Systems guidance for local practitioners

Background and aim

Public health evaluations sometimes are derived from a research focusing on a single initiative or ‘intervention’ and measuring one or two ‘primary outcomes’. From a researcher’s perspective this makes the evaluation simple and clear. However, local practitioners (e.g. professionals working in the third or public sector) have communicated to us that this is different in reality. In particular, interventions can have a wide range of impacts, whilst planning and delivery are always shaped in different localities by a network of different people and organisations – as well as by legal frameworks, budgets, politics, and relationships – and these factors change over time.

This suggests the need for a new way of researching the kinds of activities that take place in the public and third sector. In this project we want to better understand and give guidance on how research can take account of local ‘systems’ that shape service delivery and impacts (sometimes called a complex systems perspective).

The overall aim is to develop new practical guidance on system-level evaluation, aimed at Public Health (PH) practitioners, in collaboration with PH practitioners and School for Public Health Research (SPHR) colleagues.

The guidance will show practitioners how to describe complexity and how to understand its impact on their work – in particular, how it might make interventions more or less feasible and effective. It will provide advice on how practitioners can evaluate their activities from a complex systems perspective while acknowledging that time and resources are always limited.  We will do this through a mixture of methodological literature review, followed by consultations/workshops with researchers, practitioners and the public to develop a number of case studies. These workshops will help practitioners to conceptualise the effects of interventions at multiple levels by mapping the system and developing relevant theories of change which may have an effect on individuals, their families and communities and consider wider non-health effects.

This project runs from June 2017 to November 2018 and is funded through NIHR SPHR grant scheme.

Project updates

NOW AVAILABLE NIHR School for Public Health Research Guidance on Systems Thinking and Systems Evaluation for Local Practice.

For more details click here.

Direct link to Part 1 of the Guidance.

Direct link to Part 2 of the Guidance.

Keep up to date with project progress and opportunities to be involved here.

Want to know more? 

For more information about the project contact (Research Fellow in Systems Evaluation, NIHR SPHR, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)