Evidence-based practice in social care: straitjacket – or fluid support?

Isabella Pistone, Allan Lidström, Ingemar Bohlin, Thomas Schneider, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Morten Sager

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Evidence-based practice and management-by-knowledge of disability care: Rigid constraint or fluid support?’.

Evidence-based practice in social work is often critiqued for constraining practices by emphasising rigid methods and standardised interventions that exclude professional and clients’ experiences. Our research within disability care found rather it catalysed a dynamic interplay between local and external knowledge, as explained in our recently published Evidence & Policy article.

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Breaking the fourth wall: evidence communication inside policy organisations

Christiane Gerblinger

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, ‘Peep show: a framework for watching how evidence is communicated inside policy organisations’.

Seeing how governments formulate decisions is a crucial component of their ability to claim democratic legitimacy. This includes being seen to draw on the knowledge and evidence produced by their civil service policy advisers. Yet much of the advice provided to governments is being increasingly withdrawn from public accessibility.

With governments likely to benefit from a status quo that normalises withdrawal of policy processes and rationales from public view, it is important to find alternative ways to illuminate how policy officials communicate their evidence and how that evidence is used in political contexts by governments to make decisions on our behalf.

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In the age of evidence-based decision-making, where can education decision makers really turn for evidence?

Fiona Hollands and Venita Holmes

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article, Comparing evidence on the effectiveness of reading resources from expert ratings, practitioner judgements, and research repositories’.

In 20172018, a large school district in the U.S. was threatened by the state education agency with closure of 23 struggling elementary schools unless it could improve students’ performance on state-mandated assessments. The district’s Office of Elementary Curriculum and Development immediately tried to determine which reading resources (reading programmes, assessments, online tools, book collections, and professional development supports) were available at each school and to assess their effectiveness at improving student reading proficiency. To help with this evaluation task, our research-practice team explored various options for quickly providing suitable evidence on the effectiveness of each of 23 reading resources used at one or more of these schools. We expected to find reasonable consistency across multiple sources of information that we could use to help guide the district’s actions. The results were not quite as expected.

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Embedding researchers in service organisations: what do initiatives look like and how can they be cultivated?

Dr Vicky Ward

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy articles ‘Embedding researchers into organisations: a study of the features of embedded research initiatives‘ and ‘A framework to support the design and cultivation of embedded research initiatives‘.

Embedding researchers in service organisations is the latest in a long line of approaches to better link the worlds of research and practice. Embedded researchers have become particularly popular in the field of healthcare, but can also be found in education and local government. As with any new initiative, one of the big questions on people’s minds is ‘does it work’? The problem, though, is that until now we haven’t had a clear picture of what ‘it’ (i.e. embedded research) is and how those interested in the approach might design an initiative.

To address this, our research team (a diverse group including researchers and healthcare managers) set out to better understand what embedded research initiatives look like in practice and produce a practical framework for anyone involved in designing or cultivating an initiative.

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Guidelines for healthcare about promotion of healthy lifestyle habits – what knowledge should they be based on?

Helena Lagerlöf, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Morten Sager

This blog post is based on the Evidence & Policy article ‘Epistemological deliberation: the challenges of producing evidence-based guidelines on lifestyle habits

Drafting recommendations is an art that requires more attention to the choices between different views of knowledge, formats and standards and their ramifications.

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PODCAST: The many faces of disability

This podcast is based on the special issue of Evidence & Policy ‘‘The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice: embracing complexity.

Carol Rivas and Ikuko Tomomatsu

In this episode of the Transforming Society Podcast, Jess Miles speaks with Carol Rivas and Ikuko Tomomatsu, two of the guest editors of a special issue of Evidence & PolicyThe many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice: embracing complexity’.

They discuss the problems with current representations of disability, recent examples of policy that has failed disabled people and the changes that could be made so people with disabilities can be better supported and allowed to participate in policy making.

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Four things we have learned about national evaluation policies in Africa

Caitlin Blaser-Mapitsa, Takunda Chirau and Matodzi Amisi

National evaluation policies are one way of demonstrating a willingness in government to promote the use of evidence in a systemic way. Our recently published Evidence & Policy article, ‘Policies for evidence: a comparative analysis of Africa’s national evaluation policy landscape‘, explores the relationship between evaluation policies and evaluation systems. We have found that policies are one piece of the puzzle acting to strengthen undertaking of evaluations, evidence use, and build evaluation practice in Africa.

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We can make better evidence for social policy by seeing participation differently

Sally Robinson, kylie valentine and Jan Idle

This blog post is part of a series linked to the Evidence & Policy Special Issue (Volume 17, Issue 2): The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice. Guest Edited by Carol Rivas, Ikuko Tomomatsu and David Gough. This post is based on the Special Issue article, ‘Disability and family violence prevention: a case study on participation in evidence making‘.

Early intervention and prevention are ideas so sound in theory that no one would ever disagree with promoting them. Of course it is better to prevent a problem than wait until it occurs before doing something about it! Equally, better protection for women and children who are especially vulnerable to domestic and family violence is also unanimously supported. So why is violence prevention for women and children with disability so hard to achieve? Why, when it has been known for years that the risks of violence for this group are even higher than the (already high) risks for all women and children, and resources have been allocated in multiple strategies and programmes, are they still so likely to experience these harms?

One key explanation is that current ways to gather evidence for policy are too narrow and formal to capture the everyday practices, relationships and decisions that make policy and programmes work. If so, what is the alternative? Our Evidence & Policy article describes a violence prevention project that investigates the strengths and challenges of current efforts, using a case study approach and focusing on the perspectives and priorities of disabled adults and children, and of service providers.

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Why should market stewardship draw on lived experience evidence?

Ariella Meltzer, Helen Dickinson, Eleanor Malbon and Gemma Carey

This blog post is part of a series linked to the Evidence & Policy Special Issue (Volume 17, Issue 2): The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice. Guest Edited by Carol Rivas, Ikuko Tomomatsu and David Gough. This post is based on the Special Issue article, ‘Why is lived experience important for market stewardship? A proposed framework for why and how lived experience should be included in stewarding disability markets‘.

Many countries are moving towards market-based provision of human services, with ‘quasi-markets’ in place. Quasi-markets are different to the conventional markets we are used to within our daily lives, as they require governments to play a role in helping to steer them to success. This is known as ‘market stewardship’. In our Evidence & Policy article, we explore the types of evidence that government uses to make decisions about how quasi-markets should run.

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Listen to people with disabilities when gathering evidence for policy

Carol Rivas

This blog post is part of a series linked to the Evidence & Policy Special Issue (Volume 17, Issue 2): The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice. Guest Edited by Carol Rivas, Ikuko Tomomatsu and David Gough. This post is based on the Special Issue Editorial, ‘The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice: embracing complexity’.

Everyone’s a patient’ is a refrain occasionally heard from professional health policy actors dismissive of health service user evidence; they argue that their own lived experience of a visit to the doctor’s gives them sufficient authority.  The fallacy of this is suggested by an eminent psychiatrist’s astonishment at his treatment when hospitalised with a complex leg fracture. A fleeting association with primary care does not equate with the expertise developed by those with conditions with no quick fix – chronic conditions and disabilities. The much-discussed PACE trial shows how political tensions can arise from a disconnect between researchers who make flawed assumptions and those they seek to help. 

So how can we ensure the ‘technical precision and expressive function’ of evidence meet the diverse needs, theoretical and ideological assumptions and priorities of the range of policy actors? How can we prevent procedural values-based decisions driven by political contingencies, drawing selectively on evidence, or the lack of representation or partial representation of disability diversity within evidence and policy?

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