Effective use of evidence by agencies and practitioners can reduce disparities in the costs and quality of care, and improve the outcomes experienced by vulnerable children and families.Unfortunately, despite significant resource investment, research‐to‐policy and research‐to‐ practice gaps persist across settings, conditions, and population groups.As public agencies focus increasingly on improving performance and accountability of the private agencies with which they contract,there is a need to understand how to facilitate use of evidence for enhancing agency practice and improving frontline service delivery.
Challenges to evidence use are well documented in the literature.Less studied are the formal supports – i.e., staff positions, infrastructural supports, special initiatives – organizations may put in place to help overcome these challenges. Such supports often entail significant managerial and workforce investment and can be costly to develop, implement, and sustain. Supports may also be more effective in certain organizational contexts than others, and may have differential effects on staff at different levels of the organization (e.g., senior leaders, middle managers, frontline staff). Research conducted in healthcare and education sectors suggests that organizations are beginning to invest in formal supports to facilitate evidence use.
However, we currently know little about the extent to which private agencies are using such supports or their motivations for doing so, e.g., to promote agency performance, rectify existing organizational problems, or demonstrate an overall commitment to learning and knowledge utilization. We also know little about the extent to which such supports actually affect use of research evidence by managers or frontline practitioners. By identifying formal organizational supports agencies use to promote evidence use and the ways and conditions under which these supports affect research evidence use at different levels of the organization, this study will address a critical gap and provide administrators and policymakers with empirical guidance on how to best invest limited resources to facilitate evidence use in the human services.