GUIDING QUESTIONS AND FRAMEWORKS FOR CLOSING THE GAP
A useful question to ask when developing strategies to mobilize knowledge into action is: “What is the knowledge resource base needed to understand the enablers and impediments to action?” A knowledge resource base can be constructed by first mapping the people who can inform and influence action. This mapping exercise should bring together people who hold information on the causes and effects of the problem of concern, the nature and influence of the social context on decision-making and action, and experience of those who will affect or will be affected by action. It should also include customary or traditional knowledge that will affect people’s acceptance of information and recommendations to act. This wider field of knowledge can underpin dialogue that will lead to a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of the problem and what must occur to promote action. This approach is used in Chapter 22 to better understand monkey-human conflicts in St. Kitts and Nevis. Bridging the knowing-to-doing gap requires reciprocal and iterative flows of information from both knowledge producers and knowledge users prior to research initiation and beyond its completion. The goal is not to only distribute knowledge but also to share it in such a way that it is easily accessible, useful, and used.
Theories and frameworks can provide modifiable guides to systematically understand problems and suggest entry points to developing and evaluating action strategies. There are many theories that try to answer the question: “How' does successful change happen?” Some view humans as goal-oriented actors who will follow a rational plan, while others view decisions as irrational and influenced by emotions and feelings. Some theories overlap, others conflict. The following questions, abstracted from various theories of change, can help a One Health team develop strategies for moving knowledge into action.
Do You Have a Theory of Chance?
A theory of change is a comprehensive description of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. It aims to build a bridge between what we know, what we want to achieve, and the activities it will take to get there. A theory of change helps identify the approach that should be taken to effectively address the causes of problems that hinder progress. A change theory requires the involvement of knowledge creators, planners, beneficiaries, and stakeholders at the start to develop consensus on the shared goals by explicitly documenting different views and assumptions and by helping people see how- sharing their knowledge contributes to long-term positive impacts.
A theory of change can help to systematically think through the nature and interactions of the underlying causes of a problem and identify actionable steps that would logically make incremental progress towards shared goals. A well- developed theory of change helps to see the connections betw-een short-term action and long-term goals, making explicit what we know, what we assume, and what we can feasibly do. For example, in 2017, the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative initiated a multi-stakeholder, multi-governmental effort to transform how w ildlife health is protected by facilitating the development of the Pan- Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health (Stephen, 2019). The first step was to create a theory of change to set a “big picture” strategy that linked the desired change to the needs of wildlife health knowledge users. Reviews of international and national legislative obligations, conversations w-ith decision-makers to identify the problems they faced and the changes they desired, and an assessment of what was feasible with existing resources and partnerships informed this first step. This was followed by scholarly work to develop the evidence base for the desired change. The first step outlined the need for change and considered the ecological, social, economic, political, and institutional processes that enabled or impeded change. From this first step came a clarity of purpose that led to a shared vision and mission. The second step w'as to create a logical framework to depict how this strategy could be implemented into programmes (Figure 12.1). The logical framework connected programme activities to outputs which lead to outcomes and the goal. This theory of change helped garner support for the concept by translating the concept into change. By 2018, all federal, provincial, and territorial ministers in charge of biodiversity and the environment endorsed the Pan-Canadian Approach.
FIGURE 12.1 The logic model for change for a Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health used in 2018.
What Helps or Prevents People from Adopting New Ideas?
The barriers to more effective movement of knowledge into action are multiple and well documented (Levin, 2008). They include lack of access to enough high- quality evidence, lack of interest among potential knowledge users, low' trust in the evidence, lack of capacity or ability to find and interpret evidence, lack of support for knowledge mobilization, strong forces that resist change, and pressures of various kinds pushing against the available evidence. The large and growing volume of research evidence, lack of time to read and thoughtfully review the evidence, structural barriers (e.g. financial disincentives), organizational barriers (e.g. lack of facilities or equipment), and peer group barriers (e.g. social norms that are not in line w'ith desired action) can further widen the implementation gap.
The characteristics of the potential adopters, organizational or systems characteristics, can be enablers of barriers to change (Grol and Wensing, 2004). Some individuals are more apt to adopt new ideas or innovation than others. Some are willing to take risks and adopt new ideas quickly, while others lag and are more conservative or traditional in their practices. Chapter 9 discusses some key theories and factors that describe how individuals and organizations change. Regardless of their willingness to change, people go through five steps before adopting a new idea or innovation: (i) they need to become aware of the new idea, (ii) they need to become motivated and able to find out more, (iii) they need to see how the change applies to their own needs and circumstances, (iv) they decide to try (or reject) the new idea, and (v) they need to confirm that their decision helped meet their goals to continue its application (Kaminski, 2011). The potential adopter’s perceptions of a change strongly affect the rate of adoption. Differences in individuals’ ways of thinking and knowing, their motivations, and their beliefs in their ability to change will influence willingness and ability to adopt new ideas. An innovation is more likely to be adopted and spread if its advantages can be demonstrated to those who adopt it, it is consistent w'ith social norms, and it can be feasibly applied.
Change can be enabled or dissuaded by the capacity, services, and resources of an organization. Implementation is more likely to succeed w'hen there is consensus on the types and quality of evidence needed, the leadership and culture of an organization is more receptive and conducive to the integration of new information into practice, and there are facilitators w'ho can help individuals and teams understand what they need to change and how' they need to change it in order to apply evidence to practice or policy (Rycroft-Malone et al., 2002).
How Does Knowledge Spread?
The spread of information is influenced by social networks. Social networks are influenced by the strengths and diversity of ties between different network members. Social learning networks consist of the connections between people who change an individual’s knowledge or motivation, resulting in behaviour change and alteration of practices (Wu et al., 2016). A person in a network will be more motivated to seek information from within his or her network if he or she (i) knows
BOX 12.2 SOCIAL LEARNING NETWORKS AND SHRIMP FARMING SUSTAINABILITY IN SRI LANKA:
A CASE EXAMPLE BASED ON Wu et al. (2016)
The context: How to increase the adoption of best management practices for disease control in smallholder shrimp farms to increase farm profitability, food production, and sustainability in Sri Lanka.
- • Social learning networks differed based on geographic location and ethnicity.
- • About one-fifth of the farmers were isolated from the knowledge on best management practices being disseminated through the shrimp farming network.
- • The people whom most farmers accessed for knowledge lacked training in best management practices for shrimp farming.
- • Farmers with larger social learning networks were wealthier but had farms that were less ecologically sustainable.
- • Strategies to increase farmers’ uptake of best management practices to reduce the impact of disease included (i) encouraging the flow of accurate knowledge through existing farmer-to-peer networks, (ii) strengthening farmer-to-expert networks, and (iii) engaging farmers who are isolated from existing networks.
- • A “one size fits all” intervention would likely not succeed due to differential effect of wealth and ethnicity within the network.
what others in the network might know, (ii) values what others know, (iii) can gain timely access to that knowledge, and (iv) perceives that seeking information would not be too costly (Borgatti and Cross, 2003). Understanding the structure, relationships, and characteristics of people within a social learning network can help identify key influencers and conduits to diffuse information. This requires a dedication to understanding your audience’s needs and ensuring you have the strategies and tools in place to engage, inform, and motivate them. Box 12.2 highlights the applications of social network thinking to post-war food sustainability planning in Sri Lanka, this time for shrimp farming.
How Do People Learn?
Helping people learn about a need for and options to change is cardinal goal of knowledge mobilization activities. There is a growing dissatisfaction in contemporary societies for people to uncritically accept the explanation of an authority figure as the sole basis for action. Most adult learners resist having information arbitrarily imposed on them. They are open to learning from others rather than solely from traditional authoritative teachers. They value role models and peer-to-peer learning, have well-established cognitive frameworks, and like to know' w'hy what they are learning matters (Kenner and Weinerman, 2011). It is, therefore, important to frame knowledge-sharing strategies in a way that allows learners to see the purpose of learning. This will require an awareness of the different learning styles of a target audience and framing learning strategies in immediately useful ways.
One can help in the learning process in four keys w'ays. Firstly, enable people to access the necessary information. This can include centralizing and making open the access to the primary information available and building capacity in critical assessment of evidence. Secondly, one can help knowledge users make sense of the available information by serving as a knowledge translator. Thirdly, one can bridge the knowledge users and creators, building relationships that help tailor inquiry and knowledge creation to the context of the targeted users. Fourthly, one can help shape the wider context influencing effective and efficient knowledge uptake and use.
What Does It Take to Be an Agent of Change?
People w'ill either be a change agent or a change target in know'ing-to-doing strategies. A change agent has the skill and capacity to stimulate, facilitate, and coordinate the change. There are some key features that have been associated with effective agents of change (Lunenburg, 2010). Most of these factors are related to how' well the change agent is connected to and understands those he or she is trying to help change. Understanding and empathizing with the change targets helps communicate the need for and the value of change. Strong linkages to or similarity with the knowledge users helps increase acceptance of the knowledge mobilization messages. Respected peers can effectively be used to promote the use of research knowledge to influence change. The change agents and change targets need to be able to hear from, respond to, and influence each other. A clear plan co-developed by the change agents and change targets helps increase acceptance of the recommended actions. All these characteristics of a change agent need to be complemented with people or organizations with the openness and energy to change, both of which can be augmented by helping them see the rewards of change. Readiness for change requires a resolve to implement a change and a belief in the capability to do so.