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Leading through a pandemic

Joining CES during the Covid 19 pandemic brought challenges but also new insights according to our CEO Dr Inez Bailey.

As the majority of our work in CES supports implementation of public policy in health, education, children and social services, all of our work was affected in some way by the pandemic. We witnessed the creative ways practitioners and providers sought to maintain new programme roll outs, evaluations, change processes and capacity building. Alongside, CES had to flex our approaches and seek out new ways to do events, consultations, co-design workshops and training online. Key to this successful transition has been the quality of the relationships we have with the organisations we work with.

All the organisations we work with share similar missions to transform lives and transform our society. Many are working with vulnerable children and families, as well as individuals, in difficult circumstances. Over the past year we have supported them to continue their work, gather client feedback and conclude important service evaluations.

New approaches and resources

Problem solving and co-design techniques were and continue to be critical approaches to supporting implementation in health and social care policy and practice during this time. Gathering evidence quickly and rapid implementation have featured strongly. Different approaches we are using such as realist evaluations can help to better understand these developments, as they unfold within uncertain and complex environments.

Evidence informed policy and practice are central themes of CES’ work. Recently we produced work on Intimate Partner Violence, an area much in the spotlight during the Covid period. Our timely summary provides an accessible brief on the subject covering legislation, policy and strategies in both Northern and Republic of Ireland, as well as key learning points and resources for front line staff from research.

Our work with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth involved a learning festival as part of the What Works Programme. Originally envisaged as a large physical event, the festival of learning took place online through a series of webcasts and featured a wealth of expert speakers from across the globe and closer to home. This celebratory and uplifting series is available on the What Works website.

Road Ahead

Taking stock in a new environment

Taking stock of our own adjustment to our new working environment, CES embraced a new flexible working policy and invested in workplace wellbeing. Frequent all team meetings gave us a sense of connection and enabled new staff to get to know their colleagues. In parallel, our policies have enabled us to provide bespoke conditions and support to staff as required. As a learning organisation we are gathering up the learning and reflections from staff on working during the Covid experiment. This internal work seeks to further strengthen CES as it prepares to the future world of work.

Valuing public services

Covid 19 has demonstrated the value of evidence informed policy and practice and trust in research is high. This presents an opportunity to build better engagement with everyone involved in the development and implementation of public policy in Ireland, including citizens. The pace and sheer volume of evidence and research being produced has been remarkable. New approaches such as telehealth have changed how we think about, deliver and use public services. Restrictions in accessing services we rely on to live our lives have given us a heightened awareness of the critical importance of our public services and an understanding what is required to maintain high quality, effective and equitable public services across the island. This is a potential game changer as we move forward into the future.