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Presented at Sexual Violence Research Initiative conference in September 2017.


Co-production of research and theory of change as a basis

for evidence-based interventions to prevent dating violence

S. Makleff, J. Garduño, P. Rivera, J. Valades 


Evidence about effective intimate partner violence (IPV) prevention strategies is limited, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Some studies suggest that a ‘gender-transformative’ approach is key to successful IPV prevention programs, and it is plausible that gender-transformative comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) can prevent IPV. However, few CSE evaluations have measured IPV-related outcomes. In partnership with IPPF/WHR, Mexfam is implementing and evaluating a CSE program hypothesized to contribute to the prevention of dating violence among young people in Mexico City. 


Mexfam’s former educational materials were reviewed using the Inside and Out: Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) Assessment Tool, evaluating aspects of gender, health, HIV, sexual rights and citizenship, pleasure, violence, diversity and relationships. The results informed the redesign of materials, as did the findings of a recent operational research project in Mexico City. The updated CSE intervention, which is being piloted and evaluated in 2017, comprises 23-hours of curriculum delivered weekly in public schools, over one semester, by trained health educators. 

A theory of change (TOC) was developed to articulate the hypothesized link between CSE and IPV prevention. The hypothesized pathways suggest ways that CSE content can lead to more equitable and less violent relationships. TOC development was an iterative, collaborative process between Mexfam and IPPF/WHR, bringing together the programmatic and research teams. The TOC serves as the theoretical framework of reference for project implementation as well as for the process evaluation. 


Drawing from the assumptions raised in the TOC, a mixed methods process evaluation was planned using a ‘co-production’ of research approach. Co-production entails full partnership between implementers and researchers to ensure the research is feasible and relevant to all partners. This approach supports timely research utilization and harnesses local expertise to ensure research questions are locally meaningful and useful for advocacy. In the particular case of this collaborative program and evaluation implementation, the co-production approach supported pilot, implementation and research processes designed to be feasible, realistic, and to promote utilization of research findings at the implementing organization, while also contributing to the broader evidence base. 


This presentation will share the process of updating Mexfam’s CSE curriculum through a gender-transformative lens with a focus on IPV prevention; describe the theory of change development 

process and how it benefited both intervention and research planning; present preliminary data from the pilot semester of the CSE curriculum; and detail the co-production of research process. This process is particularly suited to research on topics that are harder to measure or define, such as in evaluations of social interventions, including IPV prevention interventions. 

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