A grounded theory of program transfer: how an Aboriginal empowerment initiative became "bigger than a program"

McCalman, Janya (2012) A grounded theory of program transfer: how an Aboriginal empowerment initiative became "bigger than a program". PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/p2tz-2361


National Aboriginal health research guidelines and researchers have called for programs that work in one setting to be appropriately transferred to other sites or situations. Yet the Aboriginal Australian health literature cites few examples of the successful transfer of programs and there has been little theoretical conceptualisation of the processes of transfer and implementation. In this study, I constructed a grounded theoretical model of the process underlying program transfer, based on the Aboriginal Family Wellbeing (FWB) empowerment program.

Using a constructivist grounded theory methodology and applying the commensurate lenses of post-modern situational analysis and post-structural critical theory, I designed a three-part research approach. First, I developed a historical account of FWB transfer by mapping, charting and graphing data, primarily from FWB documents. Included were descriptions of the individuals and organisations responsible for program transfer, the extent of transfer and adaptation, and the enabling and constraining structural conditions. Second, I constructed a theoretical model of program transfer using constructivist grounded theory and situational mapping methods. Data was generated by conducting in-depth interviews with 18 research respondents who were active in FWB transfer. These accounts were analysed to determine why and how they transferred the program. Data was categorised into higher order concepts and identified both the central concern of research respondents and the basic process that facilitated that concern. Third, I established the significance of the theoretical model for practice and policy by comparing it with established models from the Aboriginal Australian and international knowledge into action literatures.

In the resultant historical description, I recount the genesis of FWB in Adelaide in 1993, and its transfer by collectives of individuals working within and across diverse Aboriginal community organisations, government departments, researcher organisations and non-government and private organisations. Transfer resulted in the delivery of the program to approximately 3,300 participants across 56 sites and situations. There was significant program adaptation, with reinvention occurring through five social arenas: community development and employment, training and capacity development, health promotion, empowerment research and school education. Program transfer was affected by structural conditions from a continuum across Aboriginal and Western domains.

Constructing the grounded theory, I determined the impetus for program transfer as supporting inside-out empowerment. The individuals and organisations transferred the program as a vehicle for supporting the empowerment and agency of individual participants and a consequent ripple effect to family members, organisations, communities and ultimately reconciliation with Australian society at large. Embracing relatedness was the three-dimensional process by which program transfer occurred. It included relatedness with self, others, and structural conditions; all three were necessary at both individual and organisational levels in order for program transfer to occur. The process of embracing relatedness involved four sub-processes: meeting a need, taking control to make choices, listening and responding, and adding value. Meeting individuals' needs facilitated agency for individuals to take control to make choices. The strengthened capacity of individuals facilitated listening and responding to organisational needs, priorities and aspirations; and adding value to organisations, services and policy. The enactment of these four sub-processes resulted in further iterations of program transfer.

The study findings are consistent with Aboriginal Australian studies of empowerment and relatedness and international knowledge into action theories. However, the theoretical model of supporting inside-out empowerment by embracing relatedness is significant for practice and policy in three ways. First, the impetus of empowerment for translating knowledge into action through program transfer suggests that greater attention is required to support Aboriginal initiatives that enhance empowerment. Second, emphasis of approach on embracing relatedness suggests the importance in change processes of initiatives that facilitate interpersonal and interorganisational multi-agent networks, partnerships and collaborations. These tend to be poorly resourced and under-researched in the context of Aboriginal Australian development, health and wellbeing, and education. Third, the four sub-processes of meeting a need, taking control to make choices, listening and responding, and adding value imply that personal empowerment supports organisational and interorganisational change, and vice versa. Hence, change efforts can be entered at individual or organisational levels. Thus, the theory of program transfer, supporting inside-out empowerment by embracing relatedness, offers new insights into the process underlying program transfer across Aboriginal Australian sites and situations.

Item ID: 26005
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aboriginal; Aborigines; empowerment; Family Wellbeing Program; FWP; grounded theory; Indigenous Australians Indigenous health services; Native Australians; program; transfer; wellbeing; well-being
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Copyright Information: Copyright © 2012 Janya McCalman.
Additional Information:

For this thesis, Janya McCalman received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2013.

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

McCalman, Janya, Tsey, Komla, Clifford, Anton, Earles, Wendy, Shakeshaft, Anthony, and Bainbridge, Roxanne (2012) Applying what works: a systematic search of the transfer and implementation of promising Indigenous Australian health services and programs. BMC Public Health, 12 . p. 600.

McCalman, Janya, McEwan, Alexandra, Tsey, Komla, Blackmore, Eunice, and Bainbridge, Roxanne (2010) Towards social sustainability: the case of the Family Wellbeing community empowerment education program. Journal of Social and Economic Policy, 13 (2).

McCalman, Janya, Tsey, Komla, Kitau, Russell, and McGinty, Sue (2012) "Bringing us back to our origin": adapting and transferring an Indigenous Australian values-based leadership capacity-building course for community development in Papua New Guinea. Community Development, 43 (3). pp. 393-408.

McCalman, Janya, Tsey, Komla, Wenitong, Mark, Wilson, Andrew, McEwan, Alexandra, James, Yvonne Cadet, and Whiteside, Mary (2010) Indigenous men's support groups and social and emotional wellbeing: a meta-synthesis of the evidence. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 16 . p. 159.

McCalman, Janya, Tsey, Komla, Baird, Bradley, Connolly, Brian, Baird, Leslie, and Jackson, Rita (2009) ‘Bringing back respect’: the role of participatory action research in transferring knowledge from an Aboriginal men’s group to youth programs. Australasian Psychiatry, 17 (s1). S59-S63.

Kitau, Russel, Tsey, Komla, McCalman, Janya, and Whiteside, Mary (2011) Adaptability and sustainability of an Indigenous Australian family wellbeing initiative in the context of Papua New Guinea: a follow up. Australasian Psychiatry, 19 ( S1). S80-S83.

McEwan, Alexandra B., Tsey, Komla, McCalman, Janya, and Travers, Helen J. (2010) Empowerment and change management in Aboriginal organisations: a case study. Australian Health Review, 34 (3). pp. 360-367.

McCalman, Janya, Tsey, Komla, Reilly, Lyndon, Connolly, Brian, Fagan, Ruth, Earles, Wendy, and Andrews, Ross (2010) Taking control of health: Gurriny's story of organisational change. Third Sector Review, 16 (1). pp. 29-47.

Tsey, Komla, McCalman, Janya, Bainbridge, Roxanne, and Brown, Cath (2012) Improving Indigenous community governance through strengthening Indigenous and government organisational capacity. Report. Australian Government.

Funders: Australian Postgraduate Award
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2013 05:03
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111701 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health @ 60%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education @ 40%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920303 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Health System Performance (incl. Effectiveness of Interventions) @ 60%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930503 Resourcing of Education and Training Systems @ 10%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939901 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education @ 30%
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