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Social Policy Evaluation Collaborative Team Research at Universities in Manitoba

A photograph focused on one table people. There are notebooks and a laptop and they are having a discussion 

A photograph focused on one table people. There are notebooks and a laptop and they are having a discussion 

Welcome to SPECTRUM – a partnership between community, academia and government aimed at solving complex social policy challenges through social policy research and evaluation.


Public policies guide the development and administration of social services and systems that support a fair and just society. These services include the public education system, the justice system, family services, social housing and income supports. However, social services are often designed and implemented in a 'siloed' manner and coordination across departments, sectors and organizations is sorely lacking. Further, because of data and resource constraints, social services and systems are rarely evaluated to ensure they meet the needs of the people for whom they are intended. In many cases, they fail to address the needs of individuals, families and communities, resulting in poor outcomes and wasted resources across multiple areas.

Partnership Approach:
SPECTRUM uses an equity-focused, decolonizing and anti-oppressive lens and a participatory action, multi-method research approach to centre the voices of our partners and the communities they serve. We value relationships and the grounded knowledge and experiences our partners bring to the research. Since 2019, we have been meeting regularly at partnership engagement and capacity building workshops, through which we have developed a process for brainstorming new research ideas and selecting projects to pursue. Partners play an active role in the research in smaller working groups. Our first research project compares the outcomes of children in out-of-home care vs children receiving protection services while remaining at home. The research is guided by an advisory circle of stakeholders and people with lived/living experience to ensure the findings will support advocacy and efforts. Having built considerable policy capacity in the partnership, SPECTRUM's public policy strategists are now working with partners on policy implementation based on the evidence generated. The result of SPECTRUM's innovative approach will be stronger public policies supported by a network of academic and community experts that decision-makers can draw on, ensuring that social services reach their intended recipients and provide the expected benefits.


SPECTRUM member discusses data equity in the collection and use of administrative data

Laura Bee has long brown hair in a side braid and leans against a wall

Data equity specialist aims for justice in health research
April 1, 2024 — Allison Mayes, UM Today

Scientists tend to assume that the information stored in health-care databases – such as records of medical diagnoses and prescriptions – paints a complete, factual picture. But the more you examine health data through a lens of equity, inclusion and justice, the more you recognize its biases and exclusions, says Dr. Laura Bowler. Bowler, who joined UM in 2023, is the first person to hold the position of data equity specialist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP), a research unit in the Max Rady College of Medicine. “It’s important to understand that this isn’t objective data,” says Bowler, noting that power, privilege and systemic oppression play roles in who is counted and how data can be skewed.

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