Even though major measures are taken to reduce bullying, the national figures in Sweden has stayed the same for the last decade. The schools are trying hard to combat bullying, but too often the interventions that are used to stop and prevent bullying are not effective.

Together with Örebro University, Friends International Center has initiated a unique project aiming to develop and evaluate a unique systematic approach to prevent bullying and discrimination based on best-known research. The project will combine a systematic strategy with the benefits that arise in taking a whole community approach in an entire municipality and integrate the work against bullying from preschool to upper secondary school.

The project will go on for three years and the strategies will be based on each school’s specific challenges and context. Other anti-bullying programs have been developed as “set-menus”, which means that the development and evaluation of preventative programs against bullying have been based on a “one size fits all” idea. There is now a great demand for a systematic strategy that is based on an “a la carte”-approach, in which schools choose different components based on their specific needs and context. The schools’ unique preconditions and complexity clearly points out that the needs of the schools vary. The use of preventative measures is highly context-dependent. Contexts, seen from a socio-ecological perspective, depend on varying conditions in each school. It is crucial for the development as well as the implementation of different measures that the context is analyzed, and that specific problems in each school are highlighted and understood in the specific context of that school. Previous research shows that different types of measures lead to a wide variety of effects, depending on the context in which the measures are used. As presented in the evaluation of Swedish anti-bullying programs 2007-2010:

Actual results from this evaluation emphasize the importance of gathering contextual data, not just because of the possibility of iatrogenic outcomes, but because an effective component in one circumstance may prove ineffective or even counter effective in outwardly similar circumstances. On a systemic level schools can vary considerably. (Lessons From a Concurrent Evaluation of Eight Antibullying Programs Used in Sweden. 2013. Erik Flygare, Peter Edward Gill, Björn Johansson. American Journal of Evaluation Vol 34, Issue 2, pp. 170 – 189)

This demands a high quality of the analysis made in the schools. Both regarding selection and use of various preventative measures, aiming at each school’s specific causes of bullying. It also places high demands on the selection of different research-based intervention.  School-specific work against bullying needs to be based on best-known practices for specific problems. To meet this, Friends recently developed a training program based on an analysis of each school and an arrangement in which the specific results of the school’s situation determines further work. The need for a new understanding of anti-bullying work and more effective evaluation methods cannot be emphasized enough.

Within this project, Friends will develop a unique multi-level school-based training program against bullying and implement it on a municipality level. The project will develop evaluation methods that analyzes the specific context for a school, and these methods will be used by schools in order to understand and implement research-based methods against bullying and discrimination. The final approaches will be disseminated nationally as well as internationally after the project period.

This project has been made possible with support from the Stenbeck Foundation and the Swedish Postcode Lottery. The first steps of the project have been taken during October 2017.