In 2007, a solicitation by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Fresh Ideas: Improving the Health of Immigrant and Refugee Communities, identified two key issues when working with immigrant and refugee communities:
● Many organizations serving immigrants and refugees lacked the technical capacity to evaluate their efforts.
● Intimate partner violence (IPV) affecting immigrant and refugee communities generated a high level of interest and merited targeted attention.
Based on this review, RWJF launched the Strengthening What Works: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities Initiative (SWW) focusing on organizations working in IPV prevention in immigrant and refugee communities in the United States. The initiative would identify, evaluate, and disseminate innovative and promising prevention practices targeting IPV and build the evaluation capacity through training and technical assistance (TA). RWJF selected LTG Associates, as its National Program Office (NPO) to lead the SWW initiative.
SWW grantees are providing IPV prevention interventions with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Arab Americans, and with a variety of Hispanic/Latino/Latina communities. Specific interventions have variously focused on Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender, faith based, youth, and migrant communities across the U.S. These interventions demonstrate the importance of culture, language, social networks, and community history to successful prevention interventions.
The Value of Anthropology
LTG has benefited from extensive experience working with diverse communities in evaluation and capacity-building in engaging with community-grounded SWW grantee organizations. LTG’s provision of TA is framed as a conversation grounded in practitioners’ knowledge and experience, specific needs of the populations served, and in the literature. As an anthropologically-based consulting organization, with multicultural staff, LTG is in the position to work thoughtfully and respectfully with community cultures to identify and address social, cultural and linguistic barriers and opportunities for program implementation and evaluation.
Working from an anthropological perspective supports an approach that honors communities and their diverse cultural heritage and contextual history. At the same time, an anthropological approach brings the voices of individuals to bear and provides a first hand narrative description of both the issues of IPV and interventions that prevent it.
Anthropology has also conveyed the value of storytelling to organizations participating in the SWW initiative. Many of these organizations have extensive experience and cultural awareness, but few have been encouraged by their funding sources to use narrative and other qualitative data to illustrate the complexity of the work. By combining qualitative data with quantitative data, the SWW initiative has honored community wisdom while recognizing and utilizing important evaluation tools.
From Evidence-Based Practice to Practice-Based Evidence
A number of Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) have been recommended to individuals and organizations conducting primary and secondary IPV prevention without testing their effectiveness with vulnerable populations. Those who most closely serve vulnerable populations have not been effectively engaged to develop and test these EBPs for the served communities. In the SWW initiative, grantees have been supported in evaluating the interventions they have developed or adapted and, for those proven to be effective, develop the practices for dissemination. The evaluation of these interventions is the first step in developing practice-based evidence (PBE).
One of the challenges in evaluating practice-generated evidence is the lack of standard grounding in the form of developed theories of change, logic models, implementation protocols, and fully developed curricula. A premise of this initiative is that if practitioners are able to systematically develop, document, and evaluate their implementations, they may reliably claim their successes and then be in a position to compare their experience with a range of interventions implemented in different settings.
By engaging with the grantee organizations in the SWW initiative, the NPO staff was able to create an on-going conversation about the grantees’ various communities, the nature of their interventions, the role and design of the evaluation methods, and the reporting process. Early in the SWW initiative, grantees were clear that their perspective and voices were marginalized in the research and health debates about the nature of IPV and how services should be developed. The conversation that the NPO constructed provides the basis for these organizations to clearly represent their communities’ perspectives and beliefs as an equally strong third voice based on credible evidence of the outcomes of their practices.
The anthropological focus provides both a clear and transparent evaluation process while creating space for culture-specific values to form the foundation for the construction of interventions.
The authors, all anthropologists, are the senior design and management team for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Strengthening What Works: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities at LTG Associates.
Wendy D Bartlo and Antonio Chavarria are contributing editors of Anthropology Works.