RAND Europe: Evaluation of Communities of Practice

Consultation on the East of England ARC Communities of Practice by RAND Europe undertaken in May 2021. 


The aim on the evaluation was to take stock of how, and how well, the CoP approach was contributing to the aim of mobilising research knowledge with a view to facilitating the implementation of knowledge into practice.


Initial plans for a workshop had to be changed as a result of covid. As an alternative to a face-to-face workshop, an online Bulletin Board, using the VisionsLive platform, was opened from 26th March to 1st April 2021. The engagement was run as an asynchronous workshop. This report is therefore a memorandum of a short discussion rather than a formal RAND evaluation report. 

A total of 20 participants who had direct experience of one of the Communities of Practice (CoP) supported through the East of England NIHR ARC were invited to join the Bulletin Board. 18 people from six different CoPs engaged in the discussion via the Bulletin Board or email. 

Summary of findings

Although participants expressed subtle differences, a common expectation was that through networking, whole systems thinking, and understanding the insights of other stakeholders, CoPs would make it easier to implement research findings in a system that was 'confusing and hard to navigate'. This mostly seems to have been achieved; there was enthusiasm about how the CoPs created the opportunity to work in different ways, which seems to contrast favourably with perceptions of how change is managed elsewhere in the health and social care systems.

The CoPs were effectively and helpfully planned and run. The facilitators mostly succeeded in 'getting the right people in the room', winning over sceptics, maintaining momentum, and enabling difficult improvements to be carried out when other approaches had not succeeded. As a result, the three CoPs that had reached the stage of implementing change had successfully made their desired impact on the service.

Suggestions for further enhancing the value and impact of CoPs in research implementation were:

  • Ensure that membership includes all key people as early as possible, including engaging the wider system
  • Ensure early clarity about the purpose, vocabulary and language of the CoPs
  • Make enough time to talk fully through the action steps, balancing that with the reflective time that CoPs allow
  • Clarify the goals of the CoP early so that participants can be better aware whether or not they are achieved
  • Ensure adequate communication (e.g. newsletters) during CoP 'downtime' when the actions planned by the CoPs are carried out in the field. 
  • Ensure that if and when each CoP reaches its end, it is brought to an orderly close.

Download the full report here