practice for alcohol and drug prevention at the seminar: Peter O'Neill, from Nesta's Alliance for Useful Evidence, and Jamila Boughelaf, Head of Programmes at Mentor.
Informing best practice and policy
After detailing how evidence informs policy and practice, Peter O'Neill encouraged organisations and practitioners to gather evidence in order to increase organisational transparency and strengthen the design of more effective interventions that will equate to greater accountability as well as impact.
Peter described a growing movement across all sectors to synthesis evidence after the collapse of Kids Company "that sent a shudder through the community and voluntary sector on how evidence was used. There simply wasn't enough rigorous evaluations – a sobering thought for those who work in the voluntary sector." He used this example to emphasise the need for organisations to self-reflect internally so they can better contribute to the evidence ecosystem to strengthen the delivery of programmes and have a wider impact across sectors.
Sources of evidence
The Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions (CAYT) bridges the gap between academia and best practice through a database of impact studies based on evidence-based programmes and services that support the development of young people. Jamila Boughelaf said, on the importance of mapping evidence-based programmes for schools and the community: "We're supporting teachers and practitioners to build suitable evidence through the CAYT database of quality-assured studies that grades evidence from basic studies to randomised control trails." Anyone who has trailled a drug and alcohol intervention programme using the theory of change model can submit their study to Mentor-ADEPIS for an assessment against quality standards. Once graded, if the study is systematic and reproducible, it will be shared on the CAYT database.
How do we gather systematic evidence? This question is the most perplexing, with many organisations creating barriers to evidence collection because they believe it’s too complex, costly and time-consuming. Jonathan Breckon, Head of the Alliance for Useful Evidence, said during the seminar workshop that "the global movement around evidence is increasingly getting savvy about how to use and develop methodologies," which puts pressure on organisations to adapt and encourage behaviour changes around research. One solution suggested by Jonathan is to increase staff competency through a masterclass run by the Alliance; the second is based on four principles of behavioral change within the organisation to make research easy, attractive, social and timely (EAST).
For some organsisations and practitioners elucidating meaning from data sets can be confusing. In a workshop on 'using research evidence', Mentor-ADEPIS Research Officer Richard Lynas set out some of the challenges around translating evidence and supported the group in brainstorming exercise to discuss where and how evidence can be applied.
This innovative session aimed to inspire professionals to take forward internal research objectives, improve the systematic review of evidence and generate more reliable data that can feed into policy and governance structures. It also identified the CAYT database as a pivotal source of research and development that provides insight into effective, replicable drug and alcohol youth intervention programmes.
To book an Evidence Masterclass with the Alliance for Useful Evidence contact: Alliance.4UsefulEvidence@nesta.org.uk
For more information on how to contribute to the CAYT-repository of impact studies contact: http://cayt.mentor-adepis.org/
Note: Photo by Helen M Stevens and used with permission.