GEIS 2018 – Day 3

Today is the last day for GEIS 2018. It’s been an amazing couple of days so far and I did hear yesterday that there were going to be presentations on the evidence-based common elements of practice so I hope that I can manage to get to those sessions.

An exciting moment occurred on my way to the convention center. I had not realised that built onto the side of the Yarra River at the edge of the park that I walked past there was a helicopter landing pad with room for two helicopters. As I spotted one helicopter that had already landed I spotted another helicopter landing. Just as I was musing how amazing to watch it ‘parking’ in the middle of the city, it starts to take off again. I hadn’t seen anyone get on or off! Then not two minutes later, a third helicopter flew in and landed where the second helicopter had landed. Heli-pad traffic jams! Wow!

Maybe it’s just the country-bumpkin in me, but this was something I had not witnessed before nor would I have expected to see it happening in the middle of Downtown Melbourne.

Once again however I was late getting organised which is a shame as I missed the final keynotes. Mind you when I did get there, the first concurrent session that I wanted to attend on Program Logics was standing room only! However, I did get to connect with a few more great people from other countries and exchange contact details with some I had spent a bit of time with throughout conference.

After that, I went into the final two sessions for the Concurrent session about ‘Using data and monitoring to improve social outcomes’. Here I wanted to hear how someone from the Positive Parenting Program (PPP) would present their data, especially given the ‘challenging’ comments on day one about how PPP tends to evaluate their programs when thinking about understanding the biases we bring to our research. This presentation was particularly interesting because they were focusing on how they built capacity for program delivery through the training of facilitators. The point I remember most from what Libby Magnus from Triple P International was saying was that when they tried to get as much training completed as quickly as possible, the outcomes and the buy-in to delivering the program was limited. When they slowed down and focused on building relationships with organisations who would potentially deliver the program as well as provide follow-up support to those who took up the opportunity to train in PPP, they uptake improved. Here was a case where the monitoring of program outcomes enabled corrections to the delivery of services that in turn produced better results both for the organisation providing the training and the organisations delivering the program to their clients.

Conal Smith from New Zealand presented an extremely interesting demonstration of ways to use data and how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. While the findings themselves were interesting, it was also about the ways they considered the methods and processes that lingered with me. So often we can think because data produces a result it is useful when in fact, we need to interrogate our results, consider what’s missing and start again if it doesn’t work out.

Just come out of the Common elements talks – well only heard two out of the three presentations. Mind is feeling somewhat fried!

The notion of implementing common elements into practice is quite exciting because it means that the focus is not so much on maintaining program integrity as much as ensuring the integrity of practice. Mind you it is concerning (and yet to be expected) the one of the barriers to implementing evidence-based programs is practitioners egos and their ability to incorporate improvement of practice as good thing rather than a personal attack on their abilities. Thomas Engell, from Norway and Brigid Van Wanrooy from DHHS Victoria gave excellent presentations. As I said to them both later when I ran into them, this concept for focusing on the common elements of practice being the evidence really ‘compliments’ the current demand for service providers to ensure the programs they deliver are evidence based and/or evidence-informed.

One of the challenges smaller agencies like my own face is that there are limited opportunities for research and synthesising the literature and knowledge around evidence-based practice for programs that have been internally developed. I suspect as the concept of evidence-based elements is developed, this will be better to test and evaluate the quality of of what is delivered regardless of the program.

I stayed after lunch for the final session and it was a lovely way to finish off the conference; hearing from the keynote speakers still there about their impressions. The conference was an excellent opportunity for me to take time out to think about what I do in my role at work and to consider what other in my work place have said to me in light of what I was learning. Working in the field of monitoring, evaluating, supporting long-term successful programs to identify evidence-based elements to what is being achieved is challenging. Opportunities like attending the GEIS 2018 help me to realise that while there is still much to do, as an organisation we are well on our way to providing a quality service to our clients and our local community.

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