Challenges in project design

There can be a number of issues in designing peer-based programs which can present challenges including unclear aims and objectives, choosing inappropriate design and setting, limited evaluation and a lack of clarity around program and individual boundaries.

Programs can have unclear aims and objectives

A lack of clarity in program aims and objectives can lead to difficulties determining whether the project was successful in achieving the outcomes that it set out to accomplish.1

Aims and objectives should link strongly to evaluation and should be SMART-Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific.1

There may be inappropriate design and settings

There can be a discrepancy between project design and external factors that impact and should dictate the project’s design (determining whether to use a formal approach etc). Project design should be based on its aims and objectives and will be impacted by the target group, available resources, project timeframe and setting in which the program is implemented.

Projects also need to determine whether they will take a formal or informal approach to their work. The evidence isn’t consistent as to which has greater success, and selection should be based on ability to provide training, supervise the program and the needs of the target group.1

Thought also needs to be given as to the appropriateness of the setting in which the program takes place. A highly structured environment such as a school may not work for very marginalised groups, and may in fact not reach those that the program is actually designed for. In this case a community based setting may be more appropriate.2

There may be limited evaluation

Another issue for peer-based programs is a lack of evaluation. Evaluation of peer-based programs has not been extensive in the past resulting in a lack of evidence of the effectiveness of peer-based programs for their target group and for the educators themselves.1-4


  1. Walker, S & Avis, M 1999, Common reasons why peer education fails. Journal of Adolescence. 22(4): 573-577.
  2. Shiner, M 1999, Defining Peer Education. Journal of Adolescence, 22: 555-566.
  3. Turner, G 1999, ‘Peer support and young people’s health’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 567-72.
  4. Milburn, K 1995, A critical review of peer education with young people with special reference to sexual health. Health Education Research, 10: 407-20.