Co-creative approaches to knowledge production & implementation

Co-creative approaches to knowledge production and implementation series (part 3): Does co-creation produce added value and contribute to desired outcomes?

This article is part 3 of a series of articles based on a special issue of the journal Evidence & Policy.

Guest editors Metz, Boaz, and Robert1 advise that the research papers in the special issue demonstrate empirical support for co-creation and identify research questions and designs that can fill gaps in the evidence base.

Yazejian and colleagues2 demonstrate the successful use of a co-creation approach when providing implementation support (in the form of technical assistance) to Head Start regional centres.

Technical assistance is the provision of expert advice to support the implementation of evidence into practice. It tends to be quite a ‘topdown’ approach, so the development of more co-created technical assistance was a novel way of supporting the uptake of research evidence. This co-creation approach supported the achievement of interim outcomes including trusting relationships, mutual accountability for implementation and outcomes, and some integration of evidence-based implementation approaches into ongoing supports for Head Start early child programmes across three federal regions in the US. The authors note that outcomes were achieved even with a relatively low ‘dosage’ of onsite technical assistance, highlighting the potentially robust effects of co-creation.

Sherriff and colleagues3 illustrate how SEARCH, a co-creative partnership with Aboriginal services, researchers, policy makers and clinicians, resulted in trusting relationships that have led to improved outcomes for Aboriginal communities. They note that trusting relationships described by participants contrast markedly with accounts in the literature, suggesting that co-creation provides a distinct opportunity for building trust between researchers, policy makers and local communities. The development of trust is one of the most important requirements for successful research-practice partnerships4 and one which requires commitment, openness, honesty, respect, and a willingness to learn about one another.

These papers demonstrate how co-creation approaches can effectively build trust, providing the foundation for successful partnerships and the development and implementation of interventions that are more likely to meet the needs of local community members.

Despite such empirical evidence for the potential of co-creation, case studies are limited in their generalisability. Metz and colleagues5 identify key research questions for determining the extent to which co-creation can contribute to evidence use and positive outcomes for people and communities. The study focuses on a form of support commonly provided in the US to support the implementation of evidence. This support, described as technical assistance, covers a wide range of activities designed to increase the local uptake of research evidence. The paper outlines the protocol for a study that will address the following research questions:

  1. To what extent do technical assistance strategies involve stakeholders and for what purpose?
  2. Under what conditions have specific technical assistance strategies, including strategies that foster stakeholder participation, contributed to supporting research evidence use?

The study will investigate how, when, and with whom co-created technical assistance strategies promote the use of evidence and facilitate improved outcomes for people and communities.

Next part (part 4): What frameworks and tools can facilitate co-creation?

Article source: Adapted from the Evidence & Policy special issue Co-creative approaches to knowledge production: what next for bridging the research to practice gap?, CC BY-NC 4.0.

Acknowledgements: This series has been made possible by the publication of the special issue as open access and under a Creative Commons license. The guest editors and paper authors are commended for their leadership in this regard.

Header image source: Adapted from an image by Michelle Pacansky-Brock on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.


  1. Metz, A., Boaz, A., & Robert, G. (2019). Co-creative approaches to knowledge production: what next for bridging the research to practice gap?. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 15(3), 331-337.
  2. Yazejian, N., Metz, A., Morgan, J., Louison, L., Bartley, L., Fleming, W. O., … & Schroeder, J. (2019). Co-creative technical assistance: essential functions and interim outcomes. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice 15(3), 339-352.
  3. Sherriff, S. L., Miller, H., Tong, A., Williamson, A., Muthayya, S., Redman, S., … & Haynes, A. (2019). Building trust and sharing power for co-creation in Aboriginal health research: a stakeholder interview study. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 15(3), 371-392.
  4. Palinkas, L. A., & Soydan, H. (2012). New horizons of translational research and research translation in social work. Research on Social Work Practice22(1), 85-92.
  5. Metz, A., Boaz, A., & Powell, B. J. (2019). A research protocol for studying participatory processes in the use of evidence in child welfare systems. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 15(3), 393-407.
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Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and education professional with over 30 years of experience in Australia and China. His work has received high-level acclaim and been recognised through a number of significant awards. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. He is also the editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and teaches in the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) Certified High-school Program (CHP).

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