What Works is an easy-to-use guide that is ideal for anyone working with children and families in social service or humanitarian settings, as well as community facilitators, counselors, and policy makers. It includes plenty of case examples of programs in both low-and-middle-income countries (where financial and human resources are scarce) and high-income countries (where resources are easier to find but problems can still be very complex).
While the manual is about programs designed for young people and their families, its 7-step model of program design will be just as useful in any setting where improving resilience is the goal.
Michael Ungar, PhD, is the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family, and Community Resilience and Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He is also the founder and Director of the Resilience Research Centre which supports ground-breaking research on resilience, program evaluation, training and program design in dozens of countries around the world.
What Works describes in detail seven steps for designing great programs that build resilience. To help explain each step, the manual compares program design to cooking for a hungry family.
Just as a great cook knows what people want to eat, the best programs are designed to address people’s most important problems. These will be the problems that people are the most motivated to change.
A program outline (sometimes called a logic model) is very useful when designing a program to build resilience. Much like a meal plan, or menu, it provides you with a map to ensure that program activities create desirable outcomes.
Every meal starts with a trip to the market or the garden. Once you know which program is needed (Step 1) and have figured out what you want to achieve (Step 2), then you are ready to gather the resources necessary to create your program.
Great cooks rely on other family and friends to help with meal preparation. Program designers, too, create programs that build resilience by reaching out to other programs and people’s natural support systems (e.g., family and friends).
Just as great cooks change recipes to suit local tastes, programs that build resilience change to fit the culture and context of their participants.
Empty plates and heaps of praise tell cooks that their food has been appreciated. Program designers also need ways of measuring their success. Regardless of what evidence is produced, the goal is always the same: convince young people, families, communities, and funders that a program that builds resilience has value and is worth the investment of their time and money.
Cooks design their kitchens to prepare food day-after-day. Program designers create resilience-promoting programs that last for years. An effective, well-designed program is one that is sustainable and reaches as many people as possible.
We would love to showcase the work of program designers from around the world whose programs are helping to build resilience. Send us a brief description of your program and, if you like, a link to a video about the work you are doing. We’ll feature these programs on the Resilience Research Centre website so that other program designers can hear about your work. E-mail us to share your story.