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Connecting evidence, policy and practice in an era of austerity, complexity and decentralised decision making Maps, routes and shoes Sandra Nutley

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Presentation on theme: "Connecting evidence, policy and practice in an era of austerity, complexity and decentralised decision making Maps, routes and shoes Sandra Nutley"— Presentation transcript:

1 Connecting evidence, policy and practice in an era of austerity, complexity and decentralised decision making Maps, routes and shoes Sandra Nutley

2 The inspiration ‘Arguably the role of social research becomes more important to guide practice in an era of austerity than one of affluence’ (SRA, UK, 2010) ‘There seems to be broad [bipartisan] agreement: We need an evidence-based system to guide future budget decisions that assesses the relative performance and impact of all government programs’ (Center for American Progress, USA, July 2011) Underpinning rationale: Evidence-based policies and practices ‘more likely to be better informed, more effective and less expensive’

3 “There is nothing a politician likes so little as to be well-informed. It makes decision making so complex and difficult.” (John Maynard Keynes) “For me, politics shouldn’t be some mind-bending exercise. It’s about what you feel in your gut” (David Cameron, April 2011) Familiar concerns

4 Possibly not so familiar concerns ‘There is actually very little evidence that can adequately inform what KTE strategies work in what contexts’ (p 756) ‘KTE, at least as conceptualised to date, simply does not fit with the underlying politics of health policymaking’ (p 757) Mitton et al 2007

5 1.Policy and practice context 2.Knowledge-to-action (KTA) thinking, models and initiatives 3.Implications for connecting evidence, policy and practice

6 1. Policy and practice context

7 Financial austerity Concurrent huge increase in demand for public services due to demographic and social pressures Conclusion: Radical reform required. Continuing to deliver services using current models won’t work Outlook for Scottish public expenditure Source: Christie Commission 2011

8 Austerity: more a threat than opportunity? Job cuts for researchers in government Research and evaluation budgets slashed Researchers & evaluators having to do more with less ‘One person's riot is another’s research grant’ But Research impact demands have raised status of applied/policy- related research in universities Politicians still reach for research as a tactic

9 Complexity: ‘wicked’ nature of many social problems Social problems often interdependent with complex causal relationships Knowledge base for understanding problems and possible solutions often uncertain, fragmented and contested Stakeholders may hold divergent and extreme views, and be unfamiliar with and resist other perspectives Head, 2008

10 Complexity: public service systems Various combinations of hierarchy, market, community and network approaches to service delivery Greater decentralisation of decision making, service commissioning and procurement in many countries E.g. Growing complexity of education systems due to: –Diversity of stakeholder preferences and expectations –More decentralised and flexible governance structures –Additional layers of governance at international and transnational levels –Rapidly changing and spreading ICTs OECD/CERI, 2007

11 2. KTA thinking, models and initiatives

12 Forms of research use Direct (instrumental) –Knowledge-driven –Problem-solving (or engineering) Indirect (conceptual) –Social interaction –Enlightenment (or percolation) Symbolic –Political –Tactical Source: Weiss 1979

13 Importance of informal carers… Restorative justice Choose life suicide policy Harm reduction in substance misuse… Importance of early years Enhancing self-care… The happiness and well-being agenda… Impact often occurs via indirect & subtle routes, which may involve symbolic use along the way

14 Three generations of knowledge to action (KTA) thinking Knowledge transfer Knowledge exchange Knowledge integration Knowledge a product – degree of use a function of effective packaging Knowledge the result of social & political processes – degree of use a function of effective relationships and interaction Knowledge embedded in systems and cultures – degree of use a function of effective integration with organisations and systems Source: Best et al 2009

15 Good at… The importance of context, networks & systems; Social and collective learning, and unlearning; Interaction with other types of knowledge (tacit; experiential; political awareness); ‘Use’ as an adaptive process - not an event; Non-individualised embedded uses of research; Inherent non-linearity of systems. …moving us away from ideas of research as “answers”, which need to be packaged … problematising “knowledge transfer” Begins to emphasise…

16 Know-about problems: the nature and formation of social problems. Know-what works: what policies, strategies or interventions will bring about desired outcomes Know-how (to put into practice): e.g. knowledge about effective programme implementation. Know-who (to involve): e.g. getting stakeholder buy-in and building alliances for action. Know-why (requirements of action): relationship between values & policy/practice. Know-whether having any impact: monitoring, evaluation and accountability Knowledge required for effective policies and services

17 Knowledge-to-action (KTA) models A bewildering array of models, frameworks and theories (63 models identified by Ward et al 2009) Drawn from wide range of disciplines - very varied levels of evidential support Most models reflect first or second generation thinking Models focused on a spectrum of concerns (Davies et al 2011): Increasing the use of explicit (what works) knowledge Creating environment that encourages engagement with wide variety of knowledge Most KTA models clustered towards the left- hand side of this spectrum Implementation frameworksInteractional frameworks

