Whilst I know some of us get more excited than others about gathering our evidence and working out where we are in the peer support journey, we also need to be realistic. What is the reality of our situation and what resources do we really have available to work out our location? It is easy to set up exciting plans for multiple surveys, individual interviews and feedback loops, but what time and other resources do we really have available? With peer organisations facing the ongoing challenges of rolling out new peer groups, delivering existing programs and meeting grant deadlines and demands, it is important to add a touch of realism to the planning process.
Gathering evidence about a peer program will require resources. Requirements will include: financial/material resources, expertise resources, and time resources. It is important for you to be honest about what is available for this process and think about each of these dimensions. You will then need to balance your available resources with the type of information collection process you undertake. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do this well. High quality evidence can be collected with very few resources:
The key is to evaluate your situation realistically, and then choose a project that is practical with the resources that you can devote to it.
- World Health Organisation, Workbook 7, 2000, p.12
WHO Workbooks: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2000/WHO_MSD_MSB_00.2a.pdf?ua=1
We need to consider what funding is available for devoting to gathering evidence under financial or material resources. It may be that some of the grant funding for the program is allocated for that purpose, or that you may need to ponder alternative options. For example, do you believe you need a part-time additional team member to undertake the evaluation but are without the resources to fund this? Do you have available space for a person to undertake the role, along with the needed facilities, such as a photocopier and space for securely, and confidentially, storing files? Are you able to recruit a University student to do the assessment, as a placement project? Are you able to attract a local academic in the disability space, who may wish to be involved and cover some of the costs due to the research, as well as, resulting publication opportunities, this evidence may bring?
Within expertise resources we need to consider what knowledge we have available or within our team. This applies in areas such as collecting information, conducting interviews, developing surveys and in the analysis of information. We hope that this training resource may enable the team to upskill if required. However, does your team have the time to work through this self-help program? In addition, are you able to ask questions and gather feedback from external experts? Considering the skills needed throughout the various phases of your evidence collecting process, will inform your thinking and planning.
Finally, within peer program delivery, it is likely our time resources will be reasonably limited. If you are able to secure additional assistance for the evidence collection and analysis, this may be manageable. However, existing team members are still likely to need to be involved, in various aspects of the project. Are they able to devote hours per client for the collection of evidence? What tasks might they need to forego to take this on? How important is this evidence collection for the team? Potentially, this is in fact, more crucial for your long-term viability, than other tasks with a tendency to be treated more urgently.
SELF STUDY Q 5.2
Think about your available resources along the various resource dimensions as you consider planning your peer program evaluation:
- Is there internal funding that can be devoted to this project? If yes, what amount?
- Are there external bodies that may be willing to provide funding for this project? If yes, what amount?
- Can you afford to hire new team members, or are existing staff able to do the project?
- Is there a computer (and software) available for data entry and data analysis?
- Is there printing and scanning facilities available (if required)?
- Has anyone involved on the project done this type of project before? If yes, in what capacity?
- Has anyone involved on the project worked on a computer before doing similar work?
- Do you have access to expert “consultants,” who can provide advice on your project?
- How much time will each person have available to devote to this project? How regularly?
- If existing team members are doing the project, how much time will they have to devote to this each week?
Reflecting on your resources will assist you in planning your evidence collection. Once you decide your plan, you need to check, once again, to ensure this fits in well with your resources. For now, however, it is sufficient to explore answers to these questions and think about them as we look at the various methods of collecting evidence in the next section.
Capsule: Gathering evidence about a peer program will require resources and it is important to consider your available resources prior to making decisions about what evidence you will collect and how you will collect it.