‘It’s a bit like making a Victoria sponge’ – discovering, exploring and using research and other evidence to make the world a better place.

by Nick Andrews |

The popularity of the BBC programme, The Great British Bake Off is proof that everyone enjoys a piece of cake, especially when it has been made to perfection. However, baking a good cake is more complicated than it seems. It requires creative and confident chefs and the careful selection of ingredients, which then have to be combined in the right amounts, in the right order and in right way. Careful attention also has to be paid to the cooking process, to avoid it being either burnt or soggy. It’s much the same when it comes to making good public services like health and social services.

The Developing Evidence-Enriched Practice (DEEP) approach to improving health and social services was developed and tried-out in five places in Wales and one place in Scotland, in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation during 2014/15. In each place, a group of older people, carers, frontline staff and managers working in health and social services got together to explore a range of evidence, including research, and see if they could use it to improve the well-being of older people, carers and frontline staff.

The project found that in order to make these things happen, they had to pay careful attention to five elements, which had some similarities with baking a good cake! These were:

Element 1: Valuing and empowering all of the people involved in the project (the happy and creative chefs) – senior managers had to support participants to be creative and able to experiment with ideas. Trusting relationships needed to be developed between everyone involved, so people could be honest and feel safe. People needed to feel appreciated and their successes (even in little things) celebrated.

Element 2: Valuing and using a range of evidence (the ingredients) – it was important to consider ‘what mattered’ to everyone involved, which meant that four main types of evidence needed to be considered – research, the views and experiences of older people and carers, the expertise of frontline staff and organisational concerns including policy.

Element 3: Preparing the evidence, so that it was interesting and relevant (preparing the ingredients) – participants were able to understand and use the evidence when it was presented in the form of short summaries, stories, pictures, poetry or even song. Some of the evidence could also be summed up in provocative statements, which got people thinking.

Element 4: Facilitating the exploration and use of evidence (the careful measuring, mixing and baking) – this was perhaps the most important and complicated thing. Well-structured approaches to helping people think and talk together, enabled them to be better listeners and more open to learning. As a result, they came up with collective ideas and decisions and everyone felt that their contributions were welcomed. Different bits of evidence were weaved-in to discussions as they became relevant over time.

Element 5: Recognising and addressing national and local organisational circumstances and obstacles (making sure the equipment used, including the oven and baking trays is fit for purpose) – it was important to consider and tackle things that could get in the way of success. These included well-meaning national and local rules and regulations which did not always fit well with contextual decision making and what participants felt were the most important things in promoting well-being.

If you would like further information on the DEEP approach, you can contact Nick Andrews in Swansea University – N.D.Andrews@swansea.ac.uk (01792 606380)

Further details of the Developing Evidence-Enriched Practice (DEEP) project can be found at:


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