Improving Front Line Collaborative Responses to Multiple Exclusion Homelessness: Community of Practice Development Programme

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Political Economy


We are proposing to develop six 'Communities of Practice' across different locations in England to further develop and implement our research findings on multiple exclusion homelessness. At its most simplistic, a 'Community of Practice' is a group of practitioners who are passionate about a topic and who want to work together in more collegaite ways to improve things for service users and their families. We want to know how 'Communties of Practice' work to help foster better relationships between different professionals and agencies and whether they are effective in achvieving improvements (impacts) in front line service delivery. This is an important area for follow-on activity as successive governments have found it very difficult to implement research/policy which is targted at achvieing more 'joined-up' service delivery.

Planned Impact

Because of the potential for improved practices and more joined-up working between different agencies and professionals, the main beneficiaires of this project stand to be homeless people themselves.

For practitioners taking part in the project, the main impacts will be increased confidence in their professional knowledge base, opportunities for more collegiate relationships with their colleagues, and opportunities to influence change potentially leading to increased job satisfaction.

There may be economic benefits for local systems of care with the possibility of cost savings arising from the reducing of duplication in assessment activity and freeing-up practitioner time.

The CoP Development Programme has been carefully designed to leave a lasting legacy in terms of the infra-structure necessary for the advancement of 'Community of Practice' methodology in the field of multiple exclusion homelessness. This includes developing a team of specially trained consultants (who can continue with development and knowledge brokerage activites on a freelance basis once the Programme has ended) and 'tool kits' which can disseminate the learning from the Programme to a wider audience.


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Description Through the CPDP we were able to demonstrate that, given a relatively small financial investment, considerable gains can be achieved through communities of practice in terms of building collaborative relationships, opening-up opportunities for interdisciplinary education and learning, and potentially improving certain kinds of outcomes. In particular, the mutual support found in communities of practice enables practitioners to stay motivated and engaged in stressful and emotionally challenging job roles. However, a key learning point is that in areas with a history of poor joint working, the amount of development work (brokerage) that may be needed to set-up a community of practice should not be underestimated. There is also a need to be realistic about what outcomes can be achieved through collaborative and integrative practice, such as that found within communities of practice, given the complex and long term nature of many of the problems being addressed.
Exploitation Route Since the Programme ended, we have been invited to discuss future projects with range of potential partners (e.g. East Sussex Clinical Governance Group, North East Youth Homelessness Forum, Life Line). The potential for future impact is summed-up by the Director of one of the organisations that hosted a community of practice:

'Participating in the CPDP has been a great opportunity to trial a way of working interprofessionally. The structure around the COP and the fact that a lot of preparation was put into the development of the programme by Revolving Doors and King's has increased the feeling that it has been implemented as a service improvement activity with integrity...The community of practice approach does have good application to the practice setting and I am advocating it be carried on in other programmes, such as the big lottery funded programmes for working with clients with complex needs'
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare

Description The CPDP has generated both academic and societal impact. First, it has ensured that the original research has been further disseminated and developed for practice. Evidence gathered as part of the Programme suggests significant impact has been achieved in the six localities which hosted the communities of practice. These impacts are on organisational development (building capacity to run communities of practice and to foster collaborative working locally) and on front line practices. In the survey of community of practice members for example, over 90% agreed that, • My skills and competencies in working with people facing multiple needs and exclusions have improved through my membership in the community of practice • My knowledge of the role and function of other agencies has increased through my membership in the community of practice • I have increased my networks and contacts through my membership of the community of practice. To disseminate the learning generated through the Programme beyond the six sites, two key publications were produced. The first is a 'final report' of the Programme giving an overview of the work and the evaluation findings (Cornes et al, 2013). The second is a 'tool kit' which aims to support those wishing to set-up communities of practice in other areas (Henessy et al., 2013). The 'tool kit' takes the form of a written report and also links to the aforementioned website hosted by Revolving Doors Agency where there are many freely available resources which have been developed as part of the Programme. The final report and the toolkit were launched at a learning event held at King's College London in February 2013. This attracted over 75 delegates from a range of influential organisations. A report of the conference can be found at: Both the final report and the tool kit have received positive reviews in the academic and professional press. A review in 'Care Knowledge' noted that it was 'interesting to see a practice/professional route to more effective joint working getting an airing for once'. 'Community Care' concluded its review of the reports with the comment that "Both are well worth a read." A review in the reports section of 'Journal of Interprofessional Care' is forthcoming. The main academic impact from the Programme lies in making explicit the connection between debates around integration and the use of reflective practice in psychologically informed environments (PIEs). A conference paper (Cornes et al., 2013) outlining these ideas was presented at the 5th Psychosocial Studies Network Conference, 'Knowing and not knowing: thinking psychosocially about learning and resistance to learning', December 2012 (Institute of Education, London).
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

Description Citation in literature review conducted by Mental Health Foundation & St Mungos
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
Impact The inclusion of our work in this publicly available literature review enables practice to be built on an evidence base
Description Local social enterprise notes value of this study in overview of the area
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Inclusion in this review conveys that the research is being seen as useful by non professionals engaged in third sector initiatives
Description 'Little Miracles: Using Communities of Practice to Improve Front Line Collaborative Responses to Multiple Needs and Exclusions'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation/discussion of findings at a seminar organised by East Sussex NHS Foundation Trust Drug and Alcohol Clinical Governance Group

Engagement with NHS stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Communities of Practice and wicked issues - a relationship view 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a symposium for stakeholders in this field
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013