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Child Protection Needs Collective Impact Model

13 November 2012 at 8:54 am
Staff Reporter
Australia needs to embrace the concept of collective impact to solve issues around child protection, according to a visiting US expert.

Staff Reporter | 13 November 2012 at 8:54 am


Child Protection Needs Collective Impact Model
13 November 2012 at 8:54 am

Australia needs to embrace the concept of collective impact to solve issues around child protection, according to a visiting US expert.

Dr Deborah Daro, a US Senior Research Fellow with over 20 years of experience in evaluating child abuse treatment and prevention programs from the University of Chicago, is in Australia to address a three-day National Conference hosted by Family & Relationship Services Australia.

The conference is focusing on the theme 'Positive Impact: Showcasing the Evidence'.

The Collective Impact model allows large-scale social change through broad cross-sector coordination.

In the lead up to the Conference, Dr Daro told Pro Bono Australia News that one lesson she has learned over 20 years is that the solution to child protection issues is not in just one program but it requires a collective to draw all the successful programs together.

Dr Daro says in many cases the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organisations.

In her speech, Recognizing the Collective Need for Change, Dr Daro explains that over the years, researchers and practitioners have explicitly recognised that negative outcomes for children result from a complex web of individual, familial, community and societal factors.

“However, most public policy and practice reforms have focused on replicating high quality interventions that target one or perhaps two of these diverse causal elements,” Dr Daro said. 

She says while the replication of promising models in an important condition for improving child and family outcomes, equally important but rarely done is defining the infrastructure and systemic change needed to support and sustain these efforts.

“Effective prevention is not simply instituting a new model program but rather discerning and resolving the adaptive challenges that would face the nation’s social, educational, and health institutions were we to make a serious commitment to child protection and well-being.”

“Unlike the business sector in the US, the social sector needs the ability to let go of the things that don’t work. Many organisations are heavily invested in the way they are doing things but they are not really getting the job done.”

That’s not to say that Australia is not already doing some good work in the area of collective impact.

Visiting Canadian expert, Assoc. Professor Aron Shlonsky who is doing research in the Northern Territory funded by the Federal Government on evidence informed practice and evaluation, says Australia is doing good work through the public framework of child protection in the Northern Territory.

Shlonsky, from the University of Toronto, will also deliver a keynote address to the Conference.

“Programs become most successful when the Governments work with communities rather than attempting to just govern communities,” Shlonsky said. 

He says the Government is doing good work here and the aim of the research is to develop skills needed to build on this in terms of data systems and collection.

“We are looking at the pieces that have been successful and fitting those pieces of evidence together to find outcomes for a practice framework.”

Both Dr Daro and Assoc Prof Schlonsky say the capacity to achieve and to measure positive outcomes is important in driving good practice and appropriate investment.

Jo Cavanagh, the Chief Executive Officer of Family Life, a community based agency serving families, children and young people in Victoria, is the Chair of the Conference Reference Group.

She says substantially greater progress could be made in alleviating many of our most serious and complex social problems if Not for Profits, governments, businesses, and the public were brought together around a common agenda to create collective impact.

“There needs to be flexibility around governments working in communities with the impacts driven by all the players rather than governments micromanaging programs," Cavanagh said. 

“However, one issue is that community agencies do not receive payment to measure the impacts of their programs.”

She says in Australia there needs to be a strengthening of collaboration within agencies rather than the overriding sense of competition.

The Conference runs from November 13-15 in Darwin. Check out the program here

Follow the discussion via Twitter @family3191 and the hashtag #FRSA2012 

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