By Elizabeth Orr, Project Leader, Action Research Support, ANROWS
Imagine what we might achieve as a sector if community service providers shared not only their successful prevention strategies to reducing violence against women and their children, but also their lessons from strategies that have not been working. The ANROWS Action Research Support (ARS) team has been set up to support providers to capture just that.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) has engaged ANROWS to manage the ARS project, which involves providing support to Building Safe Communities for Women and their Children (BSCW) grant recipients. BSCW are community projects aimed to raise awareness about domestic and family violence; to improve the coordination of services; and to develop local prevention strategies. ARS is supporting these projects to undertake action research. Action research involves planning and documenting what projects are doing; reflecting on the information gathered, specifically what was effective and not; and changing strategies or plans in response to this learning.
ARS is currently working with 40 BSCW projects across Australia. Projects range from creating the regional action plans for reducing violence against women; to training bi-lingual workers; raising awareness about FDV with school and local businesses; through to creating an information phone app for new fathers; and establishing new community women’s shelters.
The ARS project is utilising three cycles of action research to deliver information and support to the BSCW projects. Each awareness encompasses four activities:
- Planning: We began by sending each project a questionnaire to find out about their projects; their knowledge about action research; and what they wanted to learn about.
- Acting: Based on this feedback, we delivered the first ARS workshop, held in Adelaide in June 2016.
- Collecting: We gathered feedback about how useful the workshop was and what participants wanted to learn about in future, via workshops and webinars. We also began visiting individual BSCW projects around the country.
- Reflecting: Documenting on the activities so far, and reflecting to inform the next round of planning, acting, collecting, and reflecting.
The next two cycles will repeat this process.
Resources and documentation from the project will be made available on our website over the life of the ARS project.
Stories From the Field
At the first workshop held in Adelaide, in early June, BSCW projects developed and shared their initial action research plan. Several projects gave a more in depth presentation that we called Stories from the Field. Presentations were given by projects such as the Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service INC who talked about importance of collaboration across sectors and their use of a collective impact model. Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre (Fitzroy Crossing) shared their community responses to alcohol restrictions as a deterrent to domestic and family violence. Health West Partnership discussed their Working Together with Men project and shared a tool for project workers to record their experiences from the field using a reflective journal article.The City of Salisbury gave an outline of their work with primary school raising awareness about available support for family violence and the Migrant Resource Centre from Hobart outlined their work with bilingual community workers to engage culturally and linguistically diverse communities in work to reduce family violence.
The Stories from the Field will be used again with other projects as a platform to share information and lessons learned.
The Journey So Far
Since the first workshops in June, the ARS team has visited projects in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
More recently, at the end of August, the ARS team visited the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS) service in Perth. We attended their final training workshop for bilingual community facilitators, where we spoke about the ANROWS ARS project. We also visited other projects in Western Australia region whose work focused on women’s health, women and disability, improving access to domestic violence services and whole of community responses to prevention.
The ARS project team will soon begin releasing our "Postcards", a series about what we learn during project visits. These and other resources will become available on the ARS project page.
Webinars & Upcoming Workshops
The first ARS webinars include ARS Project Leader Liz Orr outlining the ARS project and action research methodology and Dr Peta Cox discussing tips on how practitioners can conduct online research. Recordings and slides from the webinars can be accessed on our website.
The next ARS workshops will be held in Perth on 14th and 15th November and Brisbane 1st and 2nd December. The theme will be on collecting and reflecting on BSCW project activities.
ARS is funded to provide ongoing support to the BSCW projects until December 2017.