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Am J Community Psychol. 2008 Mar;41(1-2):63-73. doi: 10.1007/s10464-007-9149-5.

A qualitative study of the activities and outcomes of domestic violence coordinating councils.

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Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.


Efforts to promote systems change frequently involve the creation of councils, coalitions, and other collaborative settings. However, research, to date, reports limited empirical evidence that they achieve desired outcomes (Roussos and Fawcett, Annu Rev Public Health 21:369-402, 2000). The precise nature of this evidence base has received less attention. In particular, formal investigations into council effectiveness (a) rarely highlight the specific nature of collaborative efforts; (b) emphasize fairly distal markers as the "gold standard" for effectiveness; (c) focus largely on formative "outcomes" (e.g., action plan quality); and (d) utilize primarily quantitative research approaches. The current study extends previous research by employing a qualitative approach to investigate the particular activities and proximal outcomes of 41 domestic violence coordinating councils. Study findings suggest that councils engage in six primary activities: discussing issues, sharing information, identifying weaknesses in the system's response, providing training for key stakeholders, engaging in public/community education, and lobbying key stakeholders who are not council members. Three proximal outcomes were consistently identified in council efforts: the promotion of knowledge, relationships, and institutionalized change. Attending more directly to proximal outcomes and concrete activities in our research has important implications for conceptualizing and researching the effectiveness of councils and collaborative settings.

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