Due to vast technological advances, our ability as social service providers to collect and assess evidence has improved dramatically throughout the late 20th and early 21st century. As a result, evidence-based practice models are becoming more widespread.
Furthermore, funders, both private foundations and governmental organizations, are starting to insist more and more on the use of evidence-based practices in social work fields. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for anyone working in the social services sector to have a solid understanding of evidence-based practice models. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) even keeps an Updated Inventory of Evidence-Based, Research-Based and Promising Practices, speaking to the importance of these concepts in the public sector.
Keep reading to learn more about the types and components of evidence-based practice models and how they can affect your organization’s work.
Before we look at the types of models out there, it is important to first understand what constitutes an evidence-based practice. According to the Social Work Policy Institute:
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience and ethics, and client preferences and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services.
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Because our ease of access to information has improved drastically in the past few decades, acquiring evidence is a much simpler process and has certainly prompted the move towards evidence-based approaches.
However, evidence-based practice implies more than simply acquiring data. According to the Council on Social Work Education, there are five important steps involved in any evidence-based practice model.
1. Formulating a client, community or policy-related question
2. Systematically searching the literature
3. Appraising findings for quality and applicability
4. Applying these findings and considerations in practice
5. Evaluating the results.
This last step is particularly significant because evidence-based practice models need to continuously improve if they are to be effective. As a result, each new case should be considered additional evidence and should be analyzed along with the pre-existing data. This kind of perspective helps our social service practices continue to keep pace with a changing world.
While much could be written about evidence-based practice models, we are just going to touch on a few key concepts and models, as well as resources where you can obtain additional information.
While not a model, per se, there are also numerous tools available to organizations looking to implement Evidence-Based Practice models. For example, the Annie E. Casey foundation’s Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is an interactive website that helps organizations identify and fund programs that are scientifically proven. Similarly, TRASI or Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact, from the foundation center, can help organizations learn what tools are out there to aid them in measuring outcomes and utilizing evidence.
On a national level, the social services world is just beginning to understand what evidence-based practice models can look like and how they will help our organizations. More models are sure to emerge over the next few years that will offer better standards for implementing evidence-based approaches. Resources like this one from the Promising Practices Network are helping organizations begin to look at how to create evidence-based practice models that meet the highest standards currently set in the industry.
Furthermore, with the widespread use of software like Social Solutions’ Software, our ability to collect and analyze data will continue to improve drastically, enabling even better outcomes for clients and constituents through the use of evidence-based case management and other evidence-based practices.
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