Using Evidence in Practice: The Role of Intermediaries

Although those working in the child welfare sector are increasingly wanting to develop evidence-informed practice, the systematic uptake of research findings can often prove difficult. Fortunately, many of the traditional obstacles encountered are being successfully negotiated with input from the growing field of implementation science and the involvement of intermediary organisations.

So what is implementation science? And what role do intermediaries play in the implementation process?

Originating in the health area, implementation science provides us with scientifically-based frameworks, strategies and methods specifically designed to overcome barriers and problems which emerge when implementing programs and practices.

Intermediaries are organisations which encourage, support and facilitate the uptake and application of evidence within and across services and agencies.

The latest edition of ACWA’s developing practice journal (Issue 48) aims to provide an overview of intermediary research and practice. Guest edited by Bianca Albers and Dr Robyn Mildon (Centre for Evidence and Implementation), the issue focuses on the pivotal role intermediaries can play as they ‘translate, transport and transfer best evidence’ between systems of practice, policy and research.

The issue begins with Jennifer Bell and Brian Head who set out a typology of the Australian intermediaries consisting of government organisations, academia and independent organisations. They also discuss some of the challenges intermediaries currently face.

The next couple of articles focus in detail on real-world examples of Australian intermediaries. In the first, Tanya Vaughan, Matt Deeble and John Bush describe the work of Evidence for Learning, an intermediary operating in the education field.  In the second, Megan Howe, Gabriel Moore, Anna Williamson and Sian Rudge give the reader a glimpse of the workings of the Sax Institute in the health and social care sector.

The US experience of intermediaries is outlined by Jennifer Mettrick, Patrick Kanary, Michelle Zabel and Richard Shepler, who highlight the growth and core functions of Centres of Excellence and present the Center for Innovative Practices located at Case Western University, Ohio, as a concrete example.

Discussion of the role of intermediaries from a practice perspective is provided by Pauline Dixon and Melinda Polimeni. Pauline describes Wanslea Family Services’ collaboration with an intermediary over a 10-year period, while Melinda reflects on this experience through the eyes of the intermediary, the Parenting Research Centre.

The issue concludes with two reviews – one from Anita Philips, the other from Julia Carroll – of the John Seymour book Children, Parents and the Courts: Legal Intervention in Family Life.

Issue 48 of developing practice is available for purchase in both digital and hardcopy format. To access the whole issue or individual articles online visit INFORMIT. If you would prefer to purchase the journal in hardcopy please email: veronica@acwa.asn.au

The next issue of developing practice is in the pipeline and will be published in the next few months. We’ll keep you posted on its release.

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