Better Than Well (BTW) is a student addiction recovery programme run by the University of Birmingham. It was launched in July 2021, with support from The CrEdo Foundation. The programme emerged from recent evidence indicating that the number of young people with addictions is increasing, whilst concurrently the number of people entering professional treatment is decreasing. Existing support groups don’t often meet the needs of young adults with addictions—young adults can, if they choose to seek support, encounter barriers continuing their university education. Peer-led support programs, coined Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs), exist in small numbers in US higher education and have been proven effective with addictions. Using this evidence, the University of Birmingham launched the BTW programme in the UK, with the hope that this could provide a template approach to supporting student addiction recovery across the UK. NPC was commissioned to further develop the theory of change for the programme.
NPC firstly conducted stakeholder interviews with the university programme team and the funder (The CrEdo Foundation) to understand the objectives, perspectives, and limitations of the current theory of change. From these conversations, it was clear that a focus group with students currently enrolled in the programme was an essential research component to both the BTW team and NPC. This focus group with the students explored: a) goals and barriers to achieving goals; b) the role of BTW in achieving the goals; and c) how the students engaged with the programme. We fed the insights from the student focus group into the final theory of change workshop with the programme team, which utilised our theory of change in ten steps guide. NPC consolidated all the information and perspectives that were shared to produce a refined version of the BTW theory of change.
Paramount to the project, the refined version of the theory of change directly reflects the views of students currently enrolled in the programme. This supports BTW to articulate the value of the programme to students and will also enable BTW to later refine the programme design to maximise its future impact. Additionally, the process strengthened the BTW team and solidified a shared understanding of the programme and its objectives. The theory of change has further provided a strong foundation to guide monitoring and evaluation and support communications about the programme’s success.