BLOG: Asking "So What?" when translating research into practice

10 May 2016

SPA team member Kim shares thoughts from day one of her UK Learning and Development program, written on the train from Manchester to London following a morning of meetings with the team from the Centre for Suicide Prevention (University of Manchester), led by Professor Nav Kapur.

We were lucky enough to have Professor Kapur join us in Perth (Western Australia) for the 2015 National Suicide Prevention Conference to share his thoughts and research, with a particular focus on risk assessments.

Today I met with Nav and members of the team to discuss how they engage stakeholders and disseminate their work in relation to three key areas:

I could talk for hours about their work, and still would not do the details of their research priorites and findings justice so please do go online to find out more about the fascinating and innovative work they are doing at the Centre. This afternoon I’d like to share just a few things with you that I found particularly interesting and applicable in Australia.

Focus on the SO WHAT? Factor

It was clear from conversation with all of the team members I spent time with that the Centre staff are increasingly focused on the “So what? factor”. That is, translating research into what works in practice; something I know is also key for our research institutes in Australia. Some of the ideas they have implemented to better communicate research findings (and are keen to do more of) include:

  • Producing ‘mini reports’, alongside detailed piece of research, that is focused on audience segments. For example, a one pager on a new piece of research “What does this mean for me as a service user?”
  • Producing scorecards based on data collected at a Trust level and held by the Centre so as to support them to improve quality and benchmark against others
  • An online self assessment toolkit for mental health providers summarizing key recommendations for clinical services made over several years using NCI data
  • A range of infographics to give a snapshot view of detailed data analysis.

The quality in qualitative research 

In all meetings, we talked quite a lot about how to better engage those with experience of using health services as well the general public (here they used the term Public and Patient Involvement or PPI).

For example, the NCI team do public calls for new ‘Topics’ which could mean a different way to look at existing data, or the introduction of a project to collect additional new data. Current topics include work on data around suicide in children and young people as well as a deeper look into data on service experiences of people with personality disorders.

I talked through the work Suicide Prevention Australia has been doing in relation to the Lived Experience Network, particularly how members of that network can self identify their preferred level of involvement as well as some of the guidance we’ve developed/and are developing around how to safely and meaningfully include people with lived experience of suicide.

On both sides of the pond, I think we still have a lot of work in how we engage these stakeholders but I have come away from these meetings encouraged by the work planned to amplify these voices in research and the translation of this research into practice.

“We don’t have data if we don’t have cooperation”

The work this team does wouldn’t be possible without forging sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with Government, service suppliers an other research bodies. For example, through being part of a multi centre project to collect, analyse and dissimenate research on self harm presentations (MaSH Project), they have been able to introduce National Guidelines and influence change in medication packaging/available dosages. This is real, tangible change made possible through collaborative data collection, careful analysis and joint review of recommendation implementation potential. 

It was also interesting to note that a relatively new recruit to the data collection team is a nurse by trade, bringing invaluable industry experience into the process. Simiarly, the Centre has just submitted findings from in hospital research on risk assessments for publication, work that was made possible through collaboration with every level of hospital administration and buy in from clinicians across the board. Again, the focus has been on going deeper into the data to decipher what really works in practice, both for the patient and the clinician. Stay tuned for that piece of work as well as follow up research designed to unpick findings even further with specific stakeholders such as paramedics and mental health consumer groups.

Many thanks again to the team at University of Manchester for welcoming me. This was a great start of three weeks interviewing and shadowing UK colleagues as part of the Ian Potter Foundation International Learning and Development Grant.

I have been staggered by the support shown by my UK colleagues so far, not only with their generosity in terms of time and invitations to internal meetings but also their individual enthusiasm to connect me to more of their networks. While I will be spending time with teams talking through policy alongside broader suicide prevention successes and challenges, the grant research I’ll be undertaking is specifically around stakeholder engagement and communications, covering questions such as:

  • How do our colleagues in the UK engage a diverse set of stakeholders in their programs and campaigns?
  • What processes are put in place to ensure meaningful inclusion of lived experience?
  • How do they measure successful engagement, both within the sector when working on collaborative initiatives and with external stakeholders in Government, business and community?

I will be reporting on my findings and observations at the 2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra in July. I will also be sharing my musings and key takeaways from these meetings along the way via a series of short blogs. It is my hope that Suicide Prevention Australia members and networks will find these observations useful in future engagement planning and at the very least be introduced to some interesting and innovative projects and contacts in the UK sparking more direct conversations and learnings.

If you have any questions or contacts you’d like me to add to my UK meeting schedule this month, please get in touch.

Kim Borrowdale, Head of Communications

Note. This blog has been published as part of Kim’s commitment to sharing lessons from the UK as recipient of an Ian Potter Foundation International Learning and Development Grant. 


Read 1 June blog post "National strategy and community action: Top down, bottom up and inbetween" 

Read 21 May blog post "No health without mental health: development sector lessons"

Read 19 May blog post "Give them a gift: Thinking differently about data"

Read 17 May blog post "Somewhere between heartbreak and hope"

Read 12 May blog post "Collaborative working: Moving beyond the willing"

Read 10 May blog post "So what? Translating research into practice"