Harnessing workhorses or herding cats? Collaborating across the Relationships Australia Federation to research what matters most to families

Harnessing workhorses or herding cats? Collaborating across the Relationships Australia Federation to research what matters most to families
Friday 27 July, 1115 – 1235

Abstract
On average, organisations in the Relationships Australia (RA) Federation see over 170,000 people at over 110 offices across Australia each year. What matters most to these clients and their families is this: do we provide innovative and effective services for families from cradle to grave? It is simple to ask but hard to answer. That is why the Federation has around 30 projects per year to develop new services or research current ones. Many of the projects are coordinated by the RA National Research Network (NRN), a team of researchers working across the Federation to exploit the benefits of scale across a tyranny of distance. For example, one NRN project coordinated staff nationally to recruit 4,544 clients in a 20-day period with little additional effort (Petch et al., 2014).
But working across organisations, service models, locations and time zones also brings challenges. This symposium showcases four NRN projects researching what matters to families: developing and evaluating a new service across the Federation; comparing the effectiveness of RA routine practice to “received wisdom”; shining a light on an under-researched service; and enrolling a large representative cohort of clients for a thorough prospective trial. In particular, we also share insights on what we see as the benefits of collaboration — how we are harnessing workhorses not herding cats across the Federation.