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10 Best resources for community engagement in implementation research

10 Best resources for community engagement in implementation research Douglas Glandon, Ligia Paina, Olakunle Alonge, David H Peters, Sara Bennett Health Policy and Planning, czx123, Published: 30 October 2017
Abstract / Summary: 
Implementation research (IR) focuses on understanding how and why interventions produce their effects in a given context. This often requires engaging a broad array of stakeholders at multiple levels of the health system. Whereas a variety of tools and approaches exist to facilitate stakeholder engagement at the national or institutional level, there is a substantial gap in the IR literature about how best to do this at the local or community level. Similarly, although there is extensive guidance on community engagement within the context of clinical trials — for HIV/AIDS in particular — the same cannot be said for IR. We identified a total of 59 resources by using a combination of online searches of the peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as crowd-sourcing through the Health Systems Global platform. The authors then completed two rounds of rating the resources to identify the ‘10 best’. The resources were rated based on considerations of their relevance to IR, existence of an underlying conceptual framework, comprehensiveness of guidance, ease of application, and evidence of successful application in low- or middle-income countries or relevant contexts. These 10 resources can help implementation researchers think strategically and practically about how best to engage community stakeholders to improve the quality, meaningfulness, and application of their results in order to improve health and health systems outcomes. Building on the substantial work that has already been done in the context of clinical trials, there is a need for clearer and more specific guidance on how to incorporate relevant and effective community engagement approaches into IR project planning and implementation.
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Key Messages

  • Meaningful, effective community engagement is often essential for implementation research. Yes, unlike the field of clinical trials research, little practical guidance exists on how implementation researchers can and/or should engage community stakeholders.

  • The selected ‘10 best’ resources originate from both LMIC and high income country contexts and range from frameworks to standards to specific tools and ‘toolkits’. Conceptual foundations include appreciative inquiry, development theory, program theory evaluation, and others. We noted substantial cross-referencing between approaches but generally little discussion of how a researcher might determine if, how and when to apply them within a research project.

  • The substantial variation in the types of resources available (purpose, scope, tools, targeted audience, resources required, etc.) calls for holistic, systematic consideration and specific guidance on how community engagement approaches can best be incorporated into each step of the implementation research cycle.

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Douglas Glandon, Ligia Paina, Olakunle Alonge, David H Peters, Sara Bennett

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