Panel discussion: 'Harnessing implementation science to improve results in homelessness as we recover from the pandemic'

Worried mom takes ill daughter to free clinic

Homelessness has been front and centre during the pandemic because of the necessity of housing large numbers of those without shelter to prevent the spread of the virus among vulnerable populations. CEI's Dr Robyn Mildon and University of New South Wales academic Dr Hal Pawson took part in a discussion chaired by Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) Chief Executive Ligia Teixeira at CHI's Impact Festival, on how implementation science can support work to reduce homelessness as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. CHI is one of the UK's What Works Centres.

Questions from the audience led the discussion deeper into the importance of putting implementation thinking at the heart of policymaking. The recording is available here.

Robyn gave an overview of the interaction between innovation, practice and the wider systems settings, emphasising the need for innovations to fit with practice and context, and noted that getting this right – and ensuring that effective innovation is sustainable – involves a constant process of mutual adaptation of the new service or approach, practice settings, and wider systems. Hal described the homelessness policy environment and evidence systems in Australia and set out some of the key implementation issues these raise, and both Robyn and Hal talked throughout about the importance of evidence and data to support effective innovation. Robyn closed with five key messages to policymakers and leaders of innovation:

  1. What change is needed, what are you trying to achieve, and what do you need people to do? Be clear about your aim and the innovation
  2. Understand your context so that you can root effective strategies in the social interactions and contextual dynamics that will support them
  3. Implementation is a team sport. Involve the people responsible for execution in the design and planning process
  4. Be purposeful in your use of implementation strategies. Identify the barriers, identify the enablers, and choose and use strategies deliberately to address them and promote behaviour change
  5. Build for scaling and sustainability from the outset