How well do community prevention partnerships function? The case of the Australian Government’s Communities for Children partnerships

Ross Homel1*, Kate Freiberg1, Clare Tilbury1, Sara Branch1, Brian Bumbarger2, Neil Dempster1

1 Griffith University
2 Pennsylvania State University

*r.homel@griffith.edu.au

Introduction

To address complex adaptive problems such as youth crime or child maltreatment, systemic approaches like collective impact initiatives are required, where multiple sectors work collaboratively to address agreed, measurable goals using evidence-informed innovations.

Methods

Within the Australia-wide Communities for Children (CfC) program, this ARC Linkage Project, in partnership with five government departments and five NGOs, built and tested a Prevention Translation and Support System (PTSS) to empower CfC agency partnerships to implement the CREATE prevention principles: Collaborative; Relationships-driven; Early in the pathway; Accountable; Training-focused; Evidence-based. The PTSS combines electronic resources with the capacity building efforts of Collective Impact Facilitators (CIFs) who worked in five action communities in Queensland and NSW, with another five communities as matched ‘business as usual’ sites.

Results

We report results of a 3-wave survey of the quality of functioning of the 10 CfC partnerships (N>400 partnership members). The data show that while all communities improved over time, the changes in the Action sites were generally more consistent with the CREATE principles, reflecting the efforts of the CIFs. However the dominant influences on all partnerships were the planning and reporting requirements imposed by the funding body, the Department of Social Services.

Conclusions

The data highlight a key problem experienced by community partnerships: the processes required by the federal government inadvertently militate against collaborative practice by leading partnerships to over-focus on the activities of individual agencies at the expense of the capabilities of ‘the collective’. Thus the task is to align DSS requirements with the CREATE principles.

Biography

Ross Homel is Foundation Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Griffith University. His passion is crime and violence prevention, for which he has won many awards. He was appointed in 2008 as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) for his work in disadvantaged communities, and in the same year as a Queensland Great by the Premier of Queensland. He won the 2010 American Society of Criminology Sellin-Glueck Award for contributions to international criminology.