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Networks and evidence-based advocacy: influencing a policy subsystem

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Background: Timely access to relevant and trustworthy research findings is an important facilitator of research use. But the relational aspects of evidence generation, mobilisation and use have been insufficiently explored.

Aims and objectives: Our aim is to describe the strategic communicative and relational work of two intermediary organisations playing thought leadership roles within a large, heterogeneous and loosely configured network comprised of individuals and organisations from the following sectors: academia, frontline service delivery, philanthropic funding, advocacy organisations and government.

Methods: The data for this project were generated as part of a study of the ways social science research influences policy, practice and systems-change processes. Proceeding from the standpoints of people who generate and/or engage with research in an effort to address homelessness in Canada, this article focuses on the intersections of research, strategic communication and policy making.

Findings: Our findings suggest that strategic communication and knowledge exchange play integral roles in efforts to create evidence-based policy change. These communicative activities take the form of public-facing political and/or media engagement strategies, traditional knowledge mobilisation activities and continuous informal and timely exchanges of information between trusted allies.

Discussion and conclusions: Our study reveals the importance of a heterogeneous network structure, with formal and informal alliances between individuals and organisations, as well as key intermediary organisations through which knowledge can be strategically mobilised within the network to serve policy change aims. Furthermore, our study suggests that interest in evidence-led governance is shifting the boundaries between research, advocacy and government action.
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Keywords: advocacy; coalitions; communication; evidence; intermediary organisations; knowledge mobilisation; networks; policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: McGill University, Canada 2: York University, Canada

Publication date: November 2020

This article was made available online on May 7, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Networks and evidence-based advocacy: influencing a policy subsystem".

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