How evidence will help us care for the future

As a researcher in public services for the last sixteen years, I have been a strong advocate for the role of evidence in shaping policy and practice. Indeed, the phrase ‘there’s never been a more important time for good evidence’ is one I could manage to work into any conversation! But in my newly created role at Hafod, I say it with renewed conviction and responsibility.

Hafod is on a journey towards integrating its services, to improve outcomes for its customers and their communities. While it’s easy enough to say the words, the scale of the challenge is not to be underplayed. Caring for the Future involves re-framing our relationships with our customers, reconfiguring services, galvanising the support of our partners and using our economic influence to help communities prosper.  A worthy platform for research if ever there was one. 

There is a role for evidence and research on every leg of this journey, from problem definition through to assessing the impact of our interventions. For my colleagues working in front-line services, with the mission of Making Lives Better, the role of evidence is clear: to illuminate the difference their work is making to the people in our neighbourhoods and care settings. This close connection between evidence and practice is motivation indeed. 

We have used that motivation to guide our approach – what kind of research and analysis will help our colleagues make lives better? The approach we are building combines evaluation, customer involvement, innovation in data handling and, above all, help from our friends. We have begun reaching out to universities and research centres, forming partnerships to support us and offering something in return to the research community – an abundance of data, access to participants, a transformational agenda and, most importantly, an organisation that ‘gets’ research and is ready for it.

Those efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Last week we spent time with colleagues from the Data Science Campus,a branch of the Office for National Statistics set up to deliver data science for public good. We talked about ‘Flow’, our joint research project, and how it will employ mathematical modelling to map people’s journeys through the housing and care systems. Armed with this information we’ll be better placed in future to tailor our services and adapt to a changing population with changing needs (just another way of Making Lives Better, you might say). 

This, I feel, is just the start and there is a nexus of new research and innovation opportunities we are exploring, all of which will help us care for future in different ways. So, the message, for researchers and analysts of all persuasions, is this: Hafod is open for business and open to ideas and we’d love to hear yours. 

Please get in touch  @JamieSmithHafod