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

This DEEP approach aims to root evidence in practice. This can be challenging when the evidence excludes contextual knowledge and experience of practitioners and the people they support. Research provides an essential strand of evidence but for impact in the world of practice, people must be able to engage with other forms of knowledge that include lived experience and practitioner wisdom. DEEP is based in a Knowledge Exchange model which evidences that successful uptake of knowledge requires interaction between researchers, decision makers and practitioners. This makes possible moving from guidelines issued to mindlines that are based on wider sources of knowledge.

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 Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘A Better Life’ programme. Here is the full report.



Element 1: Valuing and empowering all of the people involved in the project 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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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