Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland Belfast event

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The 24th Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland meeting was held on the 29th of November 2023 in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast.

Professor Allison Metz, an internationally renowned expert on implementation, specifically in child health and development, child welfare, and early education, delivered the keynote presentation titled ‘How can Implementation Science Advance Equity?’ The presentation covered three main themes:

  1. Implementation science is gradually moving away from technical language to acknowledge the impact of research on people, and the potential for implementation to improve equity;
  1. Participatory research is one way of incorporating the voice of people involved; and  
  1. Holistic and structured implementation plans must consider staff and user practicalities more thoroughly.

These themes were echoed and reinforced by the other guest speakers – Dr Inez Bailey, CEO of the Centre for Effective Services, Una Wilson, Equality Officer at the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, and Professor Anne MacFarlane, Co-Director of the Participatory Health Research Unit at the University of Limerick.

They considered ways of involving people who have often been marginalised or excluded from research, service design, development of policy and implementation of practice, and the barriers to representation of immigrants, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups, including Roma populations, in research and policy development.  

Una Wilson urged the business community to ensure their services are accessible under disability legislation and highlighted the impact on service users if they are discriminated against; Anne MacFarlane explored the power of music and song in creating safe collaborative spaces for people from different communities to take part in research; and Inez Bailey reflected on the learning from the evaluation of three Government equality strategies being delivered in Ireland in terms of the involvement of people with lived experience for whom these strategies were seeking to support.

Following the presentations, the panel of presenters responded to a range of interesting questions, including how to address individual resistance to change; how to build trust within systems, the reality and risk of strategy fatigue, and the challenges and opportunities of community building.  

The key takeaways from the discussion were that genuine outreach to include people intended to be positively impacted by the research or policy - communities, migrants, people with disabilities - is crucial for equitable implementation, and that safe or trustworthy spaces need to be created for all participants throughout the entire process in order for responsibilities, action plans, and true consensus to be reached.

Implementation Network chairperson, Colma Nic Lughadha says “It was wonderful to see so many different organisations taking an interest in implementation science and, in particular, in how collaborating with people with lived experience ensures that their voices and views are reflected in our work”  

The meeting was attended by 40 professionals from the public sector, and community and voluntary sector from across Ireland and Northern Ireland who engaged in insightful and enthusiastic discussion with the panel and with each other.  

To become a member of the Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland and receive regular updates and access resources, training and events, visit: Implementation Network: Creating public service connections in Ireland and Northern Ireland (

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