• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Tuesday 12th May, 2009

Larceny is the sincerest form of flattery

Copying other people’s good ideas is one of the fundamental drivers behind human progress. Just occasionally it may amount to theft; usually it boils down to one group innocently trying to find out how another group solved a problem. The imperative might be to do with meeting a challenge of mass production, perfecting a new surgical technique or learning about the properties of new materials in architecture.It’s a regrettable paradox in the era of global warming that the search for new technology – social programs included – generally necessitates international travel. But the best ideas do not coalesce in a single country and there is no substitute for first-hand experience. So the world’s relatively small population of prevention experts must periodically clock up the air miles. This week Prevention Action reports on a study tour that is bringing policy makers and practitioners from the the UK and the US to Seattle, Washington, on the west coast of the United States to investigate proven prevention models. The itinerary has been organized by The Social Research Unit, the Dartington-based publishers of Prevention Action.Why the West Coast? The Incredible Years, Communities that Care, Raising Healthy Children, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care and Family Check-up all started life on a Pacific drawing board.This week’s visitors will also see a range of other models which originated elsewhere but are now functioning effectively in Washington or Oregon, and the itinerary will include the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and the pioneering work on cost-benefit analysis by Steve Aos. His achievements have been a catalyst for the broad application of prevention and early intervention in this part of the world.What is in it for the traveler? First, the value of seeing ideas in practice, in real schools, communities and homes – far better than merely reading about the potential of prevention programs and implementation strategies.The tour also provides the west coast party with an opportunity to learn from each other. It is ironic that it should takes jumbo jet travel to put a handful of people struggling with shared challenges of improving outcomes for children at usefully close quarters.Given the context, Prevention Action will be giving rather less attention than usual during the coming days to the science and scientists behind each program. Instead, we will be trying to bring into sharper view how the programs look on the ground. We will draw out the experiences of practitioners and their managers and report on the reactions of study tourists to what they see – good and bad. In short, we will be taking closer look at prevention in action.• For a more informal view of the trip from the perspective of study tour organizers, participants and those being visited, keep an eye on the blogs page.

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