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  • Author or Editor: Helen May x
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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in New Zealand. It chronicles the remarkable changes in ECEC policy over the past few decades, with the establishment of a universal entitlement to preschool for three and four year olds, subsidies for children under three, and a commitment to quality that included the goal of having 100% of staff in the sector be qualified teachers. While New Zealand has now entered a period of retrenchment (with a freeze in funding and a revision of the teacher target to 80% rather than 100%), at least part of the stated purpose for this is to free up funds that can be focused on increasing access and quality for the most vulnerable children. It remains to be seen what the net effect of these reforms will be for disadvantaged children, and for the system as a whole.

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In 2012, David Morgan gave a talk titled ‘Neighbours, neighbouring and acquaintanceship: some further thoughts’ at the University of Turku, Finland. In this article we engage in dialogue with Morgan’s talk, as well as his 2009 book Acquaintances, in particular the observations he made about the simultaneous closeness and distance that characterises neighbouring relationships. We suggest that using the metaphors of elasticity and stickiness instead allows us to explore neighbouring relationships as more than inhabiting a space between intimates and strangers (), but as textured and messy everyday relationalities. We consider also how the ‘stickiness’ of this relationship as well as the significance of its ‘elasticity’ are likely to have been heightened during COVID-19 lockdowns, which have altered the usual configurations of intimate and stranger relationships. In doing so, our aim is to contribute further to Morgan’s theorising of the nature of neighbouring as a specific form of acquaintanceship.

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Policymaking decisions are often uninformed by research and research is rarely influenced by policymakers. To bridge this ‘know-do’ gap, a boundary-spanning knowledge mobilisation (KM) team was created by embedding researchers-in-residence and local policymakers into each other’s organisations. Through increasing the two-way flow of knowledge via social contact, KM team members fostered collaborations and the sharing of ‘mindlines’, aiming to generate more relevant research bids and research-informed decision-making. This paper describes the activities of the KM team, types of knowledge and how that knowledge was exchanged to influence mindlines.


KM team activities were classified into: relational, dissemination, transferable skills, evaluation, research and awareness raising. Knowledge available included: profession-specific (for example, research methods, healthcare landscape), insider (for example, relational, organisation and experiential) and KM theory and practice. KM team members brokered relationships through conversations interweaving different types of knowledge, particularly organisational and relational. Academics were interested in policymakers’ knowledge of healthcare policy and the commissioning landscape. More than research results, policymakers valued researchers’ methodological knowledge. Both groups appreciated each other as ‘critical friends’.


To increase research impact, ‘expertise into practice’ could be leveraged, specifically researchers’ critical thinking and research methodology skills. As policymakers’ expertise into practice also bridges the know-do gap, future impact models could focus less on evidence into practice and more on fostering this mutual flow of expertise. Embedded knowledge brokers from the two communities working in teams can influence the mindlines of both. These ambassadors can create improvements in ‘inter-cultural competence’ to draw academia and policymaking closer.

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The Bristol Knowledge Mobilisation (KM) Team was an unusual collective brokering model, consisting of a multi-professional team of four managers and three academics embedded in both local healthcare policymaking (aka commissioning) and academic primary care.

Aims and objectives:

They aimed to encourage ‘research-informed commissioning’ and ‘commissioning-informed research’. This paper covers context, structure, processes, advantages, challenges and impact.


Data sources from brokers included personal logs, reflective essays, exit interviews and a team workshop. These were analysed inductively using constant comparison. To obtain critical distance, three external evaluations were conducted, using interviews, observations and documentation.


Stable, solvent organisations; senior involvement with good inter-professional relationships; secure funding; and networks of engaged allies in host organisations supported the brokers. Essential elements were two-way embedding, ‘buddying up’, team leadership, brokers’ interpersonal skills, and two-year, part-time contracts. By working collectively, the brokers fostered cross-community interactions and modelled collaborative behaviour, drawing on each other’s ‘insider’ knowledge, networks and experience. Challenges included too many taskmasters, unrealistic expectations and work overload. However, team-brokering provided a safe space to be vulnerable, share learning, and build confidence. As host organisations benefitted most from embedded brokers, both communities noted changes in attitude, knowledge, skills and confidence. The team were more successful in fostering ‘commissioning-informed research’ with co-produced research grants than ‘research-informed commissioning’.

Discussion and conclusions:

Although still difficult, the collective support and comradery of an embedded, two-way, multi-professional team made encouraging interactions, and therefore brokering, easier. A team approach modelled collaborative behaviour and created a critical mass to affect cultural change.

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