Podcast Episode: Knowledge into practice
Category: Learning and development
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
AW - Dr Ann Wales
In this episode, Michael McEwan talks to Dr Ann Wales about translating knowledge into practice. Ann is Programme Director for Knowledge Management with NHS Education Scotland. She explains the relationship between Social Services Knowledge Scotland, known as SSKS, and the Knowledge Network, going on to talk about the Strategy and Action Plan for embedding Knowledge in Practice in Scotland's Social Services. She highlights three strands of knowledge management: skills for sourcing and sharing evidence, producing actionable knowledge, such as decision aids, and the social use of knowledge, that is tools and techniques for connecting people.
MM First of all, Ann, can you tell us a bit about your role?
AW I am the Programme Director for Knowledge Management, based in NHS Education for Scotland, and my role is to work with my team and with partners in health and social services, to improve the use of knowledge to support health and social care across the system. So there's really two parts to that, one part is supporting the design and implementation of National Knowledge Management Strategy and the other part is providing practical tools and developing skills in using those tools to make it easier to find knowledge and share and use it across the system.
The Knowledge into Practice strategy and Action Plan for Scotland's Social Services was published back in 2012, it was a joint strategy sponsored by Scottish Government, by the Chief Social Workers Office, pooled together by NHS Education, with myself and also partners in SSSC, Iriss, Improvement Service and the Association of Directors of Social Work. So it's very much a collaborative and cross-sectoral approach.
There's really five key aims within the strategy, its overall purpose is to try and reduce the time lag between generating research knowledge and translating that knowledge into practice. We know that on average, it's estimated to take 17 years between producing good quality research and getting that into routine practice. So the overall goal of the Knowledge into Practice strategy is to reduce that time lag and mobilise knowledge to make it more an integral part of routine practice and planning and everyday delivery of care and support.
So the five goals sitting within the strategy are firstly to ensure that we, and by we, I mean both the national providers of knowledge services, like SSSC, Iriss and Improvement Service, but also local organisations in all the social services sectors, to ensure that we understand and respond to the knowledge needs of people who work in social services. Secondly, that we make it easy to access and use knowledge as part of everyday practice and planning and policy as well. A good part of that making it easier to access and use knowledge is about improving how we offer and exploit digital technologies to really bring knowledge to people when and where they need it and whatever device they happen to be using, and we particularly want to use technology and offline mechanisms as well to make knowledge a really integral part of the conversations and dialogue that practitioners have with service users, so that they are using knowledge from research and from experience in the way that they work with service users and carers to help them make choices. The third aim is to connect people so that they can share experience effectively, so although the starting point in many ways for our strategy was reducing the gap between generating research knowledge and getting that knowledge into practice, we very quickly realised that getting research knowledge into practice depends on being much more adept at understanding the real life experiences of people in practice and the real life experiences of service users and carers who are being supported via our services. So the third aim is to that connecting of people, so that they can share experience. The fourth aim is to use sound evidence based approaches that can bridge that knowledge to practice gap, so there's a number of techniques that have been tried and tested that we know can help to get knowledge into everyday practice much more effectively than at present, and we also want to contribute to that evidence base ourselves by testing existing and new approaches and sharing our experience of that with others. And the final, fifth aim, is to build a national knowledge broker network, by which would simply mean supporting all the many types of people in social services and in health as well, who have a role in supporting people to find and share and use knowledge. So that could range from librarians to researchers, to people with education and training roles, to in fact your line managers, supervisors, who are supporting staff to improve their practice. So we are seeking to develop those knowledge brokering roles and to link up the knowledge brokers in a more collaborative network to offer support across the system.
MM There's a lot to it.
AW Yes, I am afraid so.
MM So, what is the Social Service Knowledge Scotland and the Knowledge Network, what is the difference, is there any difference at all?
AW Yes, well I will start with the Knowledge Network, which is the parent if you like, the Knowledge Network is the primary online gateway to knowledge and learning resources for health and for social services as well. So it acts as an access point to literally millions of pieces of evidence, information, guidance, learning resources from dozens of different providers, both with Scotland's public services and much further afield, to international creators of knowledge and publishers. The Knowledge Network is a sort of, a defining characteristic is it's comprehensiveness, it aims to act as this gateway to the, not quite the entire world of knowledge, but certainly a very comprehensive range of resources for all staff who work in health and social services. It's obviously a very broad and diverse range of people, we're talking about easily 400,000 people, all with different types of needs, so it's challenging for one website to do all of that and meet everybody's needs equally, simply through one interface, so to try and meet that challenge, we do offer, within the Knowledge Network, some special portals, which are tailored views onto the huge knowledge base that the Knowledge Network offers, tailored views designed to support particular staff groups.
And Social Services Knowledge Scotland is the view onto the knowledge base for social services staff. It filters out from the millions of pieces of information and learning on the Knowledge Network, just the resources that are most relevant to social services staff. And it presents those resources within a specially designed interface that brings to the forefront the evidence summaries and the learning resources that we know are most useful. SSKS, as it's called for short, also contains within it a number of portals for particular groups within social services, so for example we have a portal to support people working with older people, the care of older people portal, we have a special portal for self directed support, we have one for drugs and alcohol and so on. So, in short, SSKS is that tailored gateway into the knowledge base for social services.
MM So basically you are using three key issues to promote your message, what are they?
AW So there are three knowledge management approaches that we promote within the Knowledge into Practice strategy. All three of the approaches are designed to embed knowledge in routine practice, make it an everyday piece of peoples work.
The first approach is sourcing and summarising evidence, so this involves equipping social services staff, themselves, and also equipping some of these special knowledge broker roles to be able to find evidence from research, but also evidence from practice and from experience, and to combine those types of evidence to inform their own decisions about practice and to inform shared decisions that they make with service users. So in practical terms, that evidence search and summarising strand involves workforce skills training around the techniques of sourcing and summarising those types of evidence and it also involves signposting people to existing evidence summaries, such as the ones that Iriss produces, so that they can quickly access that summarised evidence to support their decisions.
The second Knowledge Management approach that we promote is very linked with evidence sourcing and summarising, the second approach is Actionable Knowledge. So this is all about packaging up good quality evidence from research and experience in ways that make it easy for people to use in their everyday practice, focusing much more on tools like decisions aids that again summarise the evidence. So it's really moving several steps on from the traditional knowledge management approach of directing people to the primary research, actually interpreting, digesting and summarising that for people so that they can use it in everyday work and practice.
And the third Knowledge Management approach is the social use of knowledge, or they sometimes call it the relational use of knowledge. This is all about tools and techniques and skills that connect people, so that they can share their experience effectively. Because we know the evidence in research tells us that no matter how strong the published evidence is, it won't get into practice until people actually start socialising it, talking about it within their teams and in their routine practice, influencing in each other in the way that they apply that research and supporting each other to get it into practice. So the social use of knowledge strand centres on using tools and techniques like social networking tools that allow people to connect with colleagues that they would never meet necessarily face to face and tap into other experiences, it gives opportunities to innovate, includes approaches like communities of practice, it includes educational detailing, which is sort of one to one of small group sessions.
So those are the three strands, they are all based on the evidence around what works in translating knowledge into routine practice.
MM So, if people listing to this and you know, they want information about your services, I am sure you have got a website and a Facebook page ...?
AW Yes, yes, well I would recommend for social services, this news, that they go to the Social Services Knowledge Scotland website, which is www.ssks.org.uk.
MM Facebook or Twitter, or ...?
AW If you go to the ssks website, you will see down in the footer, there are links to our Facebook page and our Twitter account as well.
MM Okay, thanks, Ann, for your time.
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