Using Research to Influence Family Services and Policies

The following was first published on Centre for Research on Families and Relationships’ (CRFR) blog and is reposted here with permission.
CRFR co-director Sarah Morton and colleagues Sandra Nutley (Director of the Research Unit for Research Utilisation, www.ruru.ac.uk) and David Phipps (Director of Research Servics & Knowledge Exchange at York University, Canada) offer seven lessons, and associated challenges, to improve how research is used in policy and practice in a recent article in the new journal Families Societies and Relationships.
  1. Set realistic ambitions and expectations: Research is one form of knowledge that policy makers and practitioners will be using, but it is rare for research to have the definitive word.
  2. Improve research strategies to ensure they address relevant issues and expand our knowledge base rather than unwittingly replicate existing studies. Reviewing research and evaluation processes helps to ensure that research responds to relevant issues and address the main knowledge gaps.
  3. Shape – as well as respond to – policy and practice debates: Take up opportunities to influence policy and practice debates when they appear, – rather than waiting for opportunities to open up, work with advocacy organisations to raise issues of concern and get debates going.
  4. Create dialogue around research by pulling together different perspectives: Research on its own does not create change, but it can influence it. Encourage dialogues between people that recognises research needs to interact with practice experience and tacit knowledge.
  5. Recognise the role of dedicated knowledge broker organisations and networks: There are increasing numbers of knowledge broker organisations and networks who can help to facilitate the creation, sharing and application of research-based knowledge.
  6. Target multiple audiences to increase the reach and impact of your message: Disseminate research findings into wider political and public debate, alongside more targeted approaches. This might be targeting influential people, participating in media debates, speaking at policy and practice conferences and seminars or responding to consultation processes.
  7. Evaluate, learn, improve: Knowledge exchange is still an immature discipline; only through improved evaluation and learning will our understanding of effective strategies develop over time.
Don’t forget that challenges remain:
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