As Colditz and Emmons (2017) note, disseminating and implementing research findings into practice is necessary to achieve a return on investment in the research enterprise as well as to improve outcomes in the broader community. However, social workers, in particular, struggle to bridge the divide between research and practice. For a range of well documented reasons, social workers find research on practice irrelevant to their work, so they dismiss information provided by researchers about new ways to improve their practices (Brekke et al. 2007). Worse still, some studies have found some social workers are resistant to any new knowledge that challenges their way of approaching their work (Proctor et al. 2007). Strong community-academic partnerships have potential to bridge gaps by improving research relevance, and subsequent uptake in the community (Adams, 2018). But these partnerships are not without challenges and risks (Oliver, Kothari, and Mays, 2019).
Purpose: By the end of this workshop, researchers will understand how to apply social work engagement and relationship cultivation skills to engage with potential research partners. This workshop offers practical tools and strategies for partnering with child welfare and human service agencies in order to design, conduct, and disseminate social work research. Together, we will explore the opportunities and challenges of specific research designs and their implementation in the human services arena. Researchers will be presented with a range of methodological strategies for meeting agencies' programmatic improvement needs, such as single subject design and data mining existing data, as well as more resource intensive methods like case study designs and experimental research. Together we will discuss how an agency leader and the researcher can work together to craft a design that meets both parties needs.
Approach: Leading the workshop are faculty with a combined 60 years of practice in community settings, as well as a former executive director of settlement houses and a member- based organization. They will will present case studies of relationship building and agency engagement strategies which may assist researchers in the organizational partnership cultivation process. We will discuss meeting the agencies' needs, providing continuous feedback to key stakeholders, and building reciprocity and even good will between researchers and agency-based staff. Participants will gain a greater understanding of how to match specific research designs and methods to agencies articulated needs. Facilitators will utilize case material and real life examples to illustrate practices for assisting agencies to maximize their research resources as well identify and cultivate their internal research priorities.