“We are not stray leaves blowing about in the wind”: exploring the impact of Family Wellbeing empowerment research, 1998–2021

Perera, Nirukshi, Tsey, Komla, Heyeres, Marion, Whiteside, Mary, Baird, Leslie, McCalman, Janya, Cadet-James, Yvonne, Calabria, Bianca, Hamilton, Michael, Yan, Li, Zuchowski, Ines, Sims, Kearrin, and Udah, Hyacinth (2022) “We are not stray leaves blowing about in the wind”: exploring the impact of Family Wellbeing empowerment research, 1998–2021. International Journal for Equity in Health, 21. 2.

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Background: An Aboriginal-developed empowerment and social and emotional wellbeing program, known as Family Wellbeing (FWB), has been found to strengthen the protective factors that help Indigenous Australians to deal with the legacy of colonisation and intergenerational trauma. This article reviews the research that has accompanied the implementation of the program, over a 23 year period. The aim is to assess the long-term impact of FWB research and identify the key enablers of research impact and the limitations of the impact assessment exercise. This will inform more comprehensive monitoring of research impact into the future.

Methods: To assess impact, the study took an implementation science approach, incorporating theory of change and service utilisation frameworks, to create a logic model underpinned by Indigenous research principles. A research impact narrative was developed based on mixed methods analysis of publicly available data on: 1) FWB program participation; 2) research program funding; 3) program outcome evaluation (nine studies); and 4) accounts of research utilisation (seven studies).

Results: Starting from a need for research on empowerment identifed by research users, an investment of $2.3 million in research activities over 23 years produced a range of research outputs that evidenced social and emotional wellbeing benefts arising from participation in the FWB program. Accounts of research utilisation confrmed the role of research outputs in educating participants about the program, and thus, facilitating more demand (and funding acquisition) for FWB. Overall research contributed to 5,405 recorded participants accessing the intervention. The key enablers of research impact were; 1) the research was user- and community-driven; 2) a long-term mutually benefcial partnership between research users and researchers; 3) the creation of a body of knowledge that demonstrated the impact of the FWB intervention via diferent research methods; 4) the universality of the FWB approach which led to widespread application.

Conclusions: The FWB research impact exercise reinforced the view that assessing research impact is best approached as a “wicked problem” for which there are no easy fxes. It requires fexible, open-ended, collaborative learning-by-doing approaches to build the evidence base over time. Steps and approaches that research groups might take to build the research impact knowledge base within their disciplines are discussed

Item ID: 71241
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1475-9276
Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, Indigenous health, Empowerment, Research impact, Social and emotional wellbeing, Research evaluation, Logic model, Theory of change, Implementation science, Service utilisation
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4. 0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Funders: Lowitja Institute, Centre of Research Excellence – Strengthening systems for Indigenous health care equity (CRE-STRIDE)
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2022 23:14
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4409 Social work > 440902 Counselling, wellbeing and community services @ 30%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4409 Social work > 440903 Social program evaluation @ 50%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4505 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, society and community > 450523 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work and social justice @ 20%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200206 Health system performance (incl. effectiveness of programs) @ 50%
21 INDIGENOUS > 2103 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander determinants of health @ 50%
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