Implementation Journeys from the North

Originally scheduled for March 2nd, the Beast from the East put paid to our plans to hold this symposium first time round. Undeterred, the resilient team from UK-IS headed by Tracey Bywater and Melissa Van Dyke, both Board members of the Society, rescheduled the symposium for the balmier days of early May…. Read on for a round-up of the day’s events by Nicole Gridley.

On Wednesday 2nd May 2018 the UK Implementation Society hosted its first major learning event, at the University of York. Entitled Implementation Journeys from the North: Blending improvement methodologies to improve services for families, and chaired by Professor Tracey Bywater from the University of York, the daylong symposium aimed to provide an exciting opportunity for academics, professionals from charity sector organisations and local authorities to learn about two examples of cutting edge work being conducted in Scotland and Northern England. Both initiatives seek to bring implementation science and practice to the heart of real-world policy and practice development initiatives.

During the morning, Dr Melissa Van Dyke and Fiona Mitchell (both from CELCIS, University of Strathclyde) provided an engaging insight into their work across Scotland. This focuses on translating policy into practice that is guided by evidence. Melissa and Fiona discussed the challenges they have faced when trying to adapt and change existing models of service delivery to meet new policy requirements. The specific example was in the context of transforming responses to child neglect, but the implications and learning are relevant for all those working with children and families. Explicitly, the CELCIS team highlighted the importance of understanding the whole system in which new programmes and services are to be embedded, noting that what may work for one geographical area may not work for another. Melissa emphasised the importance of establishing good working relationships with service providers and delivery partners to ease ‘difficult conversations’, particularly those that challenge current and past assumptions of how systems should work. Melissa also advised that conversations should be guided by and reflect real time data to routinely monitor newly implemented systems, and identify where further support may be required. Fiona further emphasised this point by noting that in order for innovations to be effective, implementers need to understand fully the innovations individual components, and reflect consistently on how they work together so that they are useable.

Following lunch time refreshments, and the appearance of some spring sunshine, the first of the afternoon’s speakers was Gill Thornton. Gill provided an overview of the BetterStart Bradford initiative and the Born in Bradford cohort study.

Gill explained how important it was to ensure that collaborative relationships with key stakeholders flourished : this is what guarantees the success of community wide innovations. Josie Dickerson‘s session described the challenges faced in integrating the demands of research and practice into one setting. She provided an overview of a number of the strategies adopted by the team in Bradford in order to overcome implementation challenge. These included the development of toolkits for service design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Finally, Nim Dharni re emphasised earlier points about the importance of listening to the ‘feedback loop’ from data, and making appropriate adaptations and changes to the model to ensure a positive impact on later outcomes.

Nim described how the Bradford research team have developed a number of

evaluation frameworks for each of the 21 individual programmes being implemented as part of BSB. The purpose of these tools is to ensure that programme implementation is closely monitored, and their progression is assessed against strict criteria at defined points across the project lifespan. These criteria are crucial when considering the recommissioning of the programmes across the city.

All of the presented work re-affirmed that we need to continue to monitor uptake via the assessment of outcomes. Only by continued monitoring can we better understand the societal and economic impact of interventions and services which shape policy and practice.

Nicole Gridley was a delegate at Implementation Journeys from the North, a day symposium organised by the UK Implementation Society in collaboration with the University of York and with speakers from CELCIS, University of Strathclyde and Better Start Bradford. She is a Research Fellow based in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, and is the Editor in Chief for the European Society of Prevention Research Early Career Researchers Blog Committee.

The UK Implementation Society would like to thank the University of York for generously hosting the event, and all the speakers, attendees, and those working behind the scenes to ensure that the event was a success.

Materials from this symposium can be accessed by UK Implementation Society members at

© UK Implementation Society, 2018

All views expressed are the author's own and not those of the UK Implementation Society.

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