Our strategy in summary
At the end of 2018, Drinkaware applied the Theory of Change to the development of the charity’s Strategic Plan 2019-2021, building on the achievements of its previous three-year plan. A lot has happened in Ireland, and indeed the world, since then, and with this in mind the latest three-year strategy outlined below speaks to the evolving narrative of alcohol use/misuse in Ireland.
In creating the strategic plan for 2022-2024 the Drinkaware team turned to research. With the critical questions of, what is the evidence telling us? What are people’s lived experiences? And what is the change we seek?
Drinkaware’s vision is, as it has always been, an Ireland where alcohol is not misused. Our vision and mission are our driving force, continually prompting us to reflect on how we can use our resources and expertise to meaningfully contribute to this ambitious societal change.
The success in our approach can be found in the increasing number of people looking to change their attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol, illustrated by the growing and high levels of engagement with our website drinkaware.ie (half a million visits in 2020) and the increasing numbers of those wishing to drink less and those who have already made small positive changes to their drinking habits in the past three years (Drinkaware Barometer 2021).
Our contribution to change as per our current Strategic Plan 2022-2024, focuses on four Levers of Change.
1. Improved knowledge: ‘I know/understand what misuse is’
Knowledge is the first step. If people do not have the information and knowledge of what risky drinking or alcohol misuse is, they cannot know if their drinking behaviours are at a level which can harm their health. Drinkaware provides the educational resources that support behaviour change, and clear public health information and guidance so that Irish adults are supported and enabled to make informed decisions around their drinking habits
2. Increased motivation: ‘I want/intend to change’
Drinkaware facilitates a supportive and inclusive movement which encourages and inspires positive behaviour change. Through increased understanding of the benefits of drinking less or cutting out alcohol entirely, individuals can find the motivation to change their drinking habits. And by furthering a narrative that speaks to change, Drinkaware promotes the possibility of change.
3. Improved capacity/capability: ‘I can/have the ability to change’
Changing drinking habits can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Change must always be accessible. Our tone and practical evidence-based tools are designed to improve the capacity for change. By equipping Irish adults with the tools that they need to change their drinking habits in accessible and practical language, so that more people will feel empowered to make a change.
4. Reduced expectation: ‘I don’t expect/feel I have to drink’
There can be a societal expectation to drink alcohol in Ireland. Through education and awareness programmes, and the promoting a different healthier narrative, Drinkaware empowers people to have a different expectation. This is especially critical for the younger generations. Our alcohol education programmes in schools work to encourage young people’s delay of the age of first drink, by supporting positive intentions and expectancies and shifting the acceptance and expectancy of underage drinking.
Our Strategic Plan 2022-2024 has two clear goals. And our work across research, outreach & engagement and education, to deliver these, centres on five evidence-led themes:
Parents are role models, bar-setters and educators. It is vital that parents have the support and education they need to support the young people in their lives.
- Annual Barometer
Alcohol data is complex and needs thorough and investigative research. The Drinkaware barometers provide in-depth analysis on not just what we drink, but why. Understanding the behaviours, attitudes and motivations surrounding alcohol use informs all our work.
Education is vital in achieving the mission & vision of Drinkaware. To prevent and reduce alcohol misuse, people need to know and understand what misuse is. A key priority for Drinkaware is delaying the age of first drink and this cannot be achieved without evidence-based alcohol education.
- Young adults
Young adults experience high levels of stress and low mental well-being. Providing healthy, implementable and pragmatic coping mechanisms can assist young adults in making positive changes to their drinking habits.
- Health inequities
Different societal groups face different challenges. It is important that this is recognised to tackle health inequities.
Delivering programmes that focus on these themes, and trigger one or more of the stated levers of change, ensures our approach can make a genuine contribution to our two key goals for 2022-2024
Reduce risky drinking
Risky drinking is when a person is drinking over the recommended low-risk weekly guidelines for alcohol, or binge drinks (six or more standard drinks in one sitting) even if the drinking guidelines are adhered to.
Only 2% of Irish adults are aware of the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines, and only 1 in 10 Irish adults can identify the three most common standard drinks. This means that Irish adults are at risk of risky drinking and need more public health information regarding the guidelines to support and enable them to make positive changes to their drinking behaviours and attitudes.
Shift expectations & behaviour re. underage drinking
The tipping point for underage drinking in Ireland is 15 years old. At Drinkaware, we believe that alcohol has no place in childhood. We therefore created the independently evaluated Alcohol Education Programme (AEP) as a unique primary preventative measure, that has been delivered by over 313 trained teachers to over 15,000 1st to 3rd year students in schools across 25 counties in Ireland. Furthermore, as an independently evaluated programme, it has been shown to shift intent and behaviour, and is an important catalyst and facilitator of reducing underage drinking in Ireland.
Both drinking to excess, and drinking before the legal age of 18 years, is still widely accepted and assumed to be part of Irish culture. Drinkaware does not accept this, and we are determined to support individual and societal change.