18 KTA process often viewed as an iterative cycle, especially when concerned with instrumental use (Jones et al 2009)

19 Knowledge-to-action initiatives Many and varied: International/national/local focus Policy/practice focus Individuals/groups/organisations/systems focus Top down Evidence to practice Bottom up Practice to evidence No child left behind (NCLB), USA Project Oracle, London Center for Court Innovation, NY, USA Centre for Effective Services, Ireland NB: Researcher/university driven initiatives still often based on knowledge push models (Qi & Leven, 2011)

20 3. Implications for connecting evidence, policy and practice

21 Those wishing to negotiate the research use/impact terrain… Need good maps of the policy/practice context at different levels of detail

22 Context matters: factors explaining use/non-use Political culture factors – e.g. shared or conflicting values, adversarial or consensual political frameworks, extent of deference to technical expertise Policy domain factors – e.g. settled or contentious problems, actors, structures and issue histories Coordination and integration capacities – e.g. extent of central control, system capacities for policy development and implementation Organisational capacities and processes – e.g. supply of analytical skills, receptivity to outside information, routine requirements and procedures Cross-sectoral relationships – institutionalisation of cross- sectoral processes such as bridging organisations and networks Head (2011)

23 Those wishing to negotiate the research use/impact terrain… Will find many generic route guides, not all of which are based on fieldwork! Often not clear what routes to pursue in which context And to complicate matters, researchers need to decide which shoes they want to wear… Need good maps of the policy/practice context at different levels of detail

24 Researcher rightly take different stances in relation to policy/practice The consensual approach – working with the grain of current policy/practice. The critical and contentious approach – “keeping the system honest”. Paradigm challenging – subverting current thinking and perhaps proposing new principles for action.

25 There are some schemas of the relationship between certain routes and aspects of context that are worthy of further consideration and development

26 Contandriopoulos et al 2010 Models of use in relation to cost-sharing and polarisation dimensions of the context

27 Fazekas & Burns 2011

28 In the meantime, some general guidance based on RURU’s work Research Unit for Research Utilisation (RURU) – developing cross-sector knowledge on research use

29 Generic features of effective practices to increase research use  Research must be translated - adaptation of findings to specific policy and practice contexts  Ownership is key – though there are exceptions where implementation is received or perceived as coercive  Need for enthusiasts - champions - personal contact is most effective  Contextual analysis - understanding and targeting specific barriers to, and enablers of, change  Credibility - strong evidence from trusted source, inc. endorsement from opinion leaders  Leadership - within research impact settings  Support - ongoing financial, technical & emotional support  Integration - of new activities with existing systems and activities Source: Nutley et al 2007

30 Research Unit for Research Utilisation (www.ruru.ac.uk – new website coming soon!)www.ruru.ac.uk Thank You!

31 Key references Best A, Terpstra JL, Moor G, Riley B, Norman CD, Glasgow RE, (2009) "Building knowledge integration systems for evidence-informed decisions", Journal of Health Organization and Management, 23(6): Contandriopoulos, D., Lemire, M., Denis, J-L. & Tremblay, E. (2010) “Knowledge Exchange Processes in Organizations and Policy Arenas: A Narrative Systematic Review of the Literature” The Milbank Quarterly 88(4): Davies HTO, Powell A, Ward V and Smith S (2011) Supporting NHS Scotland in developing a new Knowledge-to-Action Model, Unpublished report available from University of St Andrews Fazekas M & Burns T (2011) Exploring the complex interaction between governance and knowledge, A draft EDU/CERI paper, OECD Head B (2008) “Assessing network-based collaborations” Public Management Review, 10(6): Head B (2011) “Comparative Analysis of Research/Policy Relationships – challenges and agendas”, presentation to panel on the comparative study of EBPP, IRSPM conference, Dublin, 12 April

32 References (cont.) Jones et al (2009) Knowledge, policy and power: six dimensions of the knowledge-development policy interface, London: ODI Mitton et al (2007) “Knowledge transfer and exchange: Review and synthesis of the literature”, The Milbank Quarterly 85(4): Nutley, S.M., Walter, I., & Davies, H.T.O. (2007) Using evidence: how research can inform public services. Policy Press. Bristol. Puttick R ed (2011) Using evidence to improve social policy and practice: perspectives on how research and evidence can influence decision- making, London: Alliance for Useful Evidence/NESTA Ward, V., House, A., & Hamer, S. (2009) “Developing a framework for transferring knowledge into action: a thematic analysis of the literature” Journal of Health Services Research and Policy 14: Weiss CH (1999) “The interface between evaluation and public policy”, Evaluation 5(4):


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