The success of direct dissemination: Evidence into Practice

14 Jan 2016

by Clare Cochrane

This month sees the end of the Evidence into Practice (EiP) project, wrapping up a review of the last six years of Comic Relief-funded dissemination outreach and training work, and planning the follow up to the Sharing Knowledge, Sharing Power event. We've written a review of EiP and the last six years of our direct dissemination work. Our experience of the last six years has shown us that a little capacity to undertake organised, strategic dissemination can go a very long way.

EiP, begun in 2013, has taken CSEL’s research directly to law practitioners working with people seeking asylum, in addition to continuing the training for the voluntary sector began under the women’s research dissemination project. Over three years, I delivered 17 training seminars, and trained 93 voluntary sector practitioners and 98 law practitioners. The training was popular – and it has proved successful in making a difference to people’s lives. Not only was participants’ feedback on the training was highly positive, many have since reported that they are now able to work differently with traumatised people, and have been able to use CSEL’s research successfully to help clients.

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One lawyer wrote to us: “I now have a better appreciation of the psychological process that a client might be experiencing when rehearsing events of the past [and] I am better placed to seek instructions that might reveal symptoms of trauma. I am better equipped to make substantive representations on my clients’ behalf, in respect of the effects of psychological trauma.” A worker in a violence against women project, who supports women seeking asylum, said: “I have been able to incorporate the theories you brought to my attention into the therapeutic work. This has given a broader sense of understanding to my clients who had been struggling to come to terms with their history and why they have acted in certain ways (such as being unable to disclose gender based sexual violence during home office interviews, having difficulties recounting exact events in sequential order). This has been the most valuable element of the work - the normalisation and acceptance for the client(s) when they have been faced with disbelief and accusations of being an unreliable witness due to discrepancies from the Home Office.” Among the most exciting reports are the case studies reported to us of individual cases won through the use of scientific evidence: “At an appeal tribunal for one of my clients where the arguments were all about credibility and the many inconsistencies in her accounts. I referred to the research you shared with us in the court and the judge appeared to be interested and wrote down the references. My client won her appeal and the judge stated that she found my evidence to be persuasive of the memory problems and mental health issues that the client has.” Other outreach included contributing to a panel in Oxford during Refugee Week 2014, and publishing an article on the Open Democracy website, which was accessed by over 2,000 people in the first 24 hours.

The EiP funding from Comic Relief also included significant communications development for CSEL – including the online Research Hub. Thanks to our communications and research assistant Gracie Bradley we have established a social media presence on twitter @CSEL_UK and doubled the number of subscribers to our quarterly newsletter.

EiP emerged out of the success of the Women’s Research Dissemination Project (2009-2012), CSEL’s first organised dissemination project. During the six years since that project began we have trained in total more than 800 voluntary sector practitioners and asylum law practitioners to understand psychological research evidence about memory and trauma and the consequences for those seeking asylum in a process based on credibility assessment. We’ve found during this time that face-to-face dissemination, through seminars and presentations, is most effective in introducing new ideas to practitioners – most likely because the personal delivery method is the one most trusted. This is particularly important in the voluntary sector, where the development of personal relationships is a key part of the working culture, and the personal exchange of knowledge is valued particularly highly. In the early days of CSEL the organisation was little known to asylum-support practitioners, and without this direct dissemination work would not have built up the reputation that it has now.

The two dissemination projects have also reached between one and a half, and two times as many more people through our wider communications work – the newsletter, the website, and articles published on other platforms. These are channels that we can also use for ad hoc dissemination, when the opportunity arises – for example, when a new paper is published in a journal. Now that it’s time for a shift in the way we disseminate our work, the learning from this strand of our dissemination work is particularly important – hence the new research hub.

We know there is a continuing need for face-to-face, direct dissemination. The word-of-mouth strategy informally employed in the voluntary sector to share information has been a large part of the reason that CSEL has been able to build a reputation so quickly and spread our research to practitioners so widely. Because we know that this direct dissemination approach is so valuable, we hope to raise funding to do more of it in the future, and we’re continuing to work on ideas for future dissemination strategies. In the meantime, we’re refocusing on new research, and we need your help to continue to spread the word that there is credible psychological evidence that can be used to improve the fairness of outcomes for people seeking asylum. Please tell people about the Research Hub, follow us on twitter, and subscribe to and share our newsletter. Stay in touch with us at CSEL - and watch this space.