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March 20, 2019

Eilidh Morrissey

Looking back at our first year + mapping 2019 with our Advisory Panel

On the 7th of March we took over a room in Edinburgh’s RSE and brought our Advisory Panel together for a second time. The group is chaired by Professor Ken Gibb and made up of a wide range of individuals from across government, the third sector and academia, all linked by a strong commitment to the use of evaluation and data to achieve better results to improve the lives of people affected by homelessness.

At the Centre, we believe that only by working collaboratively can we help practitioners and policy-makers achieve even better results. So meetings like this are very important to us as they give us a chance to get input and listen to how people think we can make the greatest impact.

To that end, the main objectives for the day were; to share our progress and reflect on key learnings from our first year, identify any gaps, test our local area pilot idea and gather the Panels feedback on the Centre’s longer term priorities.

We began the meeting by sharing reflections on what members were most excited to see the Centre do in our first twelve months and what they would like to see in the future. Our Director Dr Ligia Teixeira then set the scene for the day by giving a retrospective look of the year gone by and sharing some of the main things we’ve learned along the way:

Reflections on our first year

It was felt that the Centre’s early wins have been establishing the evidence baseline and instigating a shift towards a greater focus on evidence. The group thought that the rigour and accessibility of our tools, momentum and our collaborative approach have been and will continue to be key factors to our success.

This was followed by a session with the Centre’s Dave Russell and Howard White from the Campbell Collaboration. We took a closer look at our recently updated evidence tools designed to put high quality evidence at decision-makers fingertips. This included a brief introduction to the Standards of Evidence behind each tool and demonstrations of the current version of the Evidence and Gap Maps, Evidence Finder and Intervention Tool. We also heard about the critical appraisal that the 260 studies in the Effectiveness Map have just been processed through and why that work is so valuable: as now the studies have been coded to include a quality rating, further increasing the confidence decision-makers can have in what the evidence says.

We are committed to creating the architecture required to make smart policy decisions. The Evidence and Gap Maps were a useful first step for taking stock and begin to do just that. We reflected on the Maps not being deserts: they highlight areas where evidence synthesis is possible because a sufficient number of studies exists. We talked about the value of the methodology and told them about the three systematic reviews we have underway with Queen’s University Belfast which will be published later in the year.

The Evidence Maps also help us identify gaps in the evidence infrastructure – which are extensive in homelessness at present. Because of this it’s important to prioritise the topics to research. Reflecting on the gaps in the knowledge base and guided by our SHARE framework, we then asked our Advisory Panel to tackle the question:

What research topics should we prioritise to address the most important needs of policy and practice?

We’d posed the same question to the practitioners and policy makers that attended a research prioritisation workshop held in partnership with CaCHE. We knew it was important to ask the right people about priorities because there is a striking mismatch between the questions which academics study and the questions which people with lived experiences or practitioners are interested in.

We introduced the Advisory Panel to the previously identified research priorities and then asked them to pick 1 or 2 they thought were most important and discuss: what made that topic a priority; what the research objectives should be; and how they would use the research. These are some of the things they told us:

The impact of wider housing policy on levels of homelessness, cost effectiveness data, prevention and implementation (what works, where, for whom, under which circumstances) and taking a look at longitudinal outcomes for people who had experienced homelessness were identified as key priorities by the Panel.

Over the rest of the day we looked at the year ahead and provided an overview of our strategic priorities and related activities:

We were also keen to put a new idea for an initiative to the test. Our plan is to pilot a programme to support local areas to use data and evidence to achieve better results in the summer. Taking this opportunity to use the group as a sounding board was invaluable as we continue to develop the pilot.

How might we support local areas to use data and evidence to improve outcomes?

 

The group felt that giving local leaders an opportunity to take a step back to review the evidence, think from a systems perspective, and use experimental approaches could add a lot of value to ongoing efforts in local areas.

Insights and advice like this are critical to us: not just because we know that we can’t do this alone but because as a small, agile team we want to ensure we focus our efforts where we can have the biggest impact.

WHAT'S NEXT

We’d like to thank the Advisory Panel for their time, and more crucially their support and guidance as we take our work to the next level.

We’re now reflecting upon the feedback from the Panel which has come at a critical point as we finalise our five year strategy which will be released in the Summer. We'll continue to refine and test our thinking with as many people working towards ending homelessness as possible, so watch this space and get in touch via hello@homelessnessimpact.org if you’d like to find out more.

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