Project Update #5: From needs assessment to toolkit development

Summary report on the needs assessment available

Needs assessment summary

Today we’re pleased to present a summary report on a needs assessment which we carried out over the first months of 2014 as part of our European Drug Prevention Quality Standards (EDPQS) Phase II project. The needs assessment consisted of an online survey as well as discussion groups in seven project partner countries, and involved over 500 respondents with a stake in drug prevention, including practitioners, policy makers and others.

In the past, we’ve repeatedly heard that the EMCDDA Manual on the EDPQS is not sufficiently interactive and engaging to motivate a real change in professional attitudes and skills among the prevention workforce. Our overall aim in the needs assessment was therefore to develop a better understanding of the kind of support materials (‘toolkits’) needed to produce that change.

The feedback we received was extremely helpful to clarify what is needed to help implement and disseminate the EDPQS across Europe – in terms of content, but also in terms of presentation and style to ensure acceptability to target audiences. The results confirmed some of the assumptions we held based on previous fieldwork, but we also gained some new insights.

One interesting finding from the online survey related to the preferred format of toolkits. We had assumed that people would want to learn about the EDPQS using new and innovative approaches, such as webinars. However, respondents actually preferred traditional learning methods. Most people expressed a preference for small group workshops as a way to learn about the EDPQS. Sub-group analyses showed that it was particularly younger respondents who were interested in workshops. Large proportions of respondents also opted for self-learning using printed and static electronic materials, as well as lecture-style presentations. We found this surprising, given that self-learning and lectures are considered to be among the least engaging learning methods. However, these were also the most frequently utilised methods in practice, so respondents expressed a preference for methods which they are familiar with.

The discussion groups offered detailed insights into potential target audiences, contents and formats. Importantly, participants highlighted target audiences that we had not considered so explicitly, namely: school directors (head teachers); local government representatives; ‘opinion leaders’ in prevention who could help to promote the EDPQS (e.g., professional associations); and young people and their parents. In total, we were able to distinguish 14 groups who may be targeted with support materials. The needs assessment helped to identify priority target audiences among these 14 groups.

Download the summary report

The summary report contains more information about the purpose of the needs assessment as well as the key findings. The more detailed background reports are available upon request.

Vienna meeting to kick-off toolkit development

In the report, we also present initial ideas for the toolkits to be developed in response to the needs assessment. Broadly speaking, we envisage that the toolkits will serve three different purposes:

  • Toolkit 1: Supporting decision makers (e.g., funders and school directors) to select prevention activities for funding or other forms of support
  • Toolkit 2: Supporting service managers, programme developers and other practitioners to review and improve their own prevention work using the EDPQS
  • Toolkit 3: Providing materials to help promote high quality in prevention, including informational leaflets, presentations, training materials, advocacy papers, and guidelines on how to adapt the EDPQS for own purposes

The Prevention Standards Partnership has established three working groups, each of which is charged with developing a toolkit. From May to July, working groups reviewed all the available information (from the needs assessment but also previous project activities) to develop detailed work plans outlining the purpose and contents of the toolkits. Special attention was given to the question: what are the practical benefits of the toolkit for the identified target audiences?

On 22nd July 2014, the three working group leaders Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, ASL Milano, Italy, and Liverpool John Moores University, UK, met in Vienna, Austria to review and finalise all three work plans. First drafts of the toolkits should be available soon, and the final toolkits are due to be published in spring 2015.

The project now enters a critical stage: the development of the materials according to the agreed work plans. But this will not be a process behind closed doors. On the contrary, we are continuing to involve stakeholders – many of who participated in the online survey and discussion groups – in the toolkit development. Stakeholders can contribute by commenting on the usefulness of the materials being developed, by making specific suggestions regarding the contents, sharing their lessons learnt or relevant external materials with us, and so on.

If you would like to become involved as a stakeholder, please contact EDPQS Project Manager Jeff Lee at j.t.lee@ljmu.ac.uk.