My name is Ann Price and I am the President of Community Evaluation Solutions, Inc. (CES), a consulting firm based in Alpharetta, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. I am a community psychologist and work with many federally-funded, community-based alcohol and substance abuse prevention programs. Across the state of Georgia, whether in rural areas or suburban areas of the state, community coalitions are working together to prevent youth substance use using environmental strategies.
Several of the Georgia prevention collaboratives with whom I work are using Positive Social Norms (PSN) campaigns to prevent youth substance abuse. Many choose either the “Most of Us” approach taught by the Montana Institute or the methodology proposed by Michael Haines. Both involve developing substance abuse prevention messages to correct incorrect perceived norms of rates of use. The goal of the PSN approach is to bring perceived norms in line with actual norms of alcohol or other substance use. The hope is that by correcting the perceived norm, the rates of underage drinking and binge drinking will decrease. For example, many youth overestimate actual rates of alcohol use on college campuses, assuming that ALL students drink, when in fact, this is not true. A PSN campaign might include messages like “Most Central High School students don’t drink” that are shared on campus posters and through social media. Some of our clients are beginning to demonstrate a correction in the perceived norm and a reduction in youth alcohol use.
Lessons Learned: Community-based programs are most effective when they are grounded in the needs of the community and reflect the “But why here?” That is, the factors in the community that support teen initiation and use and misuse of alcohol or other drugs.
Hot Tip: Think of the “But Why?” as the overarching cause of a social problem such as substance abuse and the “But Why here?” as the local condition helps communities focus on what is really driving a particular issue in their community. Designing the logic model, community intervention, and the evaluation around the “But Why?” and “But Why Here?” helps to focus your work.
Lesson Learned: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make your clients drink. Coalitions and community collaboratives get stuck along the prevention road in many different ways. For example, some get stuck in the beginning phases of coalition development. Others get stuck after they design their logic model but never move on to implementation. Some talk about, but never develop a sustainability plan. Evaluation is also about program development and implementation- be there for your client as a prevention partner every step of the way.
Rad Resource: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) is a great resource for prevention information.
We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to email@example.com.