Fox et al claim increasing number of prof. practitioners have research within their professional remit, as both practice and research benefit from practitioner research and academic research is enhanced by links with practice ( Fox, Martin & Green,2007,pp.1-3
Dirkx describes the ‘insider’ view versus the ‘outsider perspective reflected in evidence based research’ .
Insider research is able to use traditional research methods to examine what works, but from a perspective which ‘takes into account the epistemological, moral and political complexities of practice’ (Dirkx 2006,p.276).
The overarching goal of the GRIP programme was to assist the development of a culture of practitioner enquiry in social service agencies in Auckland aimed at facilitating meaningful change and service improvement. It is a collaborative programme bringing together practitioners, academics, agencies and funding bodies.
The objective of the GRIP team’s own enquiry is to develop an understanding of ‘what works’ in facilitating the uptake of research and results amongst social work practitioners within organisations and in practice settings.
a small keen group of practitioners, staff or consumers
a small-scale feasible topic
a client or service-delivery focus
sufficient support from within the agency
the potential for GRIP to add value
Dimensions of GRIP Research Projects Small groups of practitioners enquiring into their own practice issues Grip Team Mentoring Workshops Resources Data collection Knowledge Map Research into practitioner research activity Funders
Within each practice project, full space has been afforded for appropriate cultural methodologies and ways of working.
E.g. a demonstration model undertaken with an iwi (Maori) agency or Pacific service provider would require the development of culturally appropriate approaches and resources would need to be sought to provide guidance and support.
The projects are controlled, negotiated and staffed by those with appropriate cultural knowledge and service expertise.
Throughout this period we have sought to include experts with knowledge of kaupapa Maori methodologies, Pacific ways of working such as Fa'asamoa, cross-cultural working and work with vulnerable groups.
The mentors are the GRIP research team members and a Maori cultural advisor.
Mentors have met regularly with the teams in the workplace and e-mail has been used to communicate ideas and drafts throughout.
Mentoring is provided on a pro bono basis.
The role is supportive, rather than supervisory, and responsive to the queries or concerns raised by the practitioners.
Mentors have encouraged the teams to create a timeline for their project, assign tasks within and set goals for small components to be completed.
Key questions for our research To what extent is a research culture facilitated within the organisation; Are there changes to practice and service delivery? What other direct/indirect differences does a practice project make? What worked and what could be done better?
at each workshop project participants were asked to complete questionnaires to provide a record of their experiences over time.
Interviews with team leaders and project teams were conducted during the latter part of 2006 and early 2007 to provide further data.
GRIP team members recorded their reflections on the mentoring sessions, notes made during workshops research memos to note insights and questions, GRIP team discussions recorded and transcribed to add to the rich set of data.
A further set of data is being collected over October 07-February 08
‘ We have been running [the Chinese mental health support] for four years and we’ve seen outcome is very positive but we really don’t know which part is working best is question in my mind for a long time. I want some answers for that and Chinese community is very, is increasing all the time in New Zealand and more people will be suffering and need professional help.
we need to improve, we need more money to do that. We need to apply for funding so we also need the evidence to go to the funders to say that this is a good programme, we have the research because that is the one thing that I learn. They said in New Zealand you have to give research evidence’ Chinese mental health group.
‘ I think somehow or other we’ve got to be able to implement research in the same way that medical teams here at the hospital implement research, it just becomes part of your practice as something that’s taken for granted and it’s something where you’re given time to do as well and funding. Until we show our practice and our evidence based approaches in terms of other professions we’re not going to be able to stand up’ Health group .
‘ Project members’ workload has not in any way been reduced. They’re not supported organisationally to attend or participate so what they have to have do is steal time away from the clinical load and having processes in place that allow them to come like being able to give their locator to a team member, it’s not at all unusual for locators to go off during GRIP meetings, people having to leave or people just not turning up at all ,because the work overwhelms them’ Health SW project leader .
‘ We’re told do an ethics application. No then somebody says actually for your project you don’t need to do one, so write to the Ethics Committee about what you’re doing just to kind of get a tick, so we wrote to them and they said you will do an ethics application.
So then our response was oh well let’s do what the Ethics Committee tells us and then when it’s well under way the person at the research office talks directly to the chairperson of the Ethics Committee who says do you really understand what it is that they’re doing because it’s a very low risk piece of work. It’s only accessing staff.
But that’s interesting in itself, the whole sort of power of the experts telling us and under the guise for quality project it probably doesn’t need an ethics application so we’ve kind of got a bit tangled up in that’.
‘ I’m already doing another project with a team of people, an evaluation of the after hours service, there are two projects now, there’s going to be another one next year, so yeah definitely increased confidence and interest around doing it some more’.
‘ We want all practitioners to start thinking about their experiences and putting that into projects and from the GRIP seminar there was something that was said ,that you don’t have to call it research, you can just contribute, you can have conversation, you can just communicate and that can be your role in it. So it would be really good to see all practitioners starting to think of evidence based practice’.
Acknowledgments The authors wish to acknowledge the sponsors of the GRIP programme: the Families Commission's Innovative Practice Fund, the Ministry of Social Development's SPEaR Linkages fund and the ASB Trusts in partnership with the ANZASW. The University Of Auckland Faculty Of Education Research Fund and The University of Auckland Staff Research Fund have also provided generous support of the programme to date. We would also like to acknowledge the support provided by Thomson Publishing who provided text resources for each practice team and last, but not least, the participants to this initiative who made the whole GRIP experience possible
Thank you for your interest Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland, New Zealand PEPE Edinburgh January 2008