Evaluating prevention and change strategies

The three-year Gippsland Prevention of Men's Violence Against Women (PMVAW) strategy coordinates a range of projects for preventing men's violence against women. The participating organisations aren't the usual vanguard working to address men's violence but they are well positioned to lay the groundwork for cultural change.

Government organisations, community and sporting groups have been encouraged to identify and respond to issues of gender-based disrespect and inequality that lead to the de-valuation of women and their roles. These strategic partners have developed initiatives across Gippsland to promote respectful relationships between genders, aimed at prompting changes in both action and environment.

Rather than applying a postscript evaluation to the strategy implementation, Gippsland Women's Health enlisted FedUni to develop a 'built in' model — a dynamic, developmental evaluation framework — for the Prevention of Men's Violence Against Women project, which is funded by the Department of Justice and Regulation.

Dr Karen Crinall, Associate Dean Research, notes that the assessment loop created by integrating the evaluation process within the broader initiative enables immediate feedback and responsive project changes. "We have been actively engaged in informing the process along the way," reveals Dr Crinall. "Ongoing evaluation also keeps participating groups accountable and on track, leading to greater commitment from partners."

While the evaluation process is responsive to evolving project requirements, the academic rigour is unassailable. "We have identified the project as a Living Systems inquiry model," explains Dr Crinall. "This model allows for the complexity of ongoing and challenging problems, such as men's violence against women."

Dr Crinall encourages researcher engagement at all levels of the evaluation process, collaborating with the partnership network. The research team designed a range of tools to gather data, including indexes for measuring the partnership development process and gender equity, narrative methods, survey and data analysis, as well as conducting interviews and focus groups.

To date, a number of examples demonstrate how behaviours can be successfully modified and action prompted. Via its social media platform, the 'Make the Link' campaign encourages people to consider the 'everyday things' that support men's violence against women, questioning particular actions, such as sexist jokes and other examples of gender inequality.

Local governments are 'Paving the Way' to raise awareness amongst management of language and behaviour that might de-value or discriminate against women in the workplace.

Sporting organisations are raising awareness of women's participation and representation, altering the perception that women's activity is an adjunct to the 'main event' of senior men's sport. Efforts to value women's and men's involvement in sport equally can be as simple as ensuring trophies for men and women, boys and girls, are equal in size.

Now in its final year, the project evaluation is focused on identifying which elements of each initiative indicate the 'Most Significant Change' and the degree of partnership development and strengthening. The outcomes will strengthen further projects, inform ongoing research, and help determine how funding is directed into the future at local, regional and state levels. Influencing 'ground-level' change within workplace, sporting, and community cultures is crucial in preventing men's violence against women. FedUni is proud of its contribution to this important research, and is engaged to become an accredited White Ribbon organisation.