How do you do stakeholder engagement to inform research? SE Guide developed by KT Core

by: Anneliese Poetz, KT Manager, Kids Brain Health Network (formerly NeuroDevNet)

The Kids Brain Health Network (formerly NeuroDevNet) has focused efforts on stakeholder engagement for informing its future directions.  To aid in the process, the KT Core at York University has developed a Stakeholder Engagement Guide of Guides which is the third in the series (the first was the Social Media Guide of Guides, second was the KT Planning Guide of Guides).

Someone recently asked me, how can you do integrated Knowledge Translation (iKT)? First, we must understand iKT, it “is about:

  • Bringing the creators and users of knowledge together for meaningful engagement;
  • Making users aware of research evidence AND researchers aware of information needs of society;
  • Co-producing knowledge, to increase relevance and likelihood of application of findings.

Knowledge users are:

  • Individuals likely to be able to use research findings to make informed decisions about health policies and practices
  • Policy/decision-makers, clinicians, health professionals, caregivers, patients, industry, not-for-profit, etc.”

CIHR goes on to say that organizations can enable iKT by doing the following:

– use clear and consistent terminology among partners and knowledge users

– plan for increased need for flexibility/time for knowledge user involvement

– take a knowledge-user perspective in designing programs/initiatives, evaluating applications, etc.

– facilitate connections between researchers and knowledge users such as workshops, or online portals

– support capacity building through presentations, creation/sharing of resources

– incorporate iKT into operational templates/frameworks.

If we look at the statement “take a knowledge-user perspective in designing programs…” it can be interpreted to mean that iKT can happen without stakeholder engagement; in this case, the organization would step into their knowledge-user’s shoes, but without asking them directly what they need. However, this does not optimize the iKT approach. In order to maximize the benefit to society, or ‘impact’ of your work, it is necessary to engage with your stakeholders.

There are several methods for engaging with your stakeholders to inform your various activities including research and KT. This blog post introduces the new Stakeholder Engagement Guide of Guides created by the KT Core. The Guide begins with a chart that identifies the range of stakeholder engagement methods based on your goal.  There are three categories: “to tell” (the goal is mainly on providing information), “to tell and listen” (the goal is a mixture of providing information and asking questions of stakeholders/encouraging discussion), and “to listen” (the goal is to ask questions of stakeholders and receive their input either verbally or in written format).  The Guide also contains an annotated bibliography of resources for researchers to be able to engage their stakeholders (whoever is directly or indirectly affected by their work such as: patients, clients, policymakers, frontline workers, etc.) in their projects in a number of ways.

Most of the resources within the SE Guide of Guides recommend similar core elements:

1) Clearly define your goal/craft a purpose statement. Why do you need to engage with your stakeholders? Are you aiming to refine the design of a new research project to more accurately respond to the needs of stakeholders, or are you at the end of a research project and would like to elicit the preferences of your knowledge users for what KT products they can use (e.g. infographic or clear language summary?).

2) State your objectives. What is it exactly, that you would like to accomplish from this activity? The objectives should help you achieve your goal.

3) Map your stakeholders. Who do you need to invite? How will they help you accomplish your goal/objectives?

4) Choose the stakeholder engagement method you will use. Sometimes a survey is good enough, but other times you may need deep discussion and analysis of issues from your stakeholders.  The budget you have allocated for stakeholder engagement will also determine what you can do.

5) Evaluate. Did it work? Did you accomplish your goal/objectives?  Think about what else you want to know. You may also wish to ask a question about preferences for ongoing communication afterwards.

Although stakeholder engagement *isn’t* a research project per se, it should be approached with the same mindset you would apply to a research project in the sense that the method, activities, and questions for your stakeholders that you choose depends on what your goal and objectives are. To do it right is important for building and maintaining meaningful relationships with stakeholders.  By taking the time to plan appropriately, and make sure you are making the best use of everyone’s time, it shows respect to your knowledge users and goes a long way towards building good relationships.  From an iKT perspective, showing stakeholders you have listened to what they have said, and responding to their feedback appropriately through modifications to your work, maximizes the potential uptake and implementation of your work.  This, in turn, will also have impact beyond the individual stakeholders you involved in your specific activities, and broaden the benefit of your work to society.

If you are a KBHN (NeuroDevNet) researcher or trainee and would like help planning your stakeholder engagement activities, please do not hesitate to contact the KT Core.

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