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While the evidence base on successful practices in knowledge exchange is rapidly growing, much less attention has been given in the academic literature to documenting and reflecting on failures in trying to exchange different types of evidence between academics, practice partners and policymakers. However, learning from failures is just as important, if not more crucial, than celebrating successes. Therefore, in this introduction to the special issue on learning from failures in knowledge exchange, we discuss crosscutting themes across the seven papers. We start by comparing and theorising different definitions of failures, and by exploring the relational barriers and structural stressors underlying these failures. We argue for the creation of a ‘failure culture’ in organisations, in which failures are no longer avoided but actively encouraged. To turn failures into successes, we identify a need for more sharing and publishing of failures, early engagement with stakeholders in the knowledge exchange process, and illustrate the importance of boundary spanners. We conclude with recommendations for future work, related to promising theoretical approaches, such as system thinking, the re-addressing of power imbalances through leadership, and highlight art-based approaches as a mechanism for rebalancing power.

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Background:

Local government (LG) is ideally placed to influence the determinants of public health (PH) and reduce inequalities, but opportunities are routinely missed.

Aims and objectives:

The aim of the Local Authority Champions of Research (LACoR) study was to explore ways to embed a culture of evidence use in LG.

Methods:

Five linked work packages were undertaken using mixed methods. In this paper, we report data from semi-structured interviews with UK local authority (LA) staff (n=14).

Findings:

Findings show a changing culture of LG: embedded researchers can enhance connectivity and interaction, build linkages, use levers of influence, and learn alongside LG navigators. Understanding the diverse microcultures of evidence use in LG is critical. Research champions can help to navigate the social, financial, political and regulatory context of LG and academia, influencing change dynamically as opportunities emerge.

Discussion:

Changing organisational subcultures is ambitious and unpredictable given the complexities of, and variability in, local contexts. Cumulative changes appear possible by recognising existing assets, using relational approaches to respond to LG priorities. In-house capacity remains underestimated and underutilised in efforts to embed evidence use in LG decision making. Co-located embedded researchers can use contextually specific knowledge and relationships to enhance evidence use in LG in collaboration with system navigators.

Conclusions:

There is a need for academics to adapt their approach, to take account of the context of LG to achieve meaningful health and social impacts with LG and test the contribution of embedded approaches to wider system change.

Open access

Background:

Fuse was established in 2008 as one of five public health research centres of excellence in the UK funded by the UK Clinical Research Centres collaboration. The centre works across five universities in the North East of England. This is an innovative collaboration and enables the pooling of research expertise. A prime focus of the centre is not just the production of excellent research, but also its translation into usable evidence, a dual focus that remains uncommon.

Aims/objectives:

This practice paper outlines Fuse’s approach to knowledge exchange (KE) by reflecting on ten years of collaborative research between academics and policy and practice partners in the North East of England. We will describe the principles and assumption underlying our approach and outline a conceptual model of four steps in Fuse’s KE process to develop collaborative research and achieve meaningful impact on policy and practice.

Key conclusions:

Our model describes a fluid and dynamic approach to knowledge exchange broken down in four steps in the KE process that are concurrent, iterative and vary in intensity over time: awareness raising; knowledge sharing; making evidence fit for purpose; and supporting uptake and implementation of evidence. These steps support the relational context of KE. Relationship building and maintenance is essential for all stages of KE to develop trust and explore the meaning and usefulness of evidence in a multi-directional information flow that supports the co-creating and application of evidence.

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