Monthly Archives: July 2016

Knowledge mobilisation can improve equality impact assessments

Acas (the UK advisory, conciliation and arbitration service) describes an equality impact assessment (EIA) as “a practical tool to identify discrimination.”  Its managers’ guide to EIAs describes how carrying out an EIA can identify and reduce unintended discrimination and promote equality by removing barriers and improving participation.

Yet all too often an equality impact assessment ends up being a bureaucratic, box-ticking exercise that doesn’t lead to any change.  A quick google search just took me to newspaper articles decrying the waste of tax payers’ money on bureaucratic nonsense and box ticking along with government briefing papers and Local Authority guidance documents which aim to ensure that EIAs are not just about ticking boxes.

So the danger that carrying out an equality impact assessment won’t actually lead to improved services and reduced inequalities is well recognised but, in my experience at least, support to actually do EIAs better is a bit thin on the ground.

That’s why we’ve just produced a briefing paper on how thinking about an equality impact assessment as a process of gathering together what we know to:

  1. Describe an inequality
  2. Understand why the inequality has happened
  3. Prescribe action to tackle that inequality.

The briefing paper shows how our Evidence and Ethnicity in Commissioning knowledge mobilisation tools can help to generate knowledge not only to describe an inequality but also to understand it and to identify effective interventions.  They can also help to ensure an appropriate range of stakeholders are involved.

Do have a look at the briefing paper and if you’re interested in discussing anything in it and in learning with me about how to better move knowledge about ethnicity and health to action, please join my new Community-of-Practice

So what exactly is knowledge mobilisation and how can it help to reduce ethnic health inequalities?

To put it simply, knowledge mobilisation is about closing the gap between what we know and what we do.  In a health context, it aims to make sure that research evidence and other types of knowledge lead to benefits for patients and populations.

In my last blog post I wrote about what I learnt from being involved in the Evidence and Ethnicity in Commissioning research project.  It became clear to me that evidence generated through academic research, about any subject, often doesn’t make any difference to policy or practice or if it does, it can take a very long time.  Other sorts of knowledge like the experiences of people using services or of the staff providing them is also often not used to develop and improve those services.

I particularly like this definition of knowledge mobilisation that was coined in Canada:

“a dynamic and iterative process that includes the synthesis, dissemination, exchange and ethically sound application of knowledge to improve the health of Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the healthcare system.”

Over the last year, I’ve looked at lots of different ways of describing the knowledge mobilisation process and the one the works best for me at the moment is Ian Graham’s map.

Graham's map

A piece of knowledge is created using the funnel process shown in the middle of the diagram and then that knowledge is applied or moved into action. The action cycle is similar to the plan, do, study, act cycle that you might already be familiar with.  This diagram is taken from Ian Graham’s paper which describes and brings together developments in the field of knowledge mobilisation.

In the Evidence and Ethnicity in Commissioning research project we used our findings to identify the key barriers to moving knowledge about ethnicity and health into action and developed some tools to help overcome those barriers.  Some of the tools can be used in a training workshop or by a team carrying out service improvement or commissioning work.  Others can be used by a team or individual while they are doing the service improvement work.

The tools are all available on our EEiC website and link to the different stages of knowledge mobilisation as in this diagram.

During my fellowship I am going to try out some of the tools in different contexts – more on that in future blog posts and do get in touch if you think any of the tools could be useful in your work.  I’m happy to discuss and help if I can.