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:

How to Assess the Impact of Your Research / Comment mesurer l’impact de votre recherche

Michael Johnny, RIR-York

Impact has become a significant component of the research cycle but how does one actually do this?  Dr. Sarah Morton from the University of Edinburgh offers a one-day workshop with methodologies to assess the impact of your research.

L’impact est devenu un aspect très important du cycle de la recherche, mais comment doit-on procéder pour le mesurer? La professeure Sarah Morton de l’Université d’Édimbourg offre un atelier d’une journée au cours duquel sont présentées des méthodologies permettant de mesurer l’impact de vos recherches.

David Phipps of York University (@researchimpact) has recently written about Knowledge Hypocrites.  Well, I for one am taking action (sort of).  I wouldn’t exactly call myself a bookworm, but I am taking opportunity to learn from other professionals to help inform my practice.  Perhaps not a direct solution to David’s point, but I am happy about opportunities to learn from leaders in KMb from Canada and internationally.

A recent post shared my experience attending a workshop from Peter Levesque of Knowledge Mobilization Works.  The following week I attended a day-long session led by Sarah Morton (recently Dr. Sarah Morton) of the University of Edinburgh, Co-Director Communication and Knowledge Exchange within the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships.  The topic of Sarah’s workshop was how to assess the impact of your research.

I was one of 12 present and felt I was in a unique position, whereas I am not directly involved in or leading a research project, but play a brokering role in developing research projects.  For the purposes of the workshop I used York University’s partnership with the United Way of York Region as an example (we are piloting a community knowledge broker role).  For me, in my experience, impact is misunderstood with outcomes, or even outputs.  So it was refreshing (and validating) for me to hear Sarah speak about a process of inputs, activities, uptake, use and impact.

The significant takeaway for me was a mapping exercise which will help me working with university researchers in developing knowledge mobilization plans.  In Sarah’s research and experience, embarking on a process of examining potential assumptions and risks around the process listed above can actually help determine potential indicators around impact.  Unlocking a procedure to support this process will help me in my brokering work.  The fact that I can employ the tools and not have to read Sarah’s dissertation makes my life somewhat easier.  Can I declare myself hypocrisy-free?  No, not yet, but I do prefer this active process of knowledge exchange.  My thanks to Sarah for sharing her research and methodologies to further unpack the notion of impact in research.