Technical Assistance (TA) is a critical strategy used worldwide in various sectors, from public health to education. Its primary goal is to support the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices (EBPs), which can be a challenging task. This blog post examines a study that takes a closer look at TA—its evaluation, effectiveness, and how it’s evolved over the last two decades. The study we’re discussing is a scoping review titled “A scoping review of the evaluation and effectiveness of technical assistance,” published in Implementation Science Communications.
What is Technical Assistance?
Technical Assistance refers to a hands-on, individualized approach to building capacity in organizations and communities. It involves providing tailored guidance to meet specific needs through collaborative communication. TA services can include coaching, consulting, facilitation, and more. It’s notably used in fields such as child welfare, youth development, education, and community health.
The Study’s Approach
The study used a methodological framework involving six stages, including identifying research questions, selecting studies, and charting data. They focused on peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2020, covering a range of topics like the methods used to measure TA, the nature of TA outputs and outcomes, and sustainable improvements resulting from TA.
Growth in TA Recognition and Reporting
- There’s been an increase in publications about TA over the last two decades, indicating growing recognition and reporting in this field.
- TA is implemented across various settings, often targeting socially vulnerable and under-resourced populations.
- Most studies used summative evaluations, focusing on organizational-level outcomes. However, only a small percentage examined the sustainability of these outcomes.
Lack of Consistent Standards
- There’s an evident lack of consistent standards in defining TA and reporting its evaluation, which hampers understanding its true effectiveness.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The study concludes that advancements in TA’s science and practice hinge on understanding its effective aspects and for whom it works best. It calls for a standard definition of TA, more robust evaluation research designs, reliable and objective measures, and the development of reporting standards. This groundwork is vital for improving the evaluation and practice of TA.
Implications for the Future
This study provides valuable insights for implementation science frameworks. Understanding TA’s nuances and standardizing its evaluation can significantly enhance its effectiveness, especially in sectors like health and education.