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Reducing bullying with evidence

Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet)

 This story is taken from the NCE anniversary report "Building on 25 Years of R&D Excellence."

Created by students from St. Mary Catholic School, Greely, Ontario

The societal challenge

Canada has many local, provincial and national programs aimed at reducing bullying. Unfortunately, few are based on evidence and even fewer are scientifically evaluated to measure their effectiveness. As a result, Canada ranks in the bottom third internationally when it comes to bullying and victimization. At the same time, parents, teachers and those who work with children and youth must protect children from all forms of abuse, including bullying.

The opportunity for Canada and Canadian youth

Many strategies to prevent bullying are already known and proven effective, thanks in large part to Canadian research. What was needed was a national network where expert researchers and national organizations work together to translate this research into practice.

What PREVNet is doing right

PREVNet developed and honed its highly successful model of bringing researchers and national organizations to work together when it was initially funded through the NCE New Initiatives pilot program in 2006. Its model is designed to stop bullying and victimization and create environments where children feel safe. Here’s how they’re doing it:

  • Strong networks and partnerships: PREVNet has created a national network of 90 leading Canadian researchers and their students at 29 universities, joined by 56 national youth-serving organizations, including industry, federal and provincial agencies, and NGOs. The network has the potential to reach all Canadian children where they live, work and play.
    • HANDS-ON PARTICIPATION: PREVNet’s working groups ensure that research is relevant and will be turned into practice. Partners share knowledge of emerging trends and identify critical issues and unmet needs. Researchers contribute relevant evidence-based knowledge and the scientific capacity to evaluate partners’ programs. Graduate student participation develops the “highly qualified personnel” able to bridge research and practice.
    • CONNECTING WITH YOUTH: In Spring 2013, PREVNet and its NGO partners established two National Youth Advisory Committees, one for 13–18 year olds and a second for 19–25 year olds. These young ambassadors help identify strategies to engage youth in PREVNet activities.
  • Good governance and management: PREVNet’s board members come from a broad range of corporate and not-for-profit endeavours. Its executive committee of researchers and partner organizations provide leadership and direction for the network’s Key Signature Projects. PREVNet’s graduate student executive committee advises the executive committee and works with mentors on research and education goals.
  • Putting research into practice: PREVNet’s model of knowledge mobilization covers four key pillars: Education, Assessment, Intervention and Policy.
    • EDUCATION AND TRAINING: PREVNet and its partners hold workshops and develop training tools (e.g. manuals, quick reference guides, continuing education courses) to teach those who work with youth how to deliver evidence-based programs.
    • ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION: PREVNet’s universal assessment tools provide the baseline for understanding the nature and extent of bullying problems, and identify which programs should be selected to meet the specific needs of an organization.
    • PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION: PREVNet develops prevention strategies that specifically define bullying and establish steps to be taken when bullying occurs.
    • POLICY AND ADVOCACY: PREVNet provides guidelines for policies and a united voice for children’s rights to safety and inclusion and for promoting healthy relationships. Each province and territory has its own definitions, legislation or policies related to bullying. PREVNet developed legislative fact sheets to help parents and educators understand their rights and responsibilities in each province or territory.

Show me the results

  • Parents struggling to help a child victimized by bullying don’t usually turn to scientific papers for help. That’s why PREVNet has compiled this invaluable knowledge into an easy-to-use resource for parents, called Bullying Prevention: What Parents Need to Know. Nearly 3,000 copies of the book have been purchased to date by PREVNet partners and others around the world.
  • Research shows most educators choose bullying prevention programs based on word of mouth, but 15% of these programs do more harm than good. That’s why PREVNet worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop an online collection of evidence-based violence prevention programs suitable for schools, community organizations and other users.
  • PREVNet has co-created more than 150 organization‑specific bullying prevention initiatives, including cyber bullying resources for the Canadian Teachers Federation, which represents more than 220,000 teachers, and a handbook available to more than 14,000 principals across Canada.