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The Developing Evidence Enriched Practice (DEEP) approach to service and workforce development

The popularity of the BBC programme ‘The Great British Bake Off’ is proof that everyone enjoys a piece of cake, especially when it has been made to perfection. However, baking a good cake is more complicated than it seems. It requires the careful selection of ingredients, which then have to be combined in the right amounts, in the right order and in the right way. Careful attention also has to be paid to the cooking process, to avoid it being either burnt or soggy. It’s much the same when it comes to making good public services like health and social services. The Developing Evidence-Enriched Practice approach has five key elements, all of which need to be addressed. These elements emerged through a collaborative action research project funded by the JRF A Better Life programme. Here is the full report.



Element 1: Valuing and empowering all of the people involved in the project (the happy and creative chefs):

Senior managers must support participants to be creative and able to experiment with ideas. Trusting relationships need to be developed between everyone involved, so people can be honest, feel safe, experiment and learn from mistakes. People need to feel appreciated and their successes (even in little things) celebrated.



Element 2: Valuing and using a range of evidence (the ingredients):

It is important to start with ‘what matters’ to everyone involved, which means that four main types of evidence need to be considered – research, the views and experiences of people and carers, the expertise of frontline staff, and organisational concerns, including policy.  Each type of evidence needs to be valued and included, even when they appear to conflict. This can lead to creative ideas and solutions to complex issues.


Element 3: Preparing the evidence, so that it was interesting and relevant (preparing the ingredients):

For participants to engage with evidence, it needs to be presented in such a way that it triggers both an intellectual and an emotional response. People are quickly bored by long words and academic jargon.  Evidence should be presented in the form of engaging short summaries, stories, pictures, poetry or provocative statements, which get people thinking and feeling.


Element 4: Facilitating the exploration and use of evidence (the careful measuring, mixing and baking):

This is perhaps the most important and complicated thing. Well-structured approaches to helping people to think and talk together enable them to be better listeners and more open to learning from each other. As a result, they can come up with collective ideas and decisions, with everyone feeling that their voice and contribution has been welcomed. Different bits of evidence can then be woven in to discussions as they became relevant over time.  

Element 5: Recognising and addressing national and local organisational circumstances and obstacles (making sure the equipment used, including the oven and baking trays, is fit for purpose):

It is important to consider and tackle things that can get in the way of success. These include well-meaning national and local rules and regulations, which do not always fit well with contextual decision making and what participants feel are the most important things in promoting well-being. For example, excessive bureaucracy and risk-aversion.


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