Staff will often complain when they hear they have to adapt what they’re doing and start to base their efforts on “evidence-based practices.”
Evidence-based practices really aren’t anything new. They’ve been called “best practices,” “industry standards,” or simply “standard operating procedures” over the years. EBPs aren’t meant to create more headaches (even if it might feel like it some days). They’re meant to ensure that the actions organizations implement are demonstrated to be the most effective and efficient – and are designed to get the best results for the organization and its clients.
- What Evidence-Based Practices are.
- The value and utility of practicing EBP development.
- And the methods of fostering and developing EPB practices and policies.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): There’s a lot of talk about “evidence-based practices” these days. Can you, perhaps, demystify this term? What does it really mean when we’re talking about EBPs?
Dr. Jeff Fox: Evidence-based policy (EBP) is an approach that helps decision makers develop well-informed decisions about policies, programs, and projects by putting the best available evidence from research at the heart of policy development and implementation. EBP has become popular among a range of policy communities, those within government agencies, research organizations, and think-tanks. EBP offers a set of methods which informs the processes by which policies are formulated. It advocates a more rational, rigorous, and systematic approach, and moves beyond traditional notions of research to adopt a broader understanding.
Does the organization and or leaders espouse and practice transformational leadership?
If it does, then concepts like this will be embraced or at least considered.
If the organization is closed and not forward thinking,
then bringing any new idea to the forefront will be difficult.
JCH: It’s easy for staff to get jaded: it seems like there’s always some “new program” coming out that’s supposed to be bigger and better than ever before – when sometimes it might feel like the program is quite similar to things staff has already been doing. Knowing that this is often a complaint for some teams, how would you coach the team – both the leaders in getting staff to buy into the program, as well as staff to give it a chance?
Jeff: Probably the most common question I get asked during webinars is how do I or we get buy-in from our leadership for whatever topic it is we are discussing. This question goes much deeper than whatever the topic is at hand. This is an organizational and cultural issue. Much of this answer lies in the organizational leadership style that is fostered. Does the organization and or leaders espouse and practice transformational leadership? If it does, then concepts like this will be embraced or at least considered. If the organization is closed and not forward thinking, then bringing any new idea to the forefront will be difficult.
Having said this, I would recommend doing one’s homework first. Then presenting a clear, succinct, and engaging presentation to the leaders explaining how and why evidence-based policy development is useful and worthy of their time. Examples that are directly applicable to the agency’s mission or discipline would be useful. This is a starting point. Often, we get one shot at an idea so make sure you know the facts and present the idea in the best way you can. Be ready to become the champion of the idea. Finally, I would encourage involving the rank and file early on and presenting the same material in the same manner as was done for leadership.
Change for change sake is never a good idea.
One must learn how to create change and then make it last.
JCH: It seems like underpinning this discussion of Evidence-Based Practices is an understanding of how to help organizations manage change. Why is change so difficult to implement and manage in public service organizations?
Jeff: People often fear change. It is fear of the unknown. It might be that past change did not go well or ended up being a bad idea. There are many reasons why change is not only feared or not welcome but why change often doesn’t work or stick if you will. Change for change sake is never a good idea. One must learn how to create change and then make it last. We must unfreeze things, move the idea along, and then refreeze for lack of a better term. Constant change can lead to burnout and chaos. However, in certain areas change is frequent and fast-paced take the technology industry of which we are all impacted.
Change works best when it is bought into and people can be a part of the change process. A bottom-up approach versus a top-down or do as I say mandate works better. Many employees have seen a new leader come in and create change which might result in chaos and then leave. So, we must believe in the change agent and the change which is being pursued. Of course, with any change there is risk. One could argue there is also risk with not changing at times.
JCH: What draws you to this topic? Why is it intriguing to you?
Jeff: My academic work has drawn me into this topic. I keep one foot solidly in academia, but I always keep my other foot firmly planted in practitioner world. Evidence-based policy development is exactly that. It is bringing research in all its forms and fashions into the practitioner realm. I have always practiced transformational leadership. One of my core questions using this leadership style has always been “Why are we doing it this way or that way?” The primary answer I get to this question comes in one of two responses. First, “We have always done it that way.” Second, “I don’t know why we do it that way.” Hence refer to answer one! There might be a very valid reason why we are doing what we are doing but it would be good to know wouldn’t it. I call this “Legend has it.”
JCH: What would be the one thing you hope people will learn or take away from your webinar about Evidence-Based Practices?
Jeff: That would be that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It is always better to learn from other’s mistakes and to learn from other’s successes as well. I think Einstein put it best, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Lastly, I am a firm believer of theory integration in that it often creates synergy and expands the usefulness or generalizability and utility of a given theory.