In research projects it is standard practice to describe the state of the research in the relevant area of interest and to position one’s own project within it. In practice, this consists in giving a comprehensive overview of existing, similar research projects and an explanation of what can realistically be expected from your own contribution.
This practice is not established in health promotion and prevention projects. New projects draw on the experiences of existing and similar projects in a haphazard way. This is due to the fact that only some projects are documented at all, and that databases collecting documented projects are still being created. Both these elements are important for the practice of building on the experience of others. To include results and recommendations from other projects has many advantages:
- It provides inspiration and ideas for your project.
- Existing elements can be adopted and possibly further developed.
- You can learn a lot about contextual factors and how they influence the progress of a project.
- You avoid redesigning and implementing a similar project. The wheel does not need to be reinvented again and again.
- Resources are better utilized and synergies can be created.
In order to benefit from the experience of other projects, it is crucial to be familiar with them and to receive information about them. Access to such information is through personal networks and through databases.
In the last few years several such databases have been created. They all aim at facilitating access to documented projects so that knowledge and experience may be shared. A selection of databases from different countries are listed here:
- ProHealthElderly. A database with models of good practice in the area of health promotion for older people. A European initiative with examples from many countries.
- Health Promotion Campaigns. Collection of links to Health Promotion Campaigns. From the CDC (Centers for disease Control and Prevention, USA.
- Health Promoting Schools Database. Sharing practice by presenting case studies from Northern Ireland. Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland.
Searching for other projects means extra work and possibly an adjustment of your project idea.
- You are convinced that your project is so innovative and new that there can be no comparison and no input from other projects.
- You are not really convinced that you can learn from other projects.
- Knowing about other projects and integrating their experiences will help you judge more efficiently the feasibility, the barriers and the chances for success.
- You can build your project on the experience of another, develop it and expand on it. In this way you contribute to the systematic development of projects.
In order to find similar projects you need to consult the following:
- Project reports and evaluation reports (for Switzerland available at Radix)
- Professional journals
- Annual reports
and you need discussions with:
- Professionals working in specialized services
- Regional delegates for health promotion
- Foundations' representatives
Find out about the type of difficulties other projects had to deal with, what worked and what did not, what lessons were learnt and then draw your own conclusions from the information you have gathered.
- Before the start of the project, have other existing projects been adequately researched?
- How does the diversity of context affect the transfer of knowledge and experience from other projects?