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Press Release - 20 March 2007

Project explores how lessons from technology ‘rollouts’ could help spread good practice in child protection

Researchers will use the theory behind how businesses roll out new technologies to investigate ways of encouraging the spread of new social programmes designed to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The research, which is a collaboration between the universities of Bath and South Australia, will investigate the diffusion of seven social programmes used in the Australian state of New South Wales, including working with fathers and the families of people with substance abuse problems.

The ‘diffusion of innovations’ theory examines the processes by which an innovative idea spreads and is adopted by people or organisations. Whilst this theory originating from the private sector has been used to look at innovations in health, education and sociology, very little has been done to investigate the diffusion of new practices in the social policy and social work field.

One of the first people to do this was Dr Louise Brown from the University of Bath’s Department of Social & Policy Sciences who has examined the concept of Family Group Conferencing and its spread and implementation throughout local authorities in the UK.

“Businesses are incredibly successful in encouraging the spread of new ideas or technologies throughout the world,” said Dr Brown.

“We want to find out more about how the ideas behind social programmes are spread, and see if we can find ways of helping successful programmes to become established in other regions or countries.”

Dr Brown will now be working with colleagues from the Australian Centre for Child Protection to investigate the diffusion of programmes dealing with everything from equipping fathers with the skills, knowledge and support they need in their parenting role, to intensive support for individuals affected by drug and alcohol abuse.

“Early intervention and prevention programmes can play an important role in stopping children from entering out of home care, so finding out how we can spread good practice more effectively could have major benefits,” she said.

“We will be looking at a spread of social programmes, some of which were developed in New South Wales and others which have been imported and adopted from the UK and USA.

“The UK government is very interested in the idea of international policy transfer, so this work will shed light on key issues surrounding how easily programmes are implemented when they are home-grown rather than imported.”

The two-year £115,000 project is funded by the Australian Research Council and Uniting Care Burnside, a social care provider in New South Wales.

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