Good communication is not just about clear verbal or written articulation; it’s a combination of skills that includes listening, understanding and sharing information.
Taking the time to ask, listen and understand the views and needs of those you are communicating with is fundamental to good practice, not only within Children’s and Adults’ Services, but also within any organisation or service that aims to truly support the needs of its stakeholders.
As the Communications, Marketing and Engagement Coordinator at Research in Practice (RiP) and Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA), part of my role is to ensure that we are effectively cascading our offer to the appropriate audience. This involves channelling and tailoring our communications to best fit who they are intended for, as well as connecting the dots between different learning resources, projects and outputs.
However, engagement is not a one-way process. At RiP and RiPfA, we value relationship-based approaches and so want to ensure that we are actively listening, understanding and effectively sharing the information you need in order to support you in your role.
Our evidence-informed practice model underpins everything we do, including the way we do our communications. This means using research, blended with practice expertise and the views of those accessing services, in order to develop our learning resources, publications and events.
Although academic research is championed across the sector, factoring in professional judgement from experience and the perspectives of people using services’ is essential to developing a truly holistic knowledge base. By using this model, practitioners can ensure that a range of factors are influencing their judgements and they are making fully informed and defensible decisions.
Being evidence-informed in your everyday practice is also crucial for building confidence. If an individual feels knowledgeable, supported and confident in the decisions they are making, it will have a direct impact on their day-to-day practice and can potentially influence long-term outcomes.
Evidence-informed communication uses this very same principle. In order to achieve best practice, it is important to look at the evidence, to use specialist expertise and, fundamentally, listen to people’s lived experiences as to what works best in engaging with them.
So what does evidence-informed communication look like at RiP and RiPfA? This can mean:
- Looking at the evidence
We carefully monitor user engagement with our resources and events, and various communications channels, in order to see how things are being used and to inform our method of delivery.
- High-quality content
We focus on delivering high-quality content and communicating this to various audiences. Our wider team’s specialisms encompass evaluation, communications, research and development, policy, practice and much more. This expertise enables us to ensure we are delivering high-quality content.
- Enabling two-way dialogue
Gathering the views of those accessing our services, whether they are within our Partnership network or from across the wider sector, is fundamental to good evidence-informed communication. This includes gaining direct attendee feedback from our events, consulting stakeholders regarding service delivery and development, inviting critique from the people we work with, as well as leaving ‘open’ communication channels to receive continuous responses.
In particular, RiP and RiPfA value enabling two-way dialogue with our Partner network. For example, the development of our annual Delivery Programme of learning resources and events, is shaped directly by our Partner network’s feedback. This can include areas such as the topics that we cover and the type of learning outputs we deliver as part of the programme. This dialogue ensures that our programme is able to respond to the evolving needs, wants and demands from across the sector.
Our annual network events also provide opportunities to connect with key colleagues spanning Partner organisations and RiP and RiPfA. For example, our Link Officers’ Annual Meeting brings together key champions and RiP/fA team members to share innovative practice, ongoing partnerships, new service developments and ideas for the future. This can offer direct feedback on our services, as well as hearing new ways of working and examples of best practice from our Partners.
Additionally, key RiP/fA colleagues actively work alongside our Link Officers to ensure that our offer is meeting individual and organisational needs. This provides not only a designated contact for us to cascade relevant information to, it also offers a continuous, direct and relationship-based communication channel for our Partners to tell us what they need.
Best meeting user needs
In recent years, RiP and RiPfA have responded to user feedback and introduced new methods and digital technologies in order to better communicate with our Partner network. For example, a recent blog from our Learning Events Coordinator describes the evolving learning platforms we are using, such as Podcasts, Webinars and more.
Our blog channel, which provides regular written articles from the sector for the sector, has also rapidly grown and now attracts approximately 7,000 readers per month. We are always looking out for examples of good practice, innovative programmes or new ways of working to feature. Our news channel, Twitter feed and email bulletins also share information from our Partners and from across the wider sector to ensure you are kept up-to-date.
We are currently working on our Delivery Programme for 2019-20, as well as exploring and developing new methods and platforms to communicate with our audiences. At RiP and RiPfA, we are always open to your suggestions of what we can do to improve communication channels and our offer to you. For example:
- What communication channels and methods do you prefer?
- How you think we could improve our communication channels with you or your colleagues?
- Are there any innovative communication platforms and/or resources you would like to see us using?
Get in touch
To submit your feedback please email Karen.Young@rip.org.uk.
About the author
Karen Young is the Communications, Marketing and Engagement Coordinator at Research in Practice (RiP) and Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA).