New Research Into Action Looks At Relationship Between Coalition Functionality and Program Sustainability

Coalitions need to stay current on the emerging drug trends and organizational management breakthroughs facing the substance abuse prevention field. The free publication, Research Into Action, developed by CADCA’s National Coalition Institute, examines current research that may be relevant to coalitions’ everyday scientists. 

This edition of Research Into Action focuses on a recent study published in the Journal of Prevention Science. The research team concluded that high levels of coalition functionality were associated with sustaining Evidence Based Programs (EBP’s). The study categorized coalitions into three levels: lower level, same level, and high level and found that coalitions demonstrating high levels of functioning were more likely to be involved with long term sustainability of EBP’s in their community. High level of functioning meant having greater outreach and effectiveness, while low levels of functionality means having less impact on the community. This study provides useful suggestions to coalitions that are supporting evidence based programs.

From the perspective of Dr. Brittany Cooper, the lead researcher on the study, the key factors that determined sustainability of Evidence Based Programs beyond initial seed funding were (1) organizational context, capacity and support; (2) characteristics of the implementers and program being implemented; (3) technical assistance, training, and support for the program’s implementation; (4) sustainability planning; and (5) the social, political, and financial context of the larger community.

“The definition of a high functioning coalition is one that has a strong collective mission and vision, with strong leadership and relationships, and mutually-established priorities. And, connections to a high functioning coalition predicted successful program sustainability,” Dr. Cooper said. “Further, alignment between coalition and program goals suggests a greater chance for successful program sustainability.”

In conclusion, programs that share results with a greater number of key stakeholders are more likely to achieve sustainability. Coalitions provide opportunities to network with a diverse group of stakeholders, assist with communicating results, monitor implementation, help with securing funding, and provide support with recruitment.

Julian Taylor, CADCA’s CSAP Prevention Fellow, sat down with Marsha Middleton, program coordinator for the Ward 5 Drug Free Coalition, in Washington D.C. to discuss her thoughts on how this research could apply to her coalition’s work.  

A summary of Middleton’s takeaways include:
•    The sustainability of a program is dependent upon the buy-in of the implementer.
•    Programs that are more flexible and can be modified to fit the needs of the participants and goals and mission of the collaborating agencies have a greater chance of sustainability.
•    Evidenced-based programs should provide real outcomes that address specific needs in the community.
•    In order to secure sustainability, you must plan for it between the implementer and collaborating organizations.

“Because coalitions do not implement programs, this information can be used in working with community stakeholders who are currently implementing EBP.  This information can serve as a helpful tool in understanding the importance of developing a sustainability plan at the onset of a grant,” Middleton concluded. “Sustainability is critical with all DFC Coalitions. These findings suggest that as a Coalition leader, a sustainability plan should be an ongoing process.”  

Click here to read an abstract of the research article, “Sustaining evidence-based prevention programs: Correlates in a large-scale dissemination initiative”.

Research into Action is a free publication, which reports on research findings that impact the work of coalitions. Published six times a year by CADCA’s National Coalition Institute, each issue examines what coalitions can do to implement knowledge they gain in their communities. E-mail institute@cadca.org to be subscribed to this publication.