Essential guide to improving peer responses

Insights gained using the W3 Framework to analyse and evaluate peer work can help with improving peer responses.

The W3 Framework provides a structured way of looking at the ‘bigger picture’ of all a peer response’s work. This can help peer responses to identify areas that need improving. It can also help guide peer responses in terms of how to make those improvements.

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Improving peer responses using the W3 Framework

The W3 Framework can help peer responses:

Peer responses can use this to help them adapt and improve their work through:

  • Improving their understanding of their own work
  • Strengthening their ability to communicate about their work
  • Strengthening their evaluation processes
  • Using the knowledge gained from strong evaluations to improve their work

Improving peer responses’ understanding of their own work

Understanding what each of the W3 Functions means for their particular work, and how they interrelate, can help peer responses know:

  • What they need to do to achieve their goals
  • How the environment they work in affects their work
  • How to support peer workers to do their best work (and to do it safely)

They can also use this to support other actors in the health sector and policy environment to create enabling environments for peer work.

Case example

AIVL’s Peer Workforce Capacity Building
Training Framework

The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) is Australia’s national peak organisation for people who use drugs and their peer organisations.

AIVL used the W3 Framework to develop a best practice guide for the employment of people who use drugs (PWUD) as peer workers.

This guide aims to support both peer and non-peer organisations to create an organisational culture and environment where PWUD peer workers are:

  • Safe and respected in their workplace
  • Well supported and resourced to make effective contributions to the blood-borne virus response

It includes a best practice tool that takes users through each of the W3 Functions, prompting them to consider:

  • What the function means in the context of PWUD peer work
  • What achieving the function should look like in practice
  • What impacts they should be seeing if things are going well
  • How to create positive change
The front cover of AIVL’s Peer Workforce Capacity Building Training Framework (available on AIVL’s website).

Strengthening communication with others

Improved understanding of their own work can also support peer responses to:

  • More effectively articulate and describe what they do
  • Better communicate their work to others
  • Showcase their achievements and impact in a more compelling way

Stronger communication can lead to a range of benefits, such as:

  • Better engagement with communities
  • Increased credibility within the health sector and policy environment
  • Creation of a stronger position from which to apply for and secure funding and other support
  • Decreased stigma towards peer workers and their work

Case example

Adapting the W3 Framework to create a sector-appropriate common language

The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) is Australia’s national peak organisation for people who use drugs and their peer organisations.

AIVL adapted the W3 Framework to help create a common language among peer-based drug user organisations.

This enabled AIVL and its
members to:

  • Define what the W3 Functions meant to them in the context of their own work
  • Identify actions that may help achieve impact in each of the functions
  • Demonstrate their impact within each of the functions

The standard language is also helping overcome longstanding stigma towards drug user organisations and peer workers.

AIVL adapted the W3 Framework and the W3 Functions to their own work in their ‘Peer Workforce Capacity Building Training Framework’ (available on AIVL’s website.

W3 is giving us a framework that [mainstream stakeholders] can read, understand, and know that we are doing what we need to do. This is important to our community, that a consistent framework is implemented that is also familiar to us.

Staff member


Strengthening evaluation processes

Of course, a key way that the W3 Framework can help improve peer responses is by helping them strengthen their evaluation processes. We discuss this at length in our Essential guide to evaluating peer work. To summarise, peer responses can use the W3 Framework to guide evaluations that:

  • Are tailored, streamlined, and highly relevant
  • Effectively capture everything the peer response does
  • Show the full value and impact of the peer response’s work

Stronger evaluation processes also help peer responses better understand their own work and communicate their impact and value to others.

Case example

Harm Reduction Victoria

Harm Reduction Victoria is a peer-led organisation for people who use drugs.

Harm Reduction Victoria uses the W3 Framework to drive consistent data collection and evaluation across all their programs.

This has helped them:

  • Enhance data collection tools to capture important and nuanced information about their demographic reach
  • Develop new indicators to capture previously unmeasured impacts (e.g. its peer leadership actions)
  • Collate evaluation data across programs and activities to more accurately capture overall impact at an organisational level
  • Better communicate its unique contribution to the blood-borne virus (BBV) response

[The W3 Framework is] definitely improving the way we think about our impact, how we report, and how we think about what we do. […] It’s given us a framework to talk to [funders] about the importance of peer-led work.

The ‘About the report’ section of Harm Reduction Victoria’s 2019-2020 annual report (available onHarm Reduction Victoria’s website).

Using knowledge gained from strong evaluations

In the ‘Essential guide to evaluating peer work’, we talk about what we called the ‘true value of evaluation’. First and foremost, evaluation should help peer responses with their own goals. When done well, it should tell the full story about all of a peer response’s work and impact.

It should also guide peer responses to ways they can continually improve their work.

When evaluations work for peer responses (instead of just for funders), they provide a wealth of information. Peer responses can use this information to identify and understand:

  • How and when their work achieves the most positive impact
  • How they can build on their strengths
  • Where they can improve what they’re doing
  • Gaps in their work and barriers to achieving their goal

Having this knowledge — and keeping it up to date with changes in their environment — puts peer responses in a strong position to constantly adapt and improve their work. This information is key to knowing when change is needed. It can also help guide how to make the change.

Case example

Adapting to rapid change: Living Positive Victoria’s Peer Navigator Program and COVID-19

Living Positive Victoria’s Peer Navigation Program provides peer-based support, guidance, and health system navigation for people living with HIV.

The program works from the time clients are first diagnosed or contact a clinic. This integration of peer practices into clinical and social services ensures timely access to information and support.

In 2020, COVID-19 presented the Peer Navigation Program and its clients with some significant challenges.

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the Peer Navigator Program:

  • Moved to fully remote service delivery
  • Managed significantly disrupted referral patterns
  • Responded rapidly to address to new client priorities and challenges

Already having the W3 Framework applied across the organisation meant that the program had the data and processes in place to:

  • Understand its influence and engagement
  • Understand what adaptations would work to meet the challenges and support people to stay safe and healthy
  • Use these insights to respond to its rapidly changing environment

Where to next?

In summary, peer responses can use the W3 Framework to help them understand, communicate, adapt, and improve their work.

If you’re after further information, check out these other posts to help you:

Finally, if you work in a peer response and would like to use the W3 Framework to help improve your work, check out the W3 Framework Guide and tools.

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