Puna Whakataa is an innovative new alcohol and other drug (AOD) respite and treatment service funded by Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB). Using a combination of clinical and peer support, it is New Zealand’s first service providing short-term residential AOD respite, treatment and support for people with moderate to severe AOD issues, experiencing a significant life crisis or other transitional challenges.
Service goals include preventing an escalation of problems and providing a supported, safe environment where people can refocus on recovery. The service enables people to have time out, peace, good nutrition, healthy sleeping patterns, and to re-establish supports and links to services. It supports people to define their needs and plan for the active engagement of community resources to assist in meeting those needs.
Puna Whakataa is provided through a partnership between two community organisations: Connect Supporting Recovery and the Salvation Army. A shared service model was developed, reflecting a conscious and deliberate endeavour to merge and accommodate the values, practices and complementary strengths of the two organisations.
Given the innovative nature of the model and the expectation that some aspects of the service would develop and evolve over time, a developmental evaluation was conducted. Developmental evaluation has been defined as an evaluation where:
The evaluator is part of a design team whose members collaborate to conceptualize, design and test new approaches in a long-term, on-going process of development, adaptation and intentional change. The evaluator’s primary function in the team is to elucidate team discussions with evaluative data and logic, and to facilitate data-based decision making in the developmental process.
While developmental evaluation shares with formative evaluation the goal of informing service improvements, it does so in a more ongoing, incremental way. There is more emphasis on providing rapid feedback at regular intervals rather than collating findings for a ‘final report’. As a result, although evaluation reports are provided at agreed intervals, the principal value of a developmental evaluation often turns out to be the discussions and reflective ‘sense making’ that occur throughout the service development journey, informing management decisions and ongoing refinement of the service.
Ongoing evaluation services and support during the establishment and first 18 months of Puna Whakataa contributed to developing the effectiveness of the service. Through a series of cumulative quarterly cycles of planning, fieldwork, analysis and reporting, the evaluators:
Documented the story of the service’s development, evolution and transferrable learning that took place Facilitated sense-making workshops with the Steering and Governance Groups to harness and articulate shared aspirations, learning and planning
Benchmarked selected aspects of service operations against published good practice evidence to identify strengths and areas for development
Engaged with service users, families/whānau, peer support workers, clinicians, and wider sector stakeholders to garner thematic feedback on the quality and value of the service
Developed a health and wellbeing outcome tool that the service integrated into its goal planning and outcome measurement processes
Supported the service to collect timely data and information
Evaluated value for money provided by Puna Whakataa, and
Provided regular, ongoing feedback to inform service design and delivery.
 Smith (1994). From the Editor, Evaluation Practice, p220. Cited in Patton, M.Q. (2011). Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.