Insight to Action Blog #1: From translation to application

The first in a series of blogs on Insight to Action by the Midlands Decision Support Network

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Lucy Hawkins, the Strategy Unit

“Solving complex problems requires new approaches to problem solving…To do this, organisations and communities need to become skilled in mobilising intelligence of all kinds – data, information, insights and ideas. In the 21st century, we believe this will matter as much as mobilising money or power” Nesta (2019).[1]

Here at the Midlands Decision Support Network, we believe strongly that better evidence leads to better decisions and therefore better outcomes for the populations we serve. This belief underpins everything we do. We exist to support local Integrated Care Systems with the application of knowledge and insights to the complex challenges that they are facing.

However, we also know that the time taken for evidence from research to become established in practice averages a staggering 17 years[2]!

This demonstrates a gap between the demand and supply of analysis. Despite demand growing over the last few years as people become aware of the possibilities, there is still a disconnect between the questions asked and how the data will actually answer those questions. More data alone doesn’t solve anything. This observation has led us to take a particular look at how we can improve the translation of insights into action.

The start of our journey has focused on what we, as producers of insights, can do to make our work more accessible and useful to those we want to read it. This has focused on three key elements:

  • At the start ensuring that we have got the question right – working in partnership with the Midlands Decision Support Network Strategic Group to identify priority topics and the key information that they need on each.
  • Engaging with people throughout the analysis process ensuring that our focus is right. Are we trying to shine a light on a problem, suggest some potential solutions, weigh up different options, prioritise resources, or evaluate the success of an intervention?
  • Finally, ensuring that we test and refine our findings drawing on the knowledge of key stakeholders who have a working knowledge of our area of focus (see our Interview with Dr Anna Lock to hear her experience of working with us on the Last Two Years of Life report).

Interview with Dr Anna Lock

In doing this we aim to make our analysis relevant and accessible, whilst not shying away from the hard truths that it may reveal. The next (and often more challenging step) is working with decision makers to translate the findings into tangible actions.

[1] Nesta (2019)

[2] Morris, Z. S., et al. (2011) J R Soc Med 104(12): 510-520