Evidence-based practice in social care and health is widely promoted. However, making it a reality remains challenging, in part because practitioners generally see knowledge that comes from practice as more relevant than academic research and often find research evidence inaccessible and shrouded by complex language and terminology. The Developing Evidence Enriched Practice (DEEP) research project sought to address this. The study resulted in the development of an approach to using research evidence that is participatory, meaningful and effective
The initial action research project was funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales. It ran from 2014-2016 in 6 sites across Wales and Scotland, in which older people, carers, practitioners, managers and researchers worked collaboratively, using a conversation style storytelling approach, to explore and address seven already published research-based ‘Challenges’ regarding what matters most to older people with high-support needs. Taking a participatory, caring and emergent approach, participants discovered and addressed five elements required in developing evidence-enriched practice, which were:
- the creation of supportive and relationship-centred research and practice environments;
- the valuing and inclusion of diverse types of evidence (i.e. research knowledge, lived experience, practitioner and organisational knowledge);
- the use of engaging narratives to capture and share evidence;
- the use of dialogue-based approaches to learning and development;
- and the recognition and resolution of systemic barriers to development.
Although existing literature covers each element, this project was novel in collectively exploring and addressing all five elements together, and in its use of multiple forms of story, which engaged hearts and minds.
The project was very successful and led to changes in policy and practice across the various sites. For example, in one site (a third sector housing with support organisation) they changed their professional boundaries policy to support the development of reciprocal caring relationships between service users and staff, which enhanced the well-being of all concerned.
The research led to an ongoing programme of DEEP learning and development work funded by Health and Care Research Wales. This has included the development of:
From 2020-23, the DEEP approach is being strategically embedded in the learning, development and performance work of national organisations, e.g. Social Care Wales.