Can't find your keys? Improving support and implementation in a school safety initiative.
Making good things happen in organizations like schools requires more than a good idea. The idea needs to be supported, implemented, and evaluated with quality. In Abe's 2009 article, Four Keys to Success (Theory, Implementation, Evaluation, and Resource/System Support): High Hopes and Challenges in Participation), he talks about the components that are needed to promote success.
Theory: There needs to be a sound and plausible idea why this particular innovation will lead to these particular outcomes.
Implementation: The particular innovation must be put into practice so that it meets its intended outcomes. (there's a whole lot of concepts and thinking that make implementation a super complex and super interesting subject. Briefly, quality implementation requires more than fidelity.)
Evaluation: The right types of questions and methods have to be used to measure the intended outputs and outcomes.
Support: There needs to be a sufficient amount of training, technical assistance (TA), tools, quality assurance, and quality improvement mechanisms in place to make sure that stakeholders have the capacity and motivation to make the innovation happen.
Which leads to this recent article in Lancaster PA's local newspaper about a school safety initiative. Safe2Say is an anonymous reporting app that lets people like students, teachers, and parents quickly let the state attorney general's office know about a potential threat, which is then reviewed and forwarded to law enforcement, if warranted. This new innovation sounds so good, participation has been mandated by state legislators.
However, there seems to have been a gap in the training design, because the article notes that, " The training team seemed overwhelmed by the number of attendees.... It started late. The app and website weren’t ready, so they had to use a demo site." This gap in training has left initial implementation up in the air because of the uncertainty.
A four keys lens could be helpful in diagnosing and prospectively getting this program back on track. Stakeholders are confident in the underlying idea, so it seems that the theory has resonance. Implementation hasn't started yet, but given the initial bumps a thorough and comprehensive plan that include multiple process measures and accountability structures seems warranted. Ditto for evaluation.
The big gap here was/is support. In any initiative, it is critical that the training and TA take into account the underlying stakeholder needs, their goals, are delivered in effective/evidence-based ways, fit with the setting, and address the readiness to implement. The confusion among the stakeholders in Safe2Tell suggests a need to rethink these issues in upcoming supports.
A review of these foundational issues can help any initiative get back on track.