Improving knowledge mobilisation in healthcare: a qualitative exploration of creative co-design methods

Dan Wolstenholme

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Improving knowledge mobilisation in healthcare: a qualitative exploration of creative co-design methods‘, part of the Special Issue on Creativity and Co-production.

Creative methods help get evidence and policy into practice

Evaluating 14 healthcare improvement and research projects that used creative methods, we identified three interconnected themes that result in the optimal conditions for getting evidence into practice.

Co-production, co-creation and co-design are increasingly used in healthcare research knowledge mobilisation. These methods have grown in popularity, and the broad range of approaches are often used uncritically. Our recently published Evidence & Policy paper focuses on the creativity component of these approaches, specifically when working with design professionals.

In our paper, we identify a virtuous cycle between the three themes identified that help get knowledge, in all its forms, into practice. The three themes are: creative and visual, design led, and creating the right conditions. Removing any element from the themes results in sub-optimal conditions for co-production.

For example, removing the designer and the tools, techniques, and expertise that they bring could negatively impact on participants’ ability to cooperate, and explore alternative options and examine how objects can work in the real world. Without the development of tangible prototypes, participants may not feel that their ideas have been valued. This means outputs could lack ownership by participants and be less implementable.

Likewise, without the structured and staggered, novel and informal creative activities, participants may not feel relaxed or develop trust with the techniques or other participants. This could affect the creation of the safe space to share knowledge within. If more traditional activities are used, they may favour the more professional attitudes and knowledge of the group thus reinforcing hierarchies.

Practising what we suggest, the illustration below helps visualise the relationships between these themes and the outcome of improved knowledge mobilisation.


We argue that it is the synergistic relationship between the elements of the three themes that create the egalitarian, utilitarian and emancipatory conditions required for genuine engagement, co-production and improved knowledge mobilisation.

Dan Wolstenholme is the Director of Clinical Quality at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. @wolstenholme_d


You can read the original research in Evidence & Policy:

Grindell, C. Sanders, T. Bec, R. Tod, A.M. and Wolstenholme, D. (2022). Improving knowledge mobilisation in healthcare: a qualitative exploration of creative co-design methods. Evidence & Policy, DOI: 10.1332/174426421X16436512504633. OPEN ACCESS


Image credit: Author’s own.


If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Using Forum Theatre to mobilise knowledge and improve NHS care: the Enhancing Post-injury Psychological Intervention and Care (EPPIC) study OPEN ACCESS

Creative processes in co-designing a co-design hub: towards system change in health and social services in collaboration with structurally vulnerable populations OPEN ACCESS

Creative and collaborative reflective thinking to support policy deliberation and decision making OPEN ACCESS


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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