Moving beyond prevention programs in a box
With increased attention on preventing campus sexual assault, prompted largely from the recent White House report and campus investigations, in addition to new VAWA prevention regulations, programs and practitioners are thinking, and asking, more and more about how to conduct comprehensive prevention efforts on university and college campuses. Acknowledging the tendency for these systems to buy “boxed,” one-time, pre-branded prevention products and curricula, recommendations are calling for approaches that are more community and campus specific. Most preventionists understand the why behind the recommendation to move beyond “programs in a box,” but the question I’m getting is how to do it. And, given that these boxed programs often look so good to those who hold the power and purse strings (i.e. “I know I need to use something campus-specific, but my administration likes the ‘pretty curricula.’ Help!”), what are some tips for how to get out of the box?
1) Make the case…then make the case again.
You can do it! Really, as tedious and pointless as it may seem (“Ack! No one listens to me!”), it is worth it. The more you make the case for campus, community, and sub-community specific and informed programming, the more likely it is that someone, someday will hear you. (Tip: If you are trying to make the case that a program in the box isn’t right for your community/campus, take a look at the evaluation. Where was evaluation conducted? With an audience and in an environment similar to yours?)
2) Know and involve your audience.
This one seems obvious, but we cannot say it enough. The more you know the people with whom you plan to work and the more you involve them in defining the problem and planning the solutions, the more effective you will be. It doesn’t take much to start – have some conversations, make some phone calls, go out into the campus/community and have conversations. You may, at times, feel like you’re giving up control and unsure of the end results, and that’s good! (Tip: View yourself as a facilitator – you guide the process and make sure the program contains key and/or required elements, but the community ultimately owns the solution.)
#2 translates pretty easily to evaluation. If you’ve conducted an effective program, it will show results. If you have an evaluation office or relationship with professors who can design and conduct robust evaluation, great! If not, oh well, there is plenty you can do to measure your success, it’s just a matter of determining your capacity and deciding what would show you that you have been successful in creating change. Watch this eLearning course on indicators of change for ideas.
4) Take a journey.
There are many programs out there and often no need to completely reinvent the wheel. So take a look at some programs and ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I like about Program X?
- What components of Program X resonate/fit with my audience? (easy idea: have members of your audience review Program X and give their feedback)
- What components of Program X resonate/fit with my goals?
- What components of Program X do not resonate with/do not fit with my audience?
- What components of Program X do not resonate with/do not fit with my goals?
- How could we modify Program X? What components of Program X could we borrow? (note: many curricula for sale do not allow modification – ask before you buy!)
5) Let it go.
So often, we turn to programs that are not right for our communities because we are afraid – of losing funding, that something less “official” might not work…you name it. Ultimately, to go beyond the box we have to let go of any worries and fears and trust the process. If we work with our community members to identify and design solutions that meet there needs, there may be some missteps along the way (there always are – that is how we learn and improve), but we’ll get there.
The above will get you started on a path to more effective prevention programming and get you out of the box. As CALCASA has stated:
While it is tempting for universities to focus on “programs in a box” prevention, or one or another type of prevention strategy on campus, comprehensive prevention creates an environment on campus that has the potential to change campus norms that can support a culture where rape can thrive. No one prevention strategy can have the impact of a comprehensive approach. Comprehensive prevention requires a range of prevention strategies from effective campus policies and response, social norms change, bystander, gender equity, women’s empowerment, and promoting healthy masculinity.
What are your tips for moving beyond programs in a box?