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Link Officer of the Year: top tips for promoting evidence-informed practice

08 December 2015

Deborah TowleDeborah Towle is a Senior Intelligence Officer within the Directorate for People’s Commissioning Centre of Excellence at Birmingham City Council. One of her responsibilities is to support the development of evidence informed policy and practice.

As the winner of RiPfA’s Link Officer of the Year 2015, Deborah discusses her top tips for promoting evidence-informed practice in her organisation.

I have been the Link Officer between Birmingham City Council and RiPfA since 2006, when Birmingham joined the RiPfA network. Despite my length of tenure in this role, I am continually inspired by the work of other Link Officers and I’m always looking for ways to improve our use of RiPfA’s resources and services. Some top tips that I have for other Link Officers is:

Commit to promoting the use of evidence in practice

As Link Officer, I provide the connection between my organisation and RiPfA, ensuring we get the maximum value from our membership and helping to create the conditions for staff to make effective use of evidence in their practice. I work closely with our Directorate’s Learning and Development Service that provides strategic direction.

I have worked in various sectors – education, health, local government – but the linking thread throughout has been a commitment to promoting the use of evidence in practice. I enjoy working with others to take this forward, which fits in perfectly with the role of a Link Officer.

Identify Evidence Champions

Some of our practitioners have taken on the role of Evidence Champion and I support them to share practical examples of how they have used RiPfA resources. For example, two of our Evidence Champions used material from the ‘Good Decision Making: Practitioners Handbook’ in a session with workers to help practitioners think in terms of outcomes. I then captured this information and shared it in an article in the staff newsletter.

Look out for opportunities to ‘piggyback’

I look for opportunities to ‘piggyback’ on things which are taking place within the Directorate or wider Council where I can share information about RiPfA resources. I’ve given out flyers and promoted RiPfA resources at Directorate conferences, research seminars for council staff and in meetings. I have a session on the induction programme for ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment), so that our Newly Qualified Social Workers are aware of RiPfA resources and services. I’ve also offered RiPfA accounts to members of Birmingham Safeguarding Adults Board and our Citizen-led Quality Boards to help them with their work with the Directorate. I find it really helpful that RiPfA membership includes access to its website and resources for all Council employees and also provides a number of accounts that I can allocate to our partners.

Support ways of transferring learning from events back into the workplace

I work with our Learning and Development Service to support ways of transferring learning from attendance at events back into the Directorate for People. For example, Workforce Development Officers facilitated a reflective practice session to consider the learning gained by attendees at a RiPfA conference and ways this could be shared internally more widely. 

Tailor the two days’ support from RiPfA to suit your needs

I am always very keen to ensure the Directorate makes best use of the two days’ support that is part of the membership. I think this is a valuable part of the service, as we can tailor the format and content of the support to suit our needs. In the past we have used it to support specific projects and, on several occasions, pooled our support hours with those of a neighbouring local authority.

Make the most of your RiPfA Account Manager

My RiPfA Account Manager, Kath Wilkinson, is always very responsive to my frequent requests for extra support. For example, she arranged for RiPfA and its sister organisation Research in Practice’s resources to be mapped to our Directorate’s learning and development programme. This is helping us to identify how best to use the resources to enhance learning opportunities for our staff.

Going forward

At the beginning of this blog, I said I am always looking for ways to improve how we do things. In April 2015 I became the Directorate’s Link Officer for RiPfA’s sister organisation – RiP. This has been very positive, stimulating ideas on how to take our membership forward to benefit both Children’s and Adults’ Services.  

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