Knowledge exchange for better scaling with Movember

Young man thinking

Evidence shows that scaling up promising community programs is rarely easy.

CEI is working with men’s health charity Movember to evaluate Scaling What Works (SWW), an AUD$10+ million grant funding program to support the scale-up of 17 promising projects aiming to improve the mental health and wellbeing of men and boys in Australia, the UK and Canada.

SWW isn’t only about supporting and enabling successful scaling so more people can benefit from effective mental health interventions; it also aims to generate evidence and share practical learnings from like-minded organisations across the globe. A series of Knowledge Exchange sessions involving the 17 funded projects is key to achieving both objectives.

CEI Advisors Chloe Ang and Tom Steele sat down to reflect on the SWW Knowledge Exchange series so far.

“The sessions intersect topics in implementation science, scaling and understandings of masculinity, gender and mental health,” Tom explains. “Our intent is to offer a mix of practical know-how, technical knowledge and research evidence.”  

Engagement has emerged as a key theme. “This is no surprise,” says Chloe. “The multi-faceted and sometimes enigmatic nature of what creates effective engagement is a continuing challenge for everyone – program designers, delivery organisations, researchers and policymakers alike.”

Held in July, the first session Engaging men and boys: Meeting them where they are featured speakers Dr Shea Spierings (University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health), John Evoy (Founder of Irish Men’s Sheds Association) and Matthew Hornsby (Sano Health). The discussion centred on engagement skills and reflections across different settings focused on men and boys – from Men’s Sheds to professional and recreational athletes, and those in the prison system.

Despite the varied backgrounds and contexts presented, there were many transferrable and practical insights offered. Tom, who chaired the session, reflects: “My main takeaway was how vitally important gaining trust and ‘buy-in’ is. While this needs time – especially with young and vulnerable people – there are plenty of practical steps we can make to ‘meet people where they are’ quickly and authentically.”

The second session, in October, focused on Emerging Masculinities and Mental Health. CEI Director Dr Anna Williamson was joined by Professors Michael Flood (Queensland University of Technology School of Justice) and Paul Galdas (University of York), as well as Movember’s Global Director of Men’s Health Research, Dr Zac Seidler, to explore concepts of masculinity and the impact of notions of ‘traditional’ and ‘emerging’ masculinities on the mental health of men and boys. Presenters also discussed the implications for service system design and fit – ‘keeping men in mind’ but challenging these traditional concepts with a ‘gender-transformative’ approach.  

The final session for 2023 was held this week, focusing on sharing first-hand insights from projects that have scaled successfully in supporting men and boys’ mental health and wellbeing. Project leads Joanna Lacey (Men’s Pie Club), Joel Pilgrim (Waves of Wellness Sand n’ Surf) and Robert Nesbitt (Changing Room), whose projects have received support through Movember’s Social Innovators Challenge shared their journeys – reflecting on barriers and enablers, as well as the many considerations in thinking about scaling up a promising project.

“It has been fantastic to hear from such a diverse group of experts, including both researchers and practitioners delivering projects on the ground,” Chloe concludes.

“What works for scaling effective mental health interventions, particularly for men and boys, is not well understood. So, it is crucial to share our knowledge and learnings – including successes and failures – to advance the field. We look forward to hosting more sessions over the course of our partnership with Movember and the 17 project teams.”