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Health Promot Int. 2018 May 29. doi: 10.1093/heapro/day034. [Epub ahead of print]

Alignment and political will: upscaling an Australian respectful relationships program.

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Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Faculty of Business & Law, Swinburne University of Technology, PO Box 218, Mail H23, Cnr John and Wakefield Streets, Hawthorn, VIC 3122, Australia.
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), Research School of Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.
Our Watch, GPO Box 24229, Melbourne 3001, Australia.
School of Education, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125, Australia.


Many small scale efficacious programs and interventions need to be 'scaled-up' in order to reach a larger population. Although it has been argued that interventions deemed suitable for upscaling need to have demonstrated effectiveness, be able to be implemented cost-effectively and be accepted by intended recipients, these factors alone are insufficient in explaining which programs are adopted more broadly. Upscaling research often identifies political will as a key factor in explaining whether programs are supported and up-scaled, but this research lacks any depth into how political will is formed and has not applied policy theories to understanding the upscaling process. This article uses a political science lens to examine the key factors in the upscaling process of a Respectful Relationships in Schools Program. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with project staff, managers and community organizations involved in the program. The results reveal how a key focusing event related to a highly profiled personal tragedy propelled family violence into the national spotlight. At the same time, the organization leading the respectful relationships program leveraged their networks to position the program within the education department which enabled the government to quickly respond to the issue. The study highlights that political will is not a stand-alone factor as depicted by up-scaling models, but rather is the end point of a complex process that involves many elements including the establishment of networks and aligned programs that can capitalize when opportunities arise.


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