By Kirsty Jones and Sara Bice
How can combining frameworks help plan a research implementation process? What specific contributions can different frameworks make?
In our research with industry, we found combining three frameworks to be an effective way to get handles on a complex implementation landscape and to design the necessary steps to systematically work our way through it. The frameworks we found useful were: a logic model, a pathway to impact and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, which we adapted to our context.
We provide four figures to show how we used each framework and briefly describe the benefits we derived from each of them. Although fully understanding the detail in the figures requires familiarity with the specifics of our research, we trust the figures provide insight into how each framework was used.
A simplified logic model
A simplified logic model, as shown in the figure below, was used as a first step in thinking through what would be required to achieve implementation, by identifying the impacts and outcomes we were working towards. The model placed these impacts and outcomes alongside the potential inputs, activities, processes and outputs for the research. This provided us with a clear structure for considering how these distinct but important aspects of our research were interrelated.
It also encouraged attention to the various levels at which we would need to achieve outcomes in order to support implementation, namely, individual, organisational and sectoral levels. The logic model provided a clear articulation of what we aimed to achieve. At the same time, it also revealed a need to consider how the identified outcomes could be achieved.
Pathway to impact
Our second step focused on what would be required for a research-derived intervention to be implemented successfully. What was our pathway to impact?
Traditionally pathways to impact are flat and linear. Instead, we visualised our pathway to impact as a step-wise series of building blocks, each block providing a reinforcing foundation for progress to reach the next step. As shown in the figure below, our five steps were:
- adaptation; and,
Paying attention to individual, organisational and sectoral levels in our pathway to impact helped us to identify specific outcomes required at each level in each of the different steps in the pathway, as shown in the figure below. Through this process we also identified preliminary, mid-stream and late-stage outcomes at each level that needed to be achieved to make progress.
Adapting the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR)
The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research outlines characteristics of an intervention which are important for implementation success. It also details research-derived “enablers” and “barriers” to research implementation. Although it was developed for healthcare interventions, we found it easy to adapt to our very different implementation context.
We interrogated the key constructs and characteristics identified in the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research to pinpoint specific outcomes at the individual, organizational, and sectoral levels necessary to achieve our implementation outcomes. Importantly, we also identified the points along our pathway to impact where it would be important for these outcomes to be achieved.
By methodically thinking through our pathway to impact we could see that our research process would require a high level of engagement and involvement with our industry partners (both organisations and individuals). It also forced us to consistently question whether and how early phase co-design and knowledge translation activities could influence the achievement of later-stage outcomes.
We had three aims: identify the needs of industry, encourage swift adoption and support long-term implementation.
The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research helped us connect each part of the research process to an implementation outcome, as shown in the figure below. Identifying and visualising these complex interconnections helped us to understand exactly how our research approach could support our pathway to impact. This also allowed us to revisit our logic model and adjust the resources needed and stakeholders necessary to engage at various stages, based on these new insights.
Our implementation research involved developing Australia’s first quality assurance standards for community engagement in major infrastructure projects. Each year in Australia governments at various levels invest tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure development, including transport, energy, water, urban and regional development, health and social infrastructure. All these projects require formalised engagement with impacted communities and stakeholders, but, as yet, there are no standards for these.
Could the way we approached implementation also be useful in your area of research? What other approaches have you found useful?
To find out more:
Jones, K. and Bice, S. (2021a). Improving research impact: lessons from the infrastructure engagement excellence standards. Evidence and Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice. (Online – early release): https://doi.org/10.1332/174426421X16225315303512
Jones, K. and Bice, S. (2021b). Research for impact: Three keys for research implementation. Policy Design and Practice: 1-21. (Online – open access): https://doi.org/10.1080/25741292.2021.1936761
Biography: Kirsty Jones PhD is a research fellow at the Institute for Infrastructure in Society, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University in Canberra. She is knowledge translation lead and a primary researcher for the ‘Next Generation Engagement Program’, Australia’s largest study of community engagement in infrastructure.
Biography: Sara Bice PhD is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in Canberra and director of the Institute for Infrastructure in Society. She is Vice Chancellor’s Futures Scheme Senior Fellow and leads the ‘Next Generation Engagement Program’, Australia’s largest study into community engagement in infrastructure